Puzzle 15

John Baez

Q: Which part of North America still belongs to France?

A: Saint Pierre et Miquelon, a cluster of islands 15 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada. That's about 800 miles north of Boston. It's surprisingly little known that these islands are still part of France. They claim to be the oldest overseas French territory. Their population was about 7000 in 1998, and their area is 242 square kilometers, about 1.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.. They were used as a gigantic liquor warehouse during Prohibition. Another interesting fact is that Saint Pierre et Miquelon has the earliest time zone in North America: their local time is half an hour ahead of Newfoundland and Labrador, despite lying more or less due south of the center of Newfoundland.

There are also French embassies in Canada, the United States and Mexico, but while these are exempt from the law of their host countries - a practice known as "extraterritoriality" - the land belongs to the host country, not France.

Interestingly, there are also two patches of land owned by North American countries in France:

Sources: Saint-Pierre et Miquelon has its own website, and they encourage us to visit. I want to go!

For the portions of France ceded to the USA and Canada, and other interesting "enclaves" and "exclaves", see:

For more fun try these: