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Earth is a huge planet consisting of clear borders and obvious countries. Right? A passport is essential everywhere you go. Right? Every place has a name, an owner and precise written details of what it is all about. Right? Wrong! There are still some spots that lie lonely and unclaimed – here’s your ultimate guide to eleven places you can actually rule, with tongue firmly in cheek.
In the middle of Baffins Pond in the city of Portsmouth, England there are three islands lingering around, unused, doing nothing. Every day, dog walkers and joggers do laps of the nearby park without even noticing. But then one day in 2005, a local school teacher called Louis Robert Harold Stephens discovered that they were not officially mentioned as part of the United Kingdom in a 1938 land sale contract. Louis proclaimed himself Grand Duke of the three islands and named them the Lagoan Isles. However a recent inspection shows that the Lagoan Isles are still unclaimed and uninhabited. Even the Lagoan Isles website is no longer active, so these islands, accessible only by boat or by swimming across the pond, are up for grabs!
Further reading – Grand Duchy of the Lagoan Isles
The country of Belize is awash (pun intended) with lots of tiny uninhabited islands off its coast. While tourists flock here for the awesome Blue Hole and a few nights of luxury on Caye Caulker and San Pedro, why not come here and set up home by buying your own piece of land? If you’re thinking “Surely the Belize government will notice and kick you out?”, that’s not necessarily the case – money talks and it’s publically known that North East Caye is currently up for sale. So name your price, move in, put up your flag and secede from Belize. Oh, and the island has no airport so you’ll need a boat or to be an incredibly good swimmer if you ever want to leave your new “country”!
Further reading – Buy North East Caye Island
The tiny island rock known as Rockall remains unconquered and has no buildings or people on it. The United Kingdom claimed and incorporated Rockall in 1955 – however the Republic of Ireland have not recognised this claim, insisting Rockall is Irish. Geographically, Iceland and the Faroe Islands could also have a claim to it – it is in a remote part of the North Atlantic. The uninhabited rock is a mere 25m (82 feet) wide and 17m (56 feet) high and is actually the remnants of an extinct volcano. In 2014, a chartered surveyor called Nick Hancock spent 43 days living on Rockall – beating the previous record set by a solo man by three days.
Further reading – Who owns Rockall? The dispute continues
This part of Fort St. Angelo in the town of Il Birgu (also called Vittoriosa) is something of an enigma. Officially it is inside the European Union and belongs to the Republic of Malta. However, back in 1998, it was leased (for 99 years) to the quirky Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a fully recognised entity within the United Nations and has a similar status to the Vatican City State and Palestine, having been recognised by over 100 countries. People often call it “the only country in the world with no land”, but here they do have land on a lease. At least for now. So while it is currently on a 99 year lease (until 2097), there will be a halfway review in 2047 to see if both parties want to continue the lease. So just bide your time and wait for that era to expire and put your bid in and the Upper Fort in Il Birgu could be yours! The price might be hefty of course, but who cares when you’re king of a fortress – right?
Further reading – Touring the Knights Residence in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Welcome to Eel Pie Island – do you have your passport? This place has a history which would interest travel buffs, hippies and those ready to form their own micronation or declare a new republic. But first – where is it, you ask? It is right on the River Thames in London and is accessible by boat or by bridge. Officially of course, this has a UK postcode and answers to the House of Commons, but that didn’t stop British comedian Danny Wallace for attempting to invade the island in 2005 as part of a TV Series “How to Start Your Own Country“. While Danny’s “invasion” was largely unsuccessful and not taken seriously, back in the 1960s this island had a genuine claim for separatism. It was a popular music location in those days, and in 1969, was occupied by a small group of local anarchists including illustrator Clifford Harper.
By 1970 Eel Pie Island had become the UK’s largest hippie commune and bands Black Sabbath, The Who and the Rolling Stones all played gigs here. At one point you could get an “Eelpiland” passport, and amusingly the nearest bar across the water in London is called “The Barmy Arms”. These days the island has residents, but hey if you have the money and the passion, you might just be able to walk across the bridge and politely declare a new republic and you could invite Mick Jagger along to launch your new country!
Further reading – Eel Pie Island memories
Perhaps the most famous “unclaimed land” in the world is Bir Tawil. In 2014, author Alastair Bonnett described Bir Tawil as the only place on Earth that was habitable but was not claimed by any recognised government. So why does nobody own it? And where on earth is it? The reason for its status results from a discrepancy between the straight political boundary between Egypt and Sudan which was established in 1899, and the subsequent irregular administrative boundary established in 1902. Egypt asserts the political boundary is the correct one, and Sudan asserts the administrative boundary is the correct one. Somewhere within the confusion, Bir Tawil is included in neither country’s proposals! On the flipside, the Hala’ib Triangle is claimed by both countries and is disputed. So essentially – Bir Tawil is all yours! You’ll probably need a visa for Egypt or Sudan to get there though…
Further reading – The land that no country wants
Northern Ireland itself is somewhat of a political puzzle due to its torn history, ‘the troubles’ and the fact that at its northern most point, it is not even the most northern point in Ireland! While the name Northern Ireland itself can confuse outsiders, take a step into the even more bizarre world of Podjistan. This place really exists and if you play your cards right, you could actually rule some, if not all of what is internally known as “The People’s Republic of Podjistan“. This land is little more than a huge mansion (“The People’s Palace”), which declared independence from Northern Ireland in 2010. However, totalitarian leader Simon Stewart has confessed that the future of Podjistan may be in doubt, though he is unwilling to sell out and move back into Northern Ireland. Once the smoke from Brexit has risen into the clouds, all will become clear and perhaps YOU could become the next leader of the quirky “People’s Republic of Podjistan”.
Further reading – Top Sights in the People’s Republic of Podjistan.
Machias Seal Island is one of the rare disputed territories between Canada and the United States. Since both Canada and the United States claim sovereignty, anyone born there can claim dual citizenship. The Canadian Coast Guard continues to staff a lighthouse on the island, which is barren and bereft of trees. This would be a good island to invade and rule for any keen ornithologists as it is a sanctuary for birds like Arctic terns, Atlantic puffins and razorbills.
Further reading – Lobster dispute at Machias Seal Island
Are you kidding? Antarctica is up for grabs? Surely it’s already taken? Nope, think again! The Antarctic treaty was only signed by 48 countries so in theory, the world’s biggest continent still has no clear “owner” and besides, if you have a legitimate country and want to sign the treaty, then if you fit the criteria, you can. While countries such as Norway, United States, Chile, United Kingdom, Poland and Australia all have bases there and land claims, the continent is still not recognised by the United Nations as an actual country. So it’s easy to conquer – simply get yourself a sturdy boat, leave from the south tip of Chile, Argentina or South Africa and plant your flag when you arrive. The land mass is so big nobody will even notice. One thing though – you’ll need to bring some supplies. There isn’t much in the way of supermarkets or natural vegetation you can eat. And you might need warm clothes, or so it seems from today’s weather forecast…
Further reading – Territorial claims in Antarctica
So we’ve heard of Greenland, but is there a chance of owning part of the same landmass and declaring it “Eastern Greenland”? Well, Norway thought so, and as the area was uninhabited, they occupied and claimed parts of Eastern Greenland back in 1931. Somewhat amusingly though, they named the territory Erik the Red’s Land, after an early Norwegian explorer. Neither Greenland or the Permanent Court of International Justice accepted it and the Norwegians were forced to withdraw their claim. But that was over 80 years ago, so the land can be taken again surely? Charm the locals by bringing some good cheese and beer and call it your own – surely it’s worth a try.
Further reading – Visit East Greenland
When you think about the United Kingdom, you might believe that its entire borders are set in stone. But delve deeper and there are many exceptions and indeed parts of the UK that can be purchased and inhabited as long as you stick within the limits of British law. Northern Irish and Scottish people will be very familiar with the Ailsa Craig (also nicknamed “Paddy’s milestone”) as it is a recognisable landmark on the Larne / Belfast to Stranraer / Cairnryan ferry routes. Currently nobody lives here, but in the 16th century it was a haven for Catholics. So how do you own it? The island belongs to David, Marquess of Ailsa, but he has been trying to sell it since since May 2011. The asking price is for offers over £1,500,000 – not cheap, but a whole lot less than you’d pay for a “Neymar” these days, so get the cash ready and take over.
Further reading – BBC Northern Ireland on the Ailsa Craig’s asking price
Need more travel inspiration to far flung and unknown places? Check out this guide to Poland’s quirky Kociewie region!