History of Uncas III - History

Uncas III

(MB: t. 13; l. 60'; b. 10'; dr. 2' (mean); 8. 20 k.; cpl. 8; a. 1 .30-car. mg.)

The third Uncas a wooden-hulled motorboat built in 1917 by the Greenport Basin and Construction Co., of Greenport, Long Island, N.Y.—was acquired by the Navy from Charles L. Poor, of New York City, on 28 June 1917, for use during World War I as a section patrol boat. Assigned to the 3d Naval District and given the designation SP-689, the motorboat—operating without a name since a tug named Uncas was already on the Navy list—conducted local patrol operations out of Section Base No. 6 at Bath Beach, N.Y., for the duration of the war. She was returned to her owner on 31 December 1918.

The Last American Slave Ship

On July 4, 1858, one of America’s fastest racing yachts departed Charleston, South Carolina, to a chorus of saluting cannons. Crowds along the waterfront waved flags and handkerchiefs as Wanderer slipped away from the shore with the triangular pennant of the prestigious New York Yacht Club flapping proudly in the breeze. In spite of the send-off, the speedy schooner wasn’t destined for another regatta. Instead, on a day when the United States celebrated its independence, the Wanderer was off on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to deprive hundreds of their freedom.

A little more than two months later, William Bowden, commander of the British warship HMS Medusa, peered through his spyglass and spotted the sleek American yacht in the mouth of the Congo River. On patrol along the African coastline in search of illegal slave ships, Bowden boarded Wanderer and was struck by its opulence—gilded mirrors, rosewood furniture, satinwood cupboards, ornamental brasswork and 𠇊ll that could be desired for comfort and luxury,” as the New York Times reported. At the invitation of the Americans, British officers dined on fine damask linens in the salon and sipped champagne and smoked cigars on the deck as Captain John Egbert Farnum regaled them with tales of his adventures in the Mexican-American War and serving as a guerrilla fighter in Nicaragua and Cuba.

Toward the end of the evening, Farnum jokingly asked his guests if they wished to inspect the yacht to ensure it wasn’t a slave ship. The British officers laughed at what seemed a preposterous idea for surely no vessel that extravagant would be used in the slave trade. The prestige of the New York Yacht Club banner that continued to fly from Wanderer’s main mast, however, shrouded its odious mission for hidden from view were supplies that Wanderer took on in Charleston𠅌hains, handcuffs and enough Georgia pine to build a secret slave deck.

(From left to right) Romeo, Ward Lee, Tucker Henderson, were captured and brought to America on Wanderer. This picture was taken after they were freed.

As soon as the British departed, the Americans resumed their vile𠅊nd illegal—work building pens in which to squirrel away human cargo. Congress voted to abolished the slave trade in 1807 and made it a crime punishable by death in 1820. Wanderer’s Southern owners, however, had little regard for the federal laws. New York Yacht Club member William Corrie and Charles Lamar, a member of a prominent Southern family, purchased the one-year-old ship from Louisiana sugar magnate John D. Johnson in the spring of 1858 and immediately set about retrofitting one of the quickest yachts of its day into a slave ship.

Explore the Mapping Slave Voyages interactive to find out more about the 350-year history of the transatlantic trade.

Among a group of pro-slavery radicals known as 𠇏ire-eaters,” Corrie and Lamar supported Southern secession and wanted the international slave trade reopened. Even if American law banned the importation of slaves, the fire-eaters wished to prove the impotence of the federal government to stop them. As the New York Times described, the radicals believed that if arrested they could “trust to the laxity of officials, the defects of proof, the technicalities of the law, and especially the sympathy of jurors, for escape from punishment.”

As Wanderer’s elaborate retrofit progressed in Port Jefferson, New York, a customs official grew increasingly suspicious𠅎specially when extra-large water tanks capable of holding 15,000 gallons were hauled aboard and Farnum, a known troublemaker, was spotted in the town. The New York Times wondered aloud whether the yacht might be transformed into a slave ship but acknowledged how absurd the notion was “that a vessel so costly, and so well adapted for a gentleman to spend his elegant leisure in, should be selected as a slaver.” Government officials ordered the ship to New York City for a thorough inspection. Although there was such a volume of supplies that “showed that an extraordinary voyage of some kind was contemplated,” nothing could specifically implicate the vessel as a slave ship. Customs officials had no choice but to let it proceed to Charleston and onto Africa where in exchange for rum, gunpowder, cutlasses, muskets and other goods, the Southerners secretly purchased nearly 500 slaves—many of them teenage boys𠅊nd branded them with hot irons.

United States Navy schooner USS Wanderer. (Credit: Public Domain)

After riding wind and waves across the Atlantic Ocean, Wanderer dropped anchor at Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia on November 28, 1858, with 400 African slaves. Approximately 70 of those held in bondage died in the brutal conditions and foul air of the ship’s hold during the six-week journey. The slavers quickly smuggled their human cargo ashore in small boats and scattered them in plantations and slave markets across the South, where they were sold for upwards of $700 a head.

Reports quickly surfaced, however, of the presence of newly imported slaves from West Africa. Within weeks, authorities had arrested the ringleaders of the criminal enterprise—including Corrie and Lamar𠅊nd charged them with slave trading, piracy and other offenses. The defendants stood trial in federal court in Savannah, Georgia, in the summer of 1860, but the result was much as the fire-eaters had imagined. The Southern jury refused to convict their peers, a verdict that further inflamed sectional tensions that burst into the Civil War the following year. Ultimately, the harshest sanction leveled on the conspirators was Corrie’s expulsion from the New York Yacht Club.

Lamar bought the ship back at a quarter of its value, but the United States seized it as an enemy vessel in May 1861 and converted it into a Union gunboat that participated in naval blockades of Confederate ports before sinking off the coast of Cuba in 1871 after a return to commercial use.

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The South China Sea Disputes: A clash of international law and historical claims

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), whose most recent charter came into force in November of 1994, constitutes the current basis of international law in the South China Sea disputes (UNCLOS, 2016). Long before the inception of recognized international maritime law, and throughout much of pre-modern history the South China Sea played a pivotal role as an “intersection of history” as the primary route for the vital trade connection between China and India, Europe, and the Middle East (Swanson, 1982). Many of the claims to the South China Sea are derived from this pre-modern era on the basis that traders and admirals settled on or stopped at the Spratly and Paracel islands while traversing the South China Sea on trading trips.

All claimants in the South China Sea disputes, including China, are signatories to UNCLOS, which sets forth clear laws for the waters surrounding the territories of nation-states (Poling, 2013). All regulations are established from the baseline of sovereign and inhabited islands, making the law’s application to the South China Sea particularly challenging. Legal maritime rights in terms of UNCLOS are derived from the status of land features, which are the focal point of claims made to islands in the South China Sea by Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and other ASEAN claimants.

Table 1: UNCLOS Provisions and Regulation Areas (UNCLOS, 2013)

Regulation Area Description
Territorial Waters 12 Nautical Miles from low-water line – can use all resources and set all regulations
Contiguous Waters 12 Nautical Miles beyond Territorial Water Boundary – can enforce only taxation, immigration, customs, and pollution regulations
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) 200 nautical miles from low-water line – has exploitative rights to all natural resources. Can regulate but must maintain freedom of maritime navigation and overflight

In contrast, the Chinese government’s claim – which is often referred to as the nine-dashed line claim because of the number of lines on the original map that were used to mark the boundaries of China’s maritime claims to the region – is not based on a claim to land features and therefore does not fall within the legal maritime framework of UNCLOS (Beckman, 2011). Rather, China’s nine-dashed line claim (see figure 1) is derived from a 1947 map drawn by Yang Huairen, a geographer for the Nationalist Government that fell in 1949 (see figure 2) (Beech, 2013). Yang’s work consisted of 11 dashes that were located in slightly altered locations. One notable exclusion from the renewed 2009 claim is the Gulf of Tonkin, which Mao Zedong ceded to Vietnam in 1952 (CSIS, 2012).

In comparing the two maps, scholars (see Fravel, Gao, and Dutton) – in addition to the U.S. State Department (2014) – have noted that the 2009 dashes come far closer to the shores of nations in the region than did the 1947 map. Figure 1 depicts the nine-dashed line in relation to China’s 200 nm EEZ (as defined by UNCLOS) with the artificial islands that were constructed inside the EEZs of the Philippines and Malaysia. In this map, the aggressiveness of the Chinese claim and the seriousness of the conflict becomes obvious. To make matters worse, the current legal structure for governing maritime disputes is not equipped to resolve such varying definitions and claims to the sovereignty of what are, in most cases, uninhabitable atolls and reefs.

Figure 1: China’s South China Sea Claims (2009)

Figure 2: China’s South China Sea Claim: 1949

Chinese Historical Claims

The South China Sea’s delineation as “international water” dates back to the late Ming period (1403 – 1644) and the introduction of European trade companies in East Asia. With an increased European presence in Asia, European ideals of free passage and trade policies clashed with the tributary system of the Chinese Empire. The understanding of the South China Sea as “international water” is derived from the European understanding of the freedom of navigation rather than from the Chinese understanding of the South Sea (南海). For China, the South Sea was a part of the Chinese Empire and a critical economic thruway for trade and exploration.

China’s legal claim rests in an assertion of first discovery in the second century CE (Tang, 1991). China also asserts that the South China Sea was mapped by Chinese scholars in the third century CE and that archeological evidence from several islands match Han Dynasty era artifacts (placing them in the early second century CE) (Kompas, 1991). If true, these assertions would be the earliest historical basis of any claimants, as the claims of the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia are derived from later events, including European colonization. Incorporated into China’s claim is the assertion that many of those subsequent events, including the French colonization of the habitable South China Sea in the Spratly and Paracel Islands, were illegitimate and do not negate China’s historical claims (Catley, 1997).

It is easily verifiable that China had continuous trade contact with what was called the South Sea Region (南洋), which referred to the nations in South and Southeast Asia from a China-centric perspective. The known trade routes with this region were predominant during the Kingdom of Wu (222 CE – 279 CE) and continued to expand during the subsequent Liang Dynasty (502-587 CE), with Funan (present-day part of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam) acting as a major entrepot for South Sea Region trade in the Mekong River Basin by the sixth century CE (Leonard, 1984). By the thirteenth century, continued trade with the South Sea Region relied on the shipping capacities of Malay city-states in the absence of Chinese naval power (Rockhill, 1911).

While the International Court of Arbitration governing maritime disputes has made it clear that (in legal terms) historical claims are wholly irrelevant to territorial and maritime disputes in the case of the South China Sea, the People’s Republic of China continues to assert the relevance of its historical claims. Despite the clear legal discourse on the subject of historical claims, the narrative of China – the largest actor in the region – must be considered and understood when analyzing the disputes. So long as actors are operating within different frameworks – with China continuing to call attention to historical claims and the international community continuing to focus on unenforceable international law, meaningful discussion and eventual resolution of the South China Sea disputes will be out of reach.

The existing debate over Chinese historical claims is whether they are relevant to the present-day territorial and international waters in the South China Sea. The International Court of Arbitration and ASEAN have said no, but the Chinese government continues to argue that they are indeed relevant and constitute a valid present-day claim. It is not the validity of China’s presence in the South China Sea that is in question. Rather, it is whether a trading presence (in which shipping lanes circumvented the open ocean and dangerous rocks of the South China Sea islands) can be considered a legitimate present-day claim of sovereignty to the various islands in the South China Sea.

It is possible that historical claims are not about attachment to a specific piece of land, as evidenced by the sweeping nature of the nine-dashed line. Rather, China’s concern may be in recalling the traditional hierarchical Asian paradigm in which the “middle kingdom” acted as the center of a tributary system of various levy-paying states. In exchange, the Chinese Emperor would offer protection to a series of states whose relative power was starkly inferior to China’s (Percival, 2007). This system, which was in use throughout most of China’s history, ended with European colonialism in Asia, particularly with the French colonization of Vietnam in 1885, during which China failed to protect its tributary client state (Brocheux, 2009). While the nature of this tributary arrangement changed throughout China’s history, such as the privatization of trade and establishment of a customs system by the Kangxi Emperor in the late 17 th century, the Sino-centric nature of such a system heralds many of the underlying assumptions to the present-day Chinese historical claims in the South China Sea (Zhao, 2013). Alongside claims to the South China Sea, Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is seen to be a resurrection of these tributary ideals.

Regardless of the motivations or rationale behind the resurgent employment of historical claims in the South China Sea, those histories have become increasingly relevant to the debate over sovereignty and the occupation of uninhabitable islands in the region. The lack of legally legitimate historical claims to South China Sea islands (beyond the trade routes argument) leaves the Chinese perspective with no legal standing under international law. With each state using its own narrative to support their claims, there is little chance for historical and factual reconciliation – making the historical realities and claims of China crucial to the understanding of the current status of the region. As China continues to advance its activities in the South China Sea, it is crucial to reach a better understanding of why Beijing is in pursuit of a larger military and diplomatic presence in southeast Asia.

About the Author: Benjamin Black is an School of International Affairs student at the Pennsylvania State University.

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“Maritime Traffic Safety Law of The People’s Republic Of China.” AsianLII. (April 24, 2017).

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Beckman, Robert. 2011. China, UNCLOS, and the South China Sea. Asian Society of International ˇLaw: Third Biennial Conference. In Beijing, China.

Beech, Hannah, and Yang Siqi. “Just Where Exactly Did China Get Its Nine-Dash Line From?” July 19, 2016. Accessed January 16, 2017.

Brocheux, Pierre, and Daniel Hémery. 2009. Indochina: an ambiguous colonization, 1858-1954. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Catley, Robert, and Makmur Keliat. 1997. Spratlys: Dispute in the South China Sea. Aldershot: Ashgate

Center for Strategic and International Studies via Document Cloud

Daniels, Christopher L. 2013. South China Sea: Energy and Security Conflicts. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Garver, John. 1992. “China’s Push through the South China Sea: the Interaction of Bureaucratic and National Interests.” The China Quarterly. 132. Pg 999-1028.

Hayton, Bill. 2014. South China Sea: the Struggle for Power in Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Kaplan, Robert. 2014. Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific. Random House.

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Perlez, Jane. 2016. “Tribunal Rejects Beijing’s Claims in the South China Sea.” The New York Times

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Rockhill, W., translator. 1911. Chau Ju-kua: His Work on the Chinese and Arab Trade in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries “Chu-fan-chi”. St. Petersburg.

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B. The Corfu Channel Case

In 1949, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on a dispute between the United Kingdom and Albania over the legal status of the Corfu Channel following an incident in which two U.K. warships struck Albanian mines. 29× 29. Corfu Channel (U.K. v. Alb.), Judgment, 1949 I.C.J. Rep. 4 (Apr. 9). The Corfu Channel is the strip of water between the Albanian and Greek mainlands and the Greek island of Corfu. 1 Aaron L. Shalowitz , U.S. Dep’t of Commerce , Shore and Sea Boundaries: With Special Reference to the Interpretation and Use of Coast and Geodetic Survey Data 75 (1962). One of the central issues was whether the Channel qualified as a “strait used for international navigation.” 30× 30. Had the Channel not been a strait used for international navigation, the presence of the British ships would have violated Albanian sovereignty. See Corfu Channel, 1949 I.C.J. at 28. The ICJ held that the Corfu Channel was indeed an international strait, meaning that British ships had the right of “innocent passage” when in the Channel. 31× 31. The specifics of innocent passage were not fully defined — and a broader right of transit passage was not recognized — until UNCLOS III. See infra p. 2584. In its holding, the court stated: “[T]he decisive criterion is . . . [the Channel’s] geographical situation as connecting two parts of the high seas and the fact of its being used for international navigation.” 32× 32. Corfu Channel, 1949 I.C.J. at 28.

In Corfu Channel, then, the ICJ concluded that both a geographic test and a functional test applied to the determination of whether the Corfu Channel was an international strait. While the geographic test (whether the strait “connect[s] two parts of the high seas” 33× 33. Id. ) left little room for interpretation, the court’s application of the functional test (whether the strait is “used for international navigation” 34× 34. Id. ) left tremendous uncertainty. 35× 35. In its determination that the Channel satisfied the functional test, the ICJ did not sketch out the minimum criteria by which other straits should be measured, instead narrowly deciding the reasons that the Corfu Channel did qualify. While many authors have postulated the significance of the court’s brief treatment of functional use, see, e.g., Pharand, supra note 7, at 37–42, there is good reason to believe that the court simply emphasized the Corfu Channel’s historic use to justify its status as an international strait despite the existence of an alternative route through the high seas, not because it considered such use necessary for recognition as an international strait, see infra pp. 2597–98. The subjectivity surrounding the question of what qualifies as an international strait — and many other questions like it — led many of the United Nations member states to call a convention to discuss and codify the law of the sea. 36× 36. See Caron, supra note 12, at 11–12.

Territorial Disputes and Cross-Border Management

11.1.4 Inconsistent or Contradictory Statements

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is established to define coastal and maritime boundaries, to regulate seabed exploration not within territorial claims, and to distribute revenue from regulated exploration. Territorial sea is defined under the UNCLOS as the 12-nautical mile zone from the baseline or low-water line along the coast. The coastal state’s sovereignty extends to the territorial sea, including its seabed, subsoil and air space above it. Article 56 of the UNCLOS outlines parameters for the establishment of a country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which extends 200 nautical miles from the country’s coastline. Article 56 gives sovereign rights for exploration, exploitation, conservation and resource management of living and non-living natural resources of waters in the country’s EEZ. Article 76 defines the continental shelf of a nation, which ‘comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin or to a distance of 200 nautical miles…’ (cited from UNCLOS, 1982 ).

However, the establishment of the UNCLOS parameters has also created the potential for overlapping claims in semi-enclosed seas. These claims could be further extended by any nation which could establish a settlement on the islands at these seas. Indeed, Article 121 of the UNCLOS, which states that ‘rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf’, has flaws in identifying if the object is an islet or rock.

Historical Snapshot

The C-17 Globemaster III is a high-wing, four-engine, T-tailed aircraft with a rear loading ramp. In 1980, the U.S. Air Force asked for a larger transport that could be refueled in flight and use rough forward fields so that it could fly anywhere in the world. On Aug. 28, 1981, McDonnell Douglas won the contract with its proposal to build the C-17. The design met or exceeded all Air Force design specifications, and the huge transport was able to use runways at 19,000 airfields.

The C-17 was built in Long Beach, California, and the first C-17 squadron was operational in January 1995. The C-17 fleet has been involved in many contingency operations, including flying troops and equipment to Operation Joint Endeavor to support peacekeeping in Bosnia and the Allied Operation in Kosovo. Eight C-17s, in 1998, completed the longest airdrop mission in history, flying more than 8,000 nautical miles (14,816 kilometers) from the United States to Central Asia, dropping troops and equipment after more than 19 hours in the air.

With its 160,000-pound (72,600-kilogram) payload, the C-17 can take off from a 7,600-foot (2,316-meter) airfield, fly 2,400 nautical miles (4,444 kilometers) and land on a small, austere airfield in 3,000 feet (914 meters) or less. The C-17 can be refueled in flight. On the ground, a fully loaded aircraft, using engine reversers, can back up a 2% slope.

During normal testing, C-17s have set 33 world records, including payload to altitude time-to-climb and the short takeoff and landing mark, in which the C-17 took off in less than 1,400 feet (427 meters), carried a payload of 44,000 pounds (20,000 kilograms) to altitude and landed in less than 1,400 feet (427 meters).

In May 1995, the C-17 received the prestigious Collier Trophy, symbolizing the top aeronautical achievement of 1994. In February 1999, President Bill Clinton presented the nation's top award for quality &mdash the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award &mdash to Boeing Airlift and Tanker programs, maker of the C-17, for business excellence.

On Dec. 20, 2010, the worldwide fleet of C-17 Globemaster III airlifters surpassed 2 million flying hours during an airdrop mission over Afghanistan. Reaching 2 million flight-hours equates to 1.13 billion nautical miles &mdash the equivalent of a C-17 flying to the moon and back 2,360 times.

On Sept. 18, 2013, Boeing announced it would complete production of the C-17 Globemaster III and close the C-17 final assembly facility in Long Beach in 2015. Dennis Muilenburg, who was president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security at the time but today serves as chairman, president and CEO of The Boeing Company, said, &ldquoOur customers around the world face very tough budget environments.&rdquo

Between Past and Future: UNCLOS III

Since the early 1970s thinking about the changing law of the sea has virtually been synonymous with thinking about the evolution of UNCLOS III. The history of this conference reminds one of a glacier slowly, very slowly, grinding down towards the ocean from mountain tops whose highest reaches were always in the clouds. In the course of its journey this remarkable phenomenon was examined by an ex­ panding group of air-tripping conference-watchers. This group des­ cribed and analysed changes in the conference with all the interest, to the public at large, that the minute changes of a large body of ice have to non-glaciologists. After a decade, this glacier-conference came to an end, but it hung at the brink of the ocean rather than becoming part of it. If it does proceed, years will pass before its effects will be fully absorbed and diffused throughout the whole maritime environment. It may not even move forward: the changing climate might yet cause it miserably to shrink.

The International Order on Oceans: An Indian Perspective

India, with its 7500 km coastline offers myriad possibilities of oceanic exploration. The seas around the sub-continent are replete with resources – fisheries, oil and gas, minerals, upholds activities related to shipping, protection of marine environment, national security and surveillance. The country portrayed its specific interest in the development of seabed resources under the seabed regime established in the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS-III) in 1982 that resulted in setting up of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an organ of the United Nations with its headquarters at Kingston, Jamaica.

The seabed gained its importance and momentum in the 60’s when John Mero, a scientist from the United States made an announcement in the United Nations General Assembly about the vast mineral resources on the seabed particularly ‘polymetallic nodules’ commonly known as ‘manganese nodules’. This led to serious thinking among the Group 77, comprising of developing and third world countries that had limited technological resources to investigate such resources on the seabed, but at the same time were concerned about leaving these resources to be exploited in the hands of a few industrialised and technologically developed nations. It was Arvid Pardo, the Maltese Ambassador who promulgated the seabed resources beyond national jurisdiction as ‘the common heritage of mankind’. India participated effectively in UNCLOS-I (1958), UNCLOS-II (1960) and UNCLOS-III (1973-1982). It amended its Constitution and enacted the Maritime Zones Act in 1976 the Coast Guard Act in 1978 the Maritime Zones of India Act for Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels in 1981 issued rules in 1982 and enacted the Environmental Protection Act in 1986.

Figure 1. Map showing the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of India

Figure 2. Major maritime zones involved in the Law of the Sea

The Law of the Sea

When the League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations in 1945, it was thought desirable to provide for the establishment of a body, i.e., the International Law Commission (ILC) charged with the progressive codification of the International Law of the Sea. The ILC submitted a report in 1956 to the UN, which formed the basis for the first UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS-I) held at Geneva , in 1958.

The UNCLOS-I produced a legal framework of rules governing the rights and duties of states in the territorial sea, continental shelf and high seas. UNCLOS-I had adopted four conventions: The Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone The Convention on the High Seas The Convention on the Continental Shelf and a Convention on the Fisheries and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas. The first three of these were ratified by a substantial number of states and were based mainly on customary international law, as presented in the ILC’s report. Consequently, these conventions formed the core of the generally accepted rules of the Law of the Sea concerning maritime zones.

The major problem UNCLOS-I faced was to agree on some definite outer limit for the territorial sea and the states practices. To discuss this and to define fishery limits of a coastal state, an UNCLOS II was convened in 1960. The proposal was to adopt a compromise formula providing for a six mile territorial sea plus a six mile fishery zone. The proposal however lost by one vote.

It was agreed in 1970, in the UN General Assembly to convene a third UN Conference, with the aim of producing a comprehensive convention on the Law of the Sea. UNCLOS-III had to negotiate a political package that would be acceptable to all the member states. This involved defining the limits of national jurisdiction, over the seabed and, therefore, revision of parts of UNCLOS-I on the continental shelf, as well as on the high seas.

Image: Underwater photograph of nodules on the seabed floor at a depth of 5.5 km in the Indian Ocean.

After extensive work spanning about a decade (1973 to 1982), UNCLOS-III was opened for signature in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 10 December 1982 and was signed by 117 states including India. By 9 December 1984, it was signed by 155 states and 4 entities. However, the UNCLOS-III Regime could not come into force for more than a decade after the Convention was opened for signature. The main objection came from countries such as the USA, UK, Germany, and other industrialised states who opposed many of the provisions on seabed mining in international waters (Part XI of UNCLOS-III). Poor prospects of commercial production of seabed minerals and the lack of economic necessity were the other reasons, for non-implementation of UNCLOS-III. Eventually UNCLOS-III came into force and the ISA came into existence on 16 November 1994. All states who are party to the UNCLOS-III are members of the Authority. By May 2011, 161 states and the European Union were members of the Authority.

The country conforming to the international law, has well demarcated and distinct maritime zones – a 12 nautical mile (nm) territorial sea, a 24 nm contiguous zone, a 200 nm exclusive economic zone (EEZ) (Fig. 1), and the continental shelf extending beyond 200 nm (recently submitted for consideration by the commission on the delimitation of continental shelf) (Fig. 2). Having demarcated the maritime zones, India went on to claim the seabed area for mineral resources of manganese nodules in the Indian Ocean. It was the first country in the world and the only developing nation to have been recognised as a ‘pioneer investor’ (Fig. 3) and allocated a Pioneer Area of 150,000 sq km on 17 August 1987. France, Japan, erstwhile Soviet Union, China, Republic of Korea, InterOcean Metal (a group of East European countries) and Germany followed by claiming areas of the seabed in the Pacific Ocean popularly tagged as the Clarion and Clipperton Zone (CCZ).

The Indian Ocean

Manganese nodules are essentially rich in metals like manganese, copper, nickel and cobalt. India lacks terrestrial deposits of nickel and cobalt – found only as a by product of mining base metal deposits on land. Also, reserves of manganese and copper are likely to be exhausted within the next 20-25 years. However, the consumption of these metals has been rapidly increasing with industry demand growing manifold. In order to meet the new and future needs, exploration and discovery of seabed deposits is a step towards sustainability for India. Technologies for exploration and exploitation of these deposits, lying at depths of 5 to 6 km in the Indian Ocean, are being developed with the support of the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).

MoES is also investigating other resource deposits – hydrothermal massive sulphides rich in gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead etc. and cobalt-rich crusts enriched in cobalt and platinum on the seabed in the Indian Ocean to stake claims from the ISA. Some of these deposits are also rich in rare-earth elements (REE) and suitable recovery technologies when developed would harness these metals as well for the benefit of the country. Currently, India largely excavates REE from beaches and shallow waters off the west coast particularly in Kerala and these deposits are commonly known as ‘placers’. The seaward extension of such deposits is being investigated and the Ratnagiri coast of Maharashtra has been identified as one of the potential regions for placers. Apart from these, and conventional oil and gas deposits, minerals that are likely to meet the demand for energy requirements, are ‘gas-hydrates’ potentially known to occur in the Bay of Bengal. Also, demands of the fertiliser industry may be met from ‘phosphorites’, phosphorous rich deposits, presently lying unexploited in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.


India is making efforts to claim other seabed areas that are potential sites for minerals like hydrothermal sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts. In recently concluded meetings of the ISA during its 17th Session (July 2011), China and Russia have claimed areas of hydrothermal sulphide for exploration in Southwest Indian Ridge and Mid-Atlantic Ridge, respectively and an area of 3,00,000 sq km each has been approved. Another milestone in the history of ISA is the claim by Republic of Nauru and Tonga, two islands nations in the Pacific Ocean, for allocation of reserved areas in the CCZ. This marks a new beginning of seabed mineral regime in view of the fact that new minerals – other than the nodules that attracted the attention of the international community in the past – are being sought.

Disease and illnesses have plagued humanity since the earliest days, our mortal flaw. However, it was not until the marked shift to agrarian communities that the scale and spread of these diseases increased dramatically.

Widespread trade created new opportunities for human and animal interactions that sped up such epidemics. Malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, influenza, smallpox, and others first appeared during these early years.

The more civilized humans became – with larger cities, more exotic trade routes, and increased contact with different populations of people, animals, and ecosystems – the more likely pandemics would occur.

Here are some of the major pandemics that have occurred over time:

NameTime periodType / Pre-human hostDeath toll
Antonine Plague165-180Believed to be either smallpox or measles5M
Japanese smallpox epidemic735-737Variola major virus1M
Plague of Justinian541-542Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas30-50M
Black Death1347-1351Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas200M
New World Smallpox Outbreak1520 – onwardsVariola major virus56M
Great Plague of London1665Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas100,000
Italian plague1629-1631Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas1M
Cholera Pandemics 1-61817-1923V. cholerae bacteria1M+
Third Plague1885Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas12M (China and India)
Yellow FeverLate 1800sVirus / Mosquitoes100,000-150,000 (U.S.)
Russian Flu1889-1890Believed to be H2N2 (avian origin)1M
Spanish Flu1918-1919H1N1 virus / Pigs40-50M
Asian Flu1957-1958H2N2 virus1.1M
Hong Kong Flu1968-1970H3N2 virus1M
HIV/AIDS1981-presentVirus / Chimpanzees25-35M
Swine Flu2009-2010H1N1 virus / Pigs200,000
SARS2002-2003Coronavirus / Bats, Civets770
Ebola2014-2016Ebolavirus / Wild animals11,000
MERS2015-PresentCoronavirus / Bats, camels850
COVID-192019-PresentCoronavirus – Unknown (possibly pangolins)2.7M (Johns Hopkins University estimate as of March 16, 2021)

Note: Many of the death toll numbers listed above are best estimates based on available research. Some, such as the Plague of Justinian and Swine Flu, are subject to debate based on new evidence.

Despite the persistence of disease and pandemics throughout history, there’s one consistent trend over time – a gradual reduction in the death rate. Healthcare improvements and understanding the factors that incubate pandemics have been powerful tools in mitigating their impact.

May 27, 2021 Update: Due to popular request, we’ve also visualized how the death tolls of each pandemic stack up as a share of total estimated global populations at the time.

Connecticut. Appellants. Old John Uncas and the greater part of the tribe of Moheagan Indians, by Samuel Mason their guardian, appellants. The governor and company of His Majesty's English colony of Connecticut in New England in America, and George Richards, Esq and several other persons, intruders on the lands in question, respondents

On caption title page and docket title: "Old John Uncas and the greater part of the tribe of Moheagan Indians, by Samuel Mason their guardian," is bracketed into group with "Appellants" printed to the right side, and "The Governor and Company of His Majesty's English colony of Connecticut in New England in America, and George Richards, Esq and several other persons, intruders on the lands in question," is bracketed into group with "Respondents" printed to the right side the appellants case docket title omits day and month to be supplied in manuscript hand

Signatures: A-F² chi1 (chi1 blank)

Genealogical table of the family of Uncas, sachem of the Mohegan tribe, died 1684, to the Young John Uncas, the present sachem: p. [1], 1st count

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