4. The Principality of Sealand
Founded: 1967 by Paddy Roy Bates
Location: North Sea, six miles off the coast of Suffolk, England
If desert homes, spherical residences, and structures made of sticks and stones can be nations, why not a floating pontoon base in the middle of the English Channel? Sounds good to us, too. But before you get any big ideas about establishing your own offshore nation, you should hear Paddy Roy Bates’s story. The former British Army Major turned fisherman turned pirate radio DJ founded perhaps the best-known micronation of all, Sealand. And how it came to be a nation is rather interesting.
The ocean platform that is now Sealand started as a British naval defense base in World War II. Afterwards, it became HQ for pirate radio station, Radio City. In 1965, Bates ousted the Radio City folks and started his own pirate radio station, the first of its kind to broadcast 24-hour programming: Britain’s Better Music Station (BBMS). Of course, pirate radio is illegal, and Bates’s station was shut down by the British government by way of a law forbidding radio broadcasts from marine structures.
Clearly, Bates was not happy with his government’s ban, and in 1967 proclaimed his platform a sovereign nation named The Principality of Sealand. Sealand’s storied history is chronicled in the 2009 British comedy film The Boat That Rocked (retitled Pirate Radio in North America). Ultimately, Paddy Bates retired and moved to mainland England. His son is now running Sealand, but he too lives on the mainland.
Visiting Sealand is tricky, as there don’t seem to be any tours offered. However, taking a private boat on the English Channel will get you pretty darn close.