The Republic of Minerva

Here’s something I didn’t know: in 1971, a group of American libertarians created two small artificial islands on an unclaimed coral reef near Fiji and Tonga, (very roughly) a thousand miles or so off Australia’s east coast, and proceeded to declare a new country, which was then invaded and conquered by the kingdom of Tonga, and then washed away by storms.

The best Oliver could do was Minerva Reef, in the middle of the Pacific, 500 km (260 miles) southeast of Tonga.  It had never been claimed, despite being discovered as far back as 1854.  There were, however, serious problems establishing a settlement on the reef, not the least being that the reef lies some three feet above water at low tide and about four feet under water at high tide.

Undaunted, in January 1971, Oliver and a small party went to Fiji, where they chartered a 54-foot motor sailer and purchased the materials to create artificial islands on the reef.  On their arrival at Minerva, the party unloaded large hunks of coral wrapped in chicken wire, concrete blocks, sand and other rubble, which allowed them to build two micro-islands on the reef.  On one of these islands, they built a small stone tower and hoisted its flag: a yellow torch of freedom on a solid blue background.  The founding fathers of Minerva hoped to expand the reclaimed land until it would eventually support a city of 30,000 citizens…

Taking up the challenge was King Tāufa’āhau Tupou IV, the heaviest monarch in the world, weighing in at over 440 pounds. On June 21, 1972, he led an expeditionary force to invade the Principality of Minerva.  Without an army or navy to call on, the king recruited a five-man convict work detail to undertake the invasion and, to add gravis to the expedition, a four-piece brass band played the Tongan national anthem from on-board the royal yacht Olovaba to inspire the troops.  Taking courage, when he saw that Minerva was unoccupied, the king decided to personally lead his force.  Once the tide was out, the king went ashore.  After tearing down Minervan flag, he read aloud a proclamation of sovereignty.  The reef now belonged to Kingdom of Tonga.

I like to think I have a creative mind but I certainly couldn’t have made that up.

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