St. Maarten Overview

In 1648, France and the Dutch Republic agreed to divide the tiny island between their two territories. As satellite images weren’t available at this time, the question was how to divide the island in equal parts. Legend has it that locals came up with a clever idea: The French-dominated community in the North and the Dutch-dominated community in the South each had to choose a walker. Like a movie, they were put back to back on the shore of the island and made to walk in opposite directions. They were not allowed to leave the shore line, neither they were allowed to run. The point where they eventually met was set as the other extreme of the island. A line between these two points was consequently chosen as the frontier between the two sides.

St. Maarten Beach

But why is the result a 60/40 split of the islands between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands? As often in life, both parties have a different explanation. The Dutch simply accuse the French that their walker didn’t walk but ran. The French version is another one: they state that the French walker was drinking wine during the journey in opposite to the Dutch walker who drank Jenever, a Dutch Gin. The difference between the beverages' alcohol content was said to be the cause of the territorial differences.

The real reason is impossible to determine. In the end, after many future changes in the occupancy of the island between the the Dutch, the French and the British, the borders were restored in 1816 to the result of the 1648 walk leaving the French with the bigger part.