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The Multipoint Edition
On geography, borders, and history
Ian Greenleigh (ISG) is an Austin-based writer who leads brand and communications at 1E.
Ian here. There are places considered so special, boundaries stretch and contort themselves just to touch them. Their lines converge on volcano peaks, on the edges of dead empires, in black seas and shallow rivers, in sleepless cities and in desert desolation. These are multipoints, the kaleidoscopic locations where three or more boundaries meet.
Earth has 175 international tripoints, and China holds the record with 16. Mathematician Greg Hurst’s analysis–which includes subnational administrative divisions–located 724 quadripoints, 13 quintipoints, and one decipoint (on the summit of Mount Etna, where 10 Sicilian municipalities come together).
Why is this interesting?
Multipoints take what we find fascinating about borders and turn up the complexity. Each additional entity adds its own bit and intensifies what makes the places special.
Take Three Emperors' Corner, in present-day Poland, which sits at the historical confluence of the Prussian, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian Empires:
“It is said that the most interesting part of the excursion was to see the difference: all the three countries were visibly unlike each other in landscape, culture, and economy.”
Or Treriksrøysa, a double-multipoint that marks the shared border of Russia, Finland, Norway, and the nexus of three time zones.
Canada established a new quadripoint overnight when it created Nanavut in 1999. The Canadian Four Corners Monument joins Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, and Nanavut 1,600 miles north of the Utah-New Mexico-Arizona-Colorado Four Corners Monument.
Like all borders, multipoints are variously the products of diplomats, conquerors, surveyors, committees, and natural features. These boundaries also divide, connect, sequester, demarcate, attract, and deter. But to me, multipoints will always be more magnetic than their binary counterparts, curious and complicated anomalies compared to those "ordinary" imaginary lines. (ISG).
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