The Minerva Reefs (Tongan: Ongo Teleki), briefly de facto independent in 1972 as the Republic of Minerva, are a group of two submerged atolls located in the Pacific Ocean south of Fiji and Tonga. The reefs were named after the whaleship Minerva, wrecked on what became known as South Minerva after setting out from Sydney in 1829. Many other ships would follow, for example the Strathcona, which was sailing north soon after completion in Auckland in 1914. In both cases most of the crew saved themselves in whaleboats or rafts and reached the Lau Islands in Fiji. Of some other ships, however, no survivors are known.
The Republic of Minerva was a libertarian project that succeeded in building a small man-made island on the Minerva Reefs south of Fiji in 1972 before being invaded by troops from Tonga, who annexed it and destroyed the island.
- Status- Defunct (now part of Tonga)
- Official languages- American English
- Organizational structure- Republic
- President- Morris C. Davis (1972-1973, 1982)
- Establishment- Declared in 19 January 1972
- Population- 42
- Purported currency- Minerva $ de jure but US $ and Australian $ de facto.
The nation of Minerva conceived by Lithuanian-born Las Vegas real estate millionaire, libertarian and political activist Michael Oliver. His syndicate, the Ocean Life Research Foundation, which allegedly had some $100,000,000 for the project and had offices in New York City and London. They anticipated a libertarian society with "no taxation, welfare, subsidies, or any form of economic interventionism."
He had earlier got in touch with British authorities over putting up a tax-free state in the Turks and Caicos Islands, but of course failed with this, since the British thought it was sleazy and a risk to UK rule in the islands.
It was listed as "Nicholson's Shoal" since the late 1820s after it had been spotted by a passing ship and was viseted before that the odd passing Tonga boat..
The uninhabited Minerva Reef was originally discovered in 1852 by a group of American whalers.
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.
American forces occupied the reef between 1942 and 1945.
The reef was raised to above water-level in 1971 by barges loaded that arrived from Australia. They then constructed of a small tower which they put the nations flag on top of. 42 people then settled ther reaf. There were plans at times for 45, 48 and 52, but only 42 were willing to carry it out in the end.
The Republic of Minerva issued a declaration of independence on 19 January 1972, issued letters to the effect to neighboring countries, invented a motto and even created their own currency.
On 15 June 1972, the following proclamation was published in a Tongan government gazette:
- His Majesty King Taufaʻahau 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 the following day. It reached and captured North Minerva on 18 June 1972. The Flag of the Tonga was raised on 19 June 1972 on North Minerva and on South Minerva on 21 June 1972.
A conference of the neighboring states of Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Nauru, W. Samoa, and territory of Cook Islands met on 24 February 1972 at which Tonga made a claim over the Minerva Reefs and the rest of the states recognised its claim. They were all concerned by the threat to their sovereignty and Tonga's territorial integrity.
Tonga’s claim to the reef was officially recognised by the South Pacific Forum in September 1972, but a group of returning Americans led again by Morris C. “Bud” Davis tried to re-occupy the reefs in 1982 and were expelled by the armed forces of Tongan.
Both Tongan and Fijian navy ships later briefly clashed in 2005 over the ownership of the island. Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu soon negotiated a resolution to the ego-centric crisis. Sadly local media and blogs have since used the claims to build imaginary tensions between the 2 countries.
Morris C. Davis was elected as Provisional President of the Republic of Minerva in February 1972.
Both North and South Minerva Reefs are used as anchorages by private yachts traveling between New Zealand and Tonga or Fiji. Visitors have enjoyed excellent scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and clamming here.