On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.
It is not an easy task to repair a historic ship, especially one that still sails. Centuries of saltwater have crept into her planks, rotting wood and rusting iron. Eventually, everything needs to be replaced, the ship that sailed 400 years ago shares no original parts with the ship that sails today under the same name, under the same flag.
Stop. Go back. Let’s talk about cannons.
In the 17th century, we decided that we could own the sea, or rather, nations decided that they could lay claim to their coastal waters. In De dominio maris (1702), Cornelius Bynkershoek proposed a 3 mile limit for territorial seas. Coastal countries began laying claims, annexing oceans as they still annex new land. Eventually, the 3 mile limit expanded outward, first to 5, than 12, then finally 200 miles, staking claims against not just a coastline, but an entire continental shelf, a nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Even today, some nations continue to exert and maintain extreme control over their 3 mile limit.
Why three miles? The best cannons of the era could shell a ship from 3 miles away. This provided a strategic advantage for coastal cities, who could maintain heavier artillery than a warship could carry. Three miles meant that a state could fire upon an enemy entering its territory before the vessel brought its own guns within range.
That limit is now meaningless, and indeed, was rendered obsolete within a few decades of its adoption. Technology moves faster than law. Today, we can fire upon an enemy from anywhere in the world, at any time, without warning. And yet, the 3 mile limit remains, informing shipping, fishing, diplomacy, and resource management, long after the long guns it was created to thwart have rusted away. Read More