I like to think of myself as well-traveled and at least a little bit worldly. At a minimum I should be familiar with the political geography of Western Europe, n'est-ce pas?
Well, color me humbled!
It turns out that in the North Sea - just off the coast of Sussex, England - there is an entire country that I had never heard of until a couple of weeks ago. The principality of Sealand occupies an abandoned British Navy installation known as Roughs Tower. I'll let you read the full history of Sealand - as told by Wikipedia of course - but here's a brief hi-lite reel:
- Roughs tower was a WWII HMS Navy base in International waters that fell into disuse after the war
- Roy Bates, a pirate radio broadcaster with a history of occupying abandoned Naval installations took control of Roughs tower in a physical confrontation with squatters in 1967.
- In 1968, British government personnel servicing buoys in the area came under fire from the Bates group, leading to the arrest of Roy and his son Michael Bates later in the year.
- The judge hearing the case ruled that he had no jurisdiction over things happening at Roughs Tower because it is in International waters.
- The Bates family can now cite this ruling as a de facto recognition of sovereignty.
- 1978 - Terrorism! A group of Dutch and German rivals raided Sealand while Prime Minister Roy Bates was away. They took Michael Bates as POW and later released him in the Netherlands.
- Roy mounted a helicopter assault on occupied Sealand and retook the micronation. After visits from German diplomats, Sealand repatriated most of the hostiles, but charged one with Treason.
- The diplomatic contact and the UK's statements distancing themselves from responsibility in the matter add to the argument for de facto sovereignty.
- The evicted terrorists established an 'exile government' in Germany and began operation as a rival organization.
- Since that time, Sealand has operated as a principality claiming the waters within 12 miles of Roughs Tower and apparently using force to enforce their claim on at least one occasion.
- Sealand has issued stamps, money (pegged to the US dollar), and passports although the passports have been revoked due to the production and use of counterfeits in some high-profile crimes.
- Sealand continues to operate as an independent entity committed to sovereign, libertarian existence.
- A web-based company called HavenCo is now based in Sealand and serves as a web-services provider for companies that have a hard time finding other places to host their content.
- HavenCo has had a and it is not clear to me what its status is currently.
- Sealand is trying to expand its subject base by offering Dukedoms for sale. Cheap too!
There's a ton (tonne?) more to write about Sealand, but I'll save it for later. For now the major shortcoming I see is that there isn't a national anthem.