Republic of Minerva

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Republic of Minerva

Land of the Rising Atoll
Official language(s)English
- PresidentMorris C. Davis
Established19 January 1972
CurrencyMinerva Dollar

The Republic of Minerva was one of the few modern attempts at creating a sovereign micronation on the reclaimed land of an artificial island in 1972. The architect was Las Vegas real estate millionaire and political activist Michael Oliver, who went on to other similar attempts in the following decade. Lithuanian-born Oliver formed a syndicate, the Ocean Life Research Foundation, which allegedly had some $100,000,000 for the project and had offices in New York and London. They anticipated a libertarian Society with "no taxation, welfare, subsidies, or any form of economic interventionism." In addition to tourism and fishing, the economy of the new nation would include light industry and other commerce. According to Glen Raphael, "The chief reason that the Minerva project failed was that the libertarians who were involved did not want to fight for their territory."[1] According to Reason, Minerva has been "more or less reclaimed by the sea".[2] The site chosen for the Republic was the Minerva Reefs in the Pacific Ocean.


Landing on Minerva, years after the confrontation.
More people walking on Minerva.

It is not known when the reefs were first discovered but had been marked on charts as "Nicholson's Shoal" since the late 1820s. Capt H. M. Denham of the HMS Herald surveyed the reefs in 1854 and renamed them after the Australian whaler Minerva which collided with South Minerva Reef on 9 September 1829.[3]

In 1971, barges loaded with sand arrived from Australia, bringing the reef level above the water and allowing construction of a small tower and flag. The Republic of Minerva issued a declaration of independence on 19 January 1972, in letters to neighboring countries and even created their own currency. In February 1972, Morris C. Davis was elected as Provisional President of the Republic of Minerva.

The declaration of independence, however, was greeted with great suspicion by other countries in the area. A conference of the neighboring states (Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, and territory of Cook Islandss) met on 24 February 1972 at which Tonga made a claim over the Minerva Reefs and the rest of the states recognized its claim.

On 15 June 1972, the following proclamation was published in a Tongan government gazette:

His Majesty King Taufaahau Tupou IV in Council DOES HEREBY PROCLAIM:

WHEREAS the Reefs known as North Minerva Reef and South Minerva Reef have long served as fishing grounds for the Tongan people and have long been regarded as belonging to the Kingdom of Tonga has now created on these Reefs islands known as Teleki Tokelau and Teleki Tonga; AND WHEREAS it is expedient that we should now confirm the rights of the Kingdom of Tonga to these islands; THEREFORE we do hereby AFFIRM and PROCLAIM that the islands, rocks, reefs, foreshores and waters lying within a radius of twelve miles [19.31 km] thereof are part of our Kingdom of Tonga.

A Tongan expedition was sent to enforce the claim. Tonga’s claim was recognized by the South Pacific Forum in September 1972. Meanwhile, Provisional President Davis was fired by founder Michael Oliver and the project collapsed in confusion. Nevertheless, Minerva was referred to in O. T. Nelson's post-apocalyptic children's novel The Girl Who Owned a City, published in 1975, as an example of an invented utopia that the book's protagonists could try to emulate.

In 1982, a group of Americans led again by Morris C. “Bud” Davis tried to occupy the reefs, but were forced off by Tongan troops after three weeks. In recent years several groups have allegedly sought to re-establish Minerva. No claimant group has to date made any attempt to take possession of the Minerva Reefs territory.

In November 2005, Fiji lodged a complaint with the International Seabed Authority concerning territorial claim over Minerva. Tonga has lodged a counter claim. The Minerva "principality" group also claims to have lodged a counter claim.


Minerva Reefs

Area: North Reef diameter about 5.6 km, South Reef diameter of about 4.8 km. Cities: Capital—Port Victoria. Terrain: 2 island atolls—mainly raised coral complexes on dormant volcanic islands.

Both Minerva Reefs are about 435 km southwest of the Tongatapu Group. The atolls are on a common submarine platform from 549 to 1097 meters (1800 to 3600 feet) below the surface of the sea. Cardea is circular in shape and has a diameter of about 5.6 km. There is a small island around the atoll, with a small entrance into the flat lagoon with a somewhat deep harbor. Aurora is parted into The East Reef and the West Reef, both circular with a diameter of about 4.8 km. Around both atolls are two small sandy cays, vegetated by low scrub and some trees. Several iron towers and platforms are reported to stand near the atolls, along with an unused light tower on Aurora, erected by the Americans during World War II. Geologically the Minervan islands are of a limestone base formed from uplifted coral formations elevated by now-dormant volcanic activity.

The climate is basically subtropical with a distinct warm period (December–April), during which the temperatures rise above 32 °C (90 °F), and a cooler period (May–November), with temperatures rarely rising above 27 °C (80 °F). The temperature increases from 23 °C to 27 °C (74 °F to 80 °F), and the annual rainfall is from 170 to 297 centimeters (67-117 in.) as one moves from Cardea in the south to the more northerly islands closer to the Equator. The mean daily humidity is 80%.


See also


  • Strauss, Erwin S. How to Start Your Own Country, 2nd ed. Port Townsend, WA: Breakout Productions, 1984. ISBN 1-893626-15-6
  • Olaf Ruhen, Minerva Reef (Halstead Press, Sydney, 1963)
  • Samuel Pyeatt Menefee, "Republics of the Reefs": Nation-Building on the Continental Shelf and in the World's Oceans,California Western International Law Journal, vol. 25, no. 1, Fall 1994
  • South Seas: The Minerva Ploy, Newsweek, 23 October 1972
  • South Sea Reef Proclaimed a Republic by 3 Americans, New York Times, 30 January 1972
  • Micronations: Principality of Minerva, FHM Estonia, January 2005
  • Principality of Minerva, Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle Standard, by David Henley, December 2004
  1. Raphael, Glen. "A Non-Non-Libertarian FAQ: Responses to Mike Huben". Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  2. Mangu-Ward, Katherine (2008). "Artifact: Hope Floats". Reason Magazine. Retrieved 6 June 2011. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  3. Ruhen, Olaf. Minerva Reef, Minerva Bookshop Limited, 1963, p. 7

External links