Interesting Things I Come Across
Edition 041
Read time: 3 min 
Islands of disappointment
(To start with, an FYI that I'll be back in New Zealand, mostly in Wellington, over the rest of December and early January. If you're around and would like to catch up, let me know)

This week, I came across two islands with disappointing histories. The first island is Cyprus: an E.U. member and Mediterranean holiday destination, which remains at war with Turkey, who still illegally occupy half the island. The second island is more literally disappointing: Disappointment Island, located halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica in the Auckland Islands archipelago.

In the past thousand years, Cyprus was ruled by no fewer than the Romans; the Byzantines; the English, who sold Cyprus to the Knights Templar; the French; Venetians; and from the 16th century, the Ottomans. The Ottomans eventually leased Cyprus to British Empire 140 years ago, who offered it to the Greeks in 1915 in exchange for help in World War I. The Greeks declined, and after the post-war fall of the Ottoman Empire, Cyprus became a British colony. Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots remained hopeful for unions with their respective motherlands, and after independence was negotiated in 1960, nationalist militias formed on both sides. In 1974, a Greek coup that sought to install a President who would re-unite Cyprus with Greece prompted a Turkish invasion.

The island remains divided: the northern side, Turkish; the southern side, Greek. In between lies a U.N.-administered no-mans land, which bisects the world’s last divided capital, Nicosia. (There are some good photos in this article.) On the Greek side of the island, Britain still operates two army bases including a single road which may be the most narrow part of any sovereign territory anywhere. One area, Famagusta, was abandoned upon invasion, and is apparently left exactly how it was 44 years ago.
Disappointment Island
In the second edition of Interesting Things, I wrote about the claustrophobic isolation of the Pitcairn Islands, an island settled by mutineers whose legal independence hinges upon the questions of whether the burning of the mutineed ship constitutes rejection of British sovereignty. This week, another far-flung island with a wrecked ship in its genesis: Disappointment Island.

Disappointment Island, in true New Zealand fashion, is a terrific understatement. Much like the Pitcairn Islands, the story begins with a ship navigating the southern oceans. A week after leaving setting sail from Australia with 2,576 ounces of gold (about 73 kilograms, worth $3.2 million, in today’s US dollars), the ship collided with the Auckland Islands, which is disappointing at the least. Fifteen of the 83 on board made it out alive, and rowed for what is now Disappointment Island. They eventually settled on Auckland Island, where they found a habitable hut. After 9 months, four of the crew sailed to New Zealand, and were never seen again. The rest waited a further nine months, when they flagged down another ship. Despite numerous attempts, some deadly, the gold has never been found.
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Interesting Things I Come Across is a weekly, self-explanatory newsletter. My goal is to share thoughtful ideas with clever people in no more than 500 words. Replies are encouraged and corrections are welcomed. I don't necessarily endorse the Things I write about, unless explicitly stated.

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