Minerva Reefs – Wikipedia

Republic of Minerva Micronation

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Motto:Land of the Rising Atoll

Minerva Reefs

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Declared

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 reefs were first discovered by Captain Nicholson of the LMS Haweis December 1818 as reported in the Sydney Gazette 30 January 1819.[1]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.[2][3]

The Republic of Minerva was a micronation consisting of the Minerva Reefs. It 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 City 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.

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 Islands) 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:

PROCLAMATION

A Tongan expedition was sent to enforce the claim the following day. It reached 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.[4]

Tongas 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. 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.”[5] 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 known claimant group since 1982 has made any attempt to take possession of the Minerva Reefs.[citation needed] According to Reason, Minerva has been “more or less reclaimed by the sea”.[6]

In 2005, Fiji made it clear that they did not recognize any maritime water claims by Tonga to the Minerva Reefs under the UNCLOS agreements. In November 2005, Fiji lodged a complaint with the International Seabed Authority concerning Tonga’s maritime waters claims surrounding Minerva. Tonga lodged a counter claim, and the Principality of Minerva micronation claimed to have lodged a counter claim. In 2010 the Fijian Navy destroyed navigation lights at the entrance to the lagoon. In late May 2011, they again destroyed navigational equipment installed by Tongans. In early June 2011, two Royal Tongan Navy ships were sent to the reef to replace the equipment, and to reassert Tonga’s claim to the territory. Fijian Navy ships in the vicinity reportedly withdrew as the Tongans approached.[7][8]

In an effort to settle the dispute, the government of Tonga revealed a proposal in early July 2014 to give the Minerva Reefs to Fiji in exchange for the Lau Group of islands.[9] In a statement to the Tonga Daily News, Lands Minister Lord Maafu Tukuiaulahi announced that he would make the proposal to Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. Some Tongans have Lauan ancestors and many Lauans have Tongan ancestors; Tonga’s Lands Minister is named after Enele Ma’afu, the Tongan Prince who originally claimed parts of Lau for Tonga.[10]

Area: North Reef diameter about 5.6 kilometres (3.5mi), South Reef diameter of about 4.8 kilometres (3.0mi). Terrain: two (atolls) on dormant volcanic seamounts.

Both Minerva Reefs are about 435 kilometres (270mi) southwest of the Tongatapu Group. The atolls are on a common submarine platform from 549 to 1,097 metres (1,801 to 3,599ft) below the surface of the sea. North Minerva is circular in shape and has a diameter of about 5.6 kilometres (3.5mi). There is a small sand bar around the atoll, awash at high tide, with a small entrance into the flat lagoon with a somewhat deep harbor. South Minerva is parted into The East Reef and the West Reef, both circular with a diameter of about 4.8 kilometres (3.0mi). Remnants of shipwrecks and platforms remain on the atolls, plus functioning navigation beacons.

Geologically, Minerva Reef is 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 (DecemberApril), during which the temperatures rise above 32C (90F), and a cooler period (MayNovember), with temperatures rarely rising above 27C (80F). The temperature increases from 23C to 27C (74F to 80F), and the annual rainfall is from 170 to 297 centimeters (67117 in.) as one moves from Cardea in the south to the more northerly islands closer to the Equator. The mean daily humidity is 80percent.

Both North and South Minerva Reefs are used as anchorages by private yachts traveling between New Zealand and Tonga or Fiji.[11] While waiting for favourable weather for the approximately 800-mile (1,300km) passage to New Zealand, excellent scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and clamming can be enjoyed. North Minerva (Tongan: Teleki Tokelau) offers the more protected anchorage, with a single, easily negotiated, west-facing pass that offers access to the large, calm lagoon with extensive sandy areas. South Minerva (Tongan: Teleki Tonga) is in shape similar to an infinity symbol, with its eastern lobe partially open to the ocean on the northern side.

The Tuaikaepau (‘Slow But Sure’), a Tongan vessel on its way to New Zealand, became famous when it struck the reefs on 7 July 1962. This 15-metre (49ft) wooden vessel was built in 1902 at the same yard as the Strathcona. The crew and passengers survived by living in the remains of a Japanese freighter. There they remained for three months in miserable circumstances and several of them died. Finally Captain Tvita Fifita decided to get help. Without tools, he built a small boat from the wood left over from his ship. With this raft, named Malolelei (‘Good Day’), he and a few of the stronger crew members sailed to Fiji in one week.

Coordinates: 2338S 17854W / 23.633S 178.900W / -23.633; -178.900

Excerpt from:

Minerva Reefs – Wikipedia

Can China Be Taken Seriously on its ‘Word’ to Negotiate Disputed Territory? – The Diplomat

Beijing has a habit of signing, and then ignoring, guiding principles on maintaining the status quo in disputed areas.

As the world witnesses the growing threat of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula, China, which many hope can influence North Korea, is engaged elsewhere in an escalating crisis. China has been embroiled in a border standoff since June 16 in the Doklam area of Bhutan. The conflict started when Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) engineers crossed into Bhutan on June 16, and began construction of a motorable road from Dokola to Jampheri, which houses a Bhutan army camp. In a press release issued by the Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country asserted that such Chinese activities amounted to a direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between our two countries. Bhutan hopes that the status quo in the Doklam area will be maintained as before 16 June 2017.

Significantly, China and Bhutan have no official diplomatic relations; yet both have held several rounds of talks on boundary demarcation and have pledged to resolve their border differences peacefully. In 1988, China and Bhutan signed an agreement on the Guiding Principles and in 1998 they signed an agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility in the Bhutan-China Border Areas. As per these agreements, both countries committed to resolve the border dispute peacefully through dialogue and consultation, and restrain from any activity that would threaten the peace. Both committed to uphold the status quo and not change either their borders or establish physical presence. In essence, both agreed to uphold their respective border positions established prior to March 1959.

China now asserts that the pledge for peaceful resolution of the boundary dispute with Bhutan is not valid for the Doklam area, as it has historically belonged to China. Chinas foreign Ministry spokesperson, Lu Kang asserted in a press conference in Beijing on June 28 that

Doklam has been a part of China since ancient times. It does not belong to Bhutan, still less India. That is an indisputable fact supported by historical and jurisprudential evidence, and the ground situation. It is utterly unjustifiable if the Indian side wants to make an issue of it. Chinas construction of road in Doklam is an act of sovereignty on its own territory. It is completely justified and lawful, and others have no right to interfere. I would like to stress once again that Bhutan is a world-recognized, independent sovereign state. We hope that all countries can respect Bhutans sovereignty. Although the boundary between China and Bhutan is yet to be demarcated, the two sides have been working on that through peaceful negotiation. Any third party must not and does not have the right to interfere, still less make irresponsible moves or remarks that violate the fact.

While most appear surprised at this sudden Chinese move into Bhutanese territory, an analysis of Chinas past behavior regarding negotiations on disputed territory reveals a clear systematic pattern of engagement.

In its active border and territorial disputes, be it with India over Arunachal Pradesh, or the South China Sea (SCS), or Bhutan, China has favored the signing of guiding principles or agreements to maintain peace and tranquility with the state it is in dispute with. Such a framework, by establishing clear guidelines constrains the negotiating power of the fellow signatory state, blindsiding it to Chinas future plans of sudden aggressive broadcasting of territorial claims.

For example, China and India signed a 2005 agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question. The agreements Article IX stated that [p]ending an ultimate settlement of the boundary question, the two sides should strictly respect and observe the line of actual control and work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

Yet, despite this agreement ,which establishes both China and Indias commitment to maintain the status quo and peace at the border, in 2006, the Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Yuxi stated categorically,In our position, the whole of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory. And Tawang is only one of the places in it. We are claiming all of that. That is our position.

This was followed by frequent PLA incursions into the Indian side of the LAC on several occasions, as well as an attempt to set up permanent camps and settlements. These intrusions have been augmented by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs publishing maps in Chinese passports depicting Arunachal Pradesh and other disputed areas like the South China Sea as Chinese sovereign territory.

A similar pattern of PLA incursions is registered in the China-Bhutan border despite the 1988 and 1998 agreement that commits each side to maintain the status quo pending final resolution. PLA soldiers came up to a Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) outpost at Lharigang in the Charithang valley in 2004 and 2009. Usually the pattern that is followed by China is to construct a version of territorial claim plausibly based on ancient Chinese history, followed by incursions and road building activities. These developments occur despite agreements signed by China to maintain status quo and its commitment to peaceful negotiations.

A similar pattern of Chinese behavior emerges with regard to the South China Sea (SCS) as well. Significantly, China and ASEAN agreed to a framework on a Code of Conduct (CoC) in the SCS in May. The draft CoC commits the parties to resolve the crisis peacefully and avoid placing offensive weapons in the seas islands. In 2002, a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea was adopted by China and ASEAN. Interestingly, part of the declaration states:

The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.

Yet, China is using early presence and facts on the ground to alter territorial claims despite its adoption of the 2002 declaration and establish exclusion zones and zones of military coercion in the SCS. In January 2014, it was discovered that Chinese vessels were dredging white sand onto corals at seven points in the disputed Spratlys, namely; Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef, Gaven Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Subi Reef, South Johnson Reef, and Hughes Reef. Once the artificial islands were built, China followed up with erecting buildings, harbors and airstrips, deploying radar and surveillance, as well as stationing its troops: all activities geared towards establishing ownership and sovereign control over disputed territory.

The Chinese claims SCS on the ground that Chinese ancient mariners discovered the Nansha Islands (now the South China Sea Islands) in the 2nd century B.C., renamed Changsha islandsduring the Tang and Song dynasties (618 A.D to 1279 A.D.). Quoting sources such as the Guangzhou Records by the Jin-dynastys Pei Yuan, China asserts that Chinese fishermen continuously traversed the South China Sea during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368A.D-1911A.D).

China has strategically preferred to act in ways that go contrary to its signed commitments in the framework agreements. Its act of sending in PLA soldiers and engineers to build roads inside disputed territory in Bhutan, its intrusions across the LAC in India, its building of artificial islands in the SCS, registers a direct violation of its signed commitments in the framework agreements or in its adoption of the 2002 SCS declaration that records its commitment to maintain status quo.

The critical question that emerges is: why does China sign guiding principles and framework agreements with countries with which it has territorial disputes and then violates the commitment to the status quo enshrined therein? It may be an attempt to constrain the behavior of other states, while Beijing nevertheless intends to act contrary to the agreements signed, trotting out ancient history to blindside their counterparts across the undefined borders. The jury may still be out, but the pattern in these three cases reflects Chinas inability to meet its framework agreement commitments, thereby throwing in doubt its seriousness as a reliable negotiator.

Dr. Namrata Goswami is a MINERVA Grantee of the Minerva Initiative awarded by the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. She is also a senior analyst for Wikistrat. She was formerly a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi and a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Washington, D.C. Dr. Goswami is a recipient of the Fulbright-Nehru Senior Fellowship, 2012-2103. The views expressed here are solely her own.

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Can China Be Taken Seriously on its ‘Word’ to Negotiate Disputed Territory? – The Diplomat

Andaman And Nicobar Islands – Blue Seas, Virgin Islands And Colonial Past – Andhrawishesh (blog)

August 03, 2017 19:11

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Andaman And Nicobar Islands – Blue Seas, Virgin Islands And Colonial Past:- Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located in the Bay of Bengal are known for their scenic beaches, dense forests and adventurous water sports.

Out of the 600 islands in the Bay of Bengal, only around 36 islands are inhabited. The archipelago is divided into two groups of islands – the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands. Of these, only 9 islands in the Andaman Islands group are open for tourists.

The sandy beaches form as nesting homes to turtles, animals such as spotted deer, wild boar, gecko, crab-eating macaque and python can be spotted in the 86% area still covered by dense forests.

In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, rains are usually on and off while the other days are mostly sunny. You can visit the Beladaru beach at Batarang Island, if it is sunny. There are many indoor activities to indulge you as well, when it rains.

Other places to visit here are Radhanagar, dolphin resort, Cellular jail and Phoenix Bay Jetty which is quite a sight in the rains.

– Summer ( April – July ) Summer temperatures range between 24 to 37 degrees Celsius. During this time, all the water sports are open to visitors and it is an excellent time to visit the islands.

– Monsoon (July – September ) During this time, the temperatures range between 22 to 35 degrees Celsius. July and August witness the maximum visits to the islands. However, in case of heavy rainfall and unpredictable seas, water sports may not be an option.

– Winter (October – March ) Winters are not severe at all. Weather stays mild and pleasant. Temperatures range between 20 to 30 degrees Celsius.

– How To Reach

Andamans can be reached via air and water only, since these are an isolated cluster of islands in the Bay of Bengal along the Eastern coast of India.

Veer Savarkar International Airport in Port Blair is connected via flights to Kolkata and Chennai. Only domestic operators offer flight service to Andaman Islands.

Nearest Airport: Veer Savarkar International Airport (IXZ)

You can reach Port Blair via water from Kolkata, Chennai and Vishakhapatnam only. It takes about 4 days to reach Andamans via cruise.

There are auto-rickshaws and taxis available in Port Blair and on Havelock Island and are the best means to move around. On Havelock Island, you can also rent scooters and motorbikes.

1) Havelock Island

Havelock is one of the most popular islands among the 600 in the region and is the most developed when it comes to tourism. It is a 2-4 hour ferry ride away from Port Blair.

Named after a British general, Havelock Island is the largest island that comprises of Ritchies Archipelago. Havelock is located 57 km north-east of the capital city Port Blair. It consists of 5 villages which are Shyam Nagar, Vijay Nagar, Radha Nagar, Krishna Nagar and Govinda Nagar.

2) Scuba Diving

Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a popular spot for scuba diving among tourists. Most popular island among all the islands for the dives, however, is Havelock. It is an ideal diving destination for everyone, right from a novice to an experienced diver. For non-certified amateur divers, charges start from about INR 3,500 for a 30-minute dive.

Scuba Diving is the most sought after activity on Havelock island. The top agencies which are certified by SSI and PADI and provide scuba facilities are Barefoot Scuba, Doongi Dives, DiveIndia, Andaman Dive Club and Andaman Bubbles. Smaller Dive schools include OceanTribe, Gold India and ScubaLuv.

Andamans, with its clear waters and rich coral reserves, offers a large number of spots for shallow as well as deep dives (up to 55m). The major dive spots are: Pilot Reef (6-18m), Lighthouse (6-20m), Aquarium (12-15m), Elephant Beach (6-25m), Jacksons Bar (20-35m), The Wall (10-55m), Johnnys Gorge (25-30m), Dixon’s Pinnacle (18-40m), Minerva Ledge (10-18m).

3) Cellular Jail

The Cellular Jail constructed by the Britishers is the old colonial prison situated in Port Blair. The jail complex is now owned by the Government of India and it is recognized as the national memorial monument showcasing the life of prisoners during theBritish period.

The jail narrates the horrifying and darkest period in the history of India. Soon after the Sepoy Mutiny in the year 1857, Britishers began to use the islands of Andaman and Nicobar as the jails to put the independence leaders behind the bars. The secluded islands were chosen due to their distant location from the main parts of the country where the prisoners would be kept in the dark depriving them of the situation in the country and excluding them from the society.

Many of the prisoners died due to inhumane conditions, many were hanged till death and many simply perished.

– Open Time: National Memorial: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM – 4:15 PM (Closed on Mondays)

4) Snorkeling in Andamans

Snorkeling is another popular water sport among tourists. Sea around Havelock Island serves as one of the best sites for snorkeling.

You can see a kaleidoscope of colors underwater with a variety of reef, fishes, turtles, sharks and rays. Snorkeling costs around INR 400-500, and is much cheaper compared to Scuba diving.

5) Ross Island

Ross Island is one of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, about 2 km east of Port Blair. One can see remnants of an opulent past in the ruins of the church, swimming pool and the chief commissioners residence with its huge gardens and grand ballrooms. Managed by the Indian Navy, there is also a cemetery and a small museum.

Ross Island, a few km from Aberdeen jetty at Port Blair, is yet another member of the Andaman group of islands.

6) Neil Island

Neil Island is apparently named after a British soldier, James George Smith Neill, who had sternly dealt with the insurgents during the suppression of the 1857 Mutiny.

The island is located 40 kilometres north-east of Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is the southernmost island of Ritchies Archipelago.

Neil quite small compared to Havelock is a place to chill out after the bustle of Havelock Island. You can walk the whole island in about an hour or two.

In Neil there have three good sand beaches. The color of sea water is light blue, dark blue and green. Neil Island is a peaceful island. You can go around to see the natural bridge, beach #8, sitapur beach, ramnagar beach and lakshmanpur beach.

7) Water Sports In Andamans

The Andamans, while great for the peaceful, undisturbed soul-searching vacation that you need, also happen to be a hub for indulging in some killer water sports. Come, soak in the fun!

Activities offered : Water-skiing, Sail boats, Windsurfing, Speed Boats, Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, Para sailing, Water scooters, Row boats, kayaks, paddle boats

Cost of Activity : Starts at Rs. 2000 including equipment, depending upon the kind of activity.

Currents : 55 – 64 cm/sec

Difficulty Level : Easy-Medium

Nearest Airport : Port Blair

Nearest Port : Port Blair

Region : Bay of Bengal

Time required : 4-5 days if you want to try out all the different sports

Water Temperature : 26-30 degrees Centigrade

Air: It is most convenient to travel to Andaman Islands by air. The airport is situated at the capital city of Port Blair. Regular flights are available to the islands from Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi. One can also get flight from Bhubaneshwar on certain days.

Sea: Another way of reaching these exotic groups of islands is through sea. The regular passenger ship services to Port Blair commence from Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Kolkata with usually 3-4 sailings per months both sides. The complete voyage takes around 50 to 60 hours approximately to reach the final destination.

Things to carry

1) Sunblock

2) Flip Flops

3) Hats

4) Bathing Suits

5) Sunglasses

6) Energy Bars

7) Waterproof camera bags, lenses and battery packs

Safety Tips

Carry a small bottle of water during the day for emergencies. Stretch before participating in water sports. Make sure you choose operators that offer up-to-date safety gear.

General tips

The best time to visit the Andamans is from October to May. It is during this time that the Emerald Isle is at it’s prettiest, balmiest best. Choose good adventure operators who will provide good equipment.

8) Wandur National Park

Located in the south-western coast of the Andaman Islands, Wandur National Park is a marine life conservation area situated at a distance of 25 km from the capital city of Port Blair. The wildlife sanctuary which is also known as the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park consists of a group of 12 islands which are situated geographically in a labyrinthine shape and are home to some of the most exquisite marine wildlife in the world.

The national park is a great place to try some snorkeling and diving in the crystal clear water of the islands. The coral reefs are the highlight of the park exhibiting their glorious forms.

The famous islands to visit are Jolly buoy Islands, Redskin Island, Grub Island, Rangat Island, Neil Island and Long Island. The national park can amaze and dazzle everyone visiting especially those who hold wildlife close to their hearts.

– Open Time: The first boat trip starts at 8:30am and continues till 10:30am at an interval of 30 minutes. The National Park has only 150 permits for tourist entries distributed on the basis of first-cum-first-serve.

9) Chatham Saw Mill

Chatham Saw Mill is the biggest and the oldest mill across Asia owned by the Forest Department. The mill is also a storehouse for a variety of woods cut into different shapes and sizes.

– Open Time: All days of the week except Sunday: 8:30 AM – 2:30 PM

10) Corbyns Cove

Corbyns Cove is the nearest beach to Port Blair. It is quite popular among tourists as well as locals.

It serves as an ideal place to just get a good sunset view and laze around. There are quite a few water sports which draw many adventure enthusiasts here.

– Open Time: All days of the week: 12:00 AM – 12:00 PM

11) Barren Island

Barren Island is located at a distance of 35 kms of Port Blair, the capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The island is famous as a rare and interesting scuba-diving destination.

12) Viper Island

Years before Cellular Jail was constructed, Viper Island was used by the British to keep the freedom fighters in exile. You can still see the remains of the jail which was built in 1867 by the British.

13) Wandoor Beach

A small village in the southern part of South Andaman, Wandoor is most recognized for its Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park.

The village also has some beaches which are relatively less crowded and offers mesmerizing views. You can combine your trip with a visit to Jolly Buoy or Red Skin Island, where you get to see beautiful corals. Wandoor is easily accessible and is only 1-2 hour bus ride away from Port Blair.

14) Baratang Island

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Andaman And Nicobar Islands – Blue Seas, Virgin Islands And Colonial Past – Andhrawishesh (blog)

Republic of Minerva Tonga – Atlas Obscura

Although many utopian societies seem doomed from the outset, the Republic of Minerva was up against a unique challenge: Creating a libertarian micronation on reclaimed reefs in the Pacific Ocean, when the land already had an owner.

Situated 250 miles from Tonga, the Republic of Minerva was conceived by wealthy Nevada real estate mogul Michael Oliver. According to Oliver, his organization the Ocean Life Research Foundation had raised $100 million to create a utopian society on Pacific reefs. Olivers plan was to create a micro-nation without taxes, welfare or economic intervention, that lived chiefly off of tourism and fishing.

In 1971, Minervas construction began by bringing barges of sand to the reefs to raise them out of the ocean. Oliver then led a conference of neighboring states in which he delcared his intentions, only to find out that Tonga had issued a claim over the land. At that point, Oliver and his organization jumped the gun a little bit. Ignoring other claims to Minerva, Oliver issued a declaration of independence and created a coin currency for his new nation and was all set to launch into his experiment in nation building.

Unfortunately, the King of Tonga did not accept the new countrys legitimacy, and issued a document laying official claim to the reefs. Within months, representatives from Tonga made it clear they were in control of the reefs, and Oliver and his followers left without a fight.

Since that time, a few other groups have tried to set up shop on the islands of Minerva, only to be rebuffed once again by the Tongan government. Almost all of the land brought to the reefs has since been reclaimed by the Pacific Ocean.

See the article here:

Republic of Minerva Tonga – Atlas Obscura

No threat from 6.6 earthquake south of Tonga | Matangi Tonga – Matangi Tonga

Earthquake location near Minerva Reefs in Tonga. 25 February 2017. Source: USGS

An earthquake magnitude 6.6 or 6.9 was felt as a short shake in the Tongan capital at 6:29 am today, February25.

The quake wobbled furniture very briefly in the Matangi Tongaoffice.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center advised that there is no tsunami warning advisory or threat, from the 6.6 earthquake due to the depth at 259 miles. The earthquake was located 439.8 kms south of Nuku’alofa, Tonga at 23.4 south 178.5 west. The area is in Tongan waters near the Minerva Reefs, on the Lau Ridge close to the Tropic ofCapricorn.

Tonga Meteorological Service at 6:46am advised that “Based on information above from the Tonga Geology Seismic Unit and Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC), this event is unlikely to affectTonga.”

Tonga Met stated that the earthquake was magnitude 6.9 – but appeared to be unsure of thedate:

“Tsunami Advisory: Tsunami No Threat Advice for Tonga No: 1 Issued at 6:46pm on 22 January, 2017 An Earthquake has occurred with these parameters: Origin time: 6:28AM local time on 25 Jan 2017 Coordinates: Lat: 23.38S Lon: 178.63W Depth 436km/266 Miles Magnitude: 6.9 Location: 428KM /266 MILE SOUTHWEST OF NUKUALOFA

The above magnitude is provisional and may be increased or decreased as more seismic data becomesavailable.

Based on information above from the Tonga Geology Seismic Unit and Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC), this event is unlikely to affectTonga.

This is the final message for this event unless significant changesoccur.

NEOC Status: The National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) is not activated. Normal NEOC contact details apply: General Enquiries: (676) 26340 Issued by: Message authorized by the Tonga Meteorological Service General Enquiries: (676) 35355 Duty Officer: SV/ML”

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No threat from 6.6 earthquake south of Tonga | Matangi Tonga – Matangi Tonga

Minerva Reefs – Surfer’s Path

Lat: 23 deg 38S

Long: 178 deg 39W

We are sitting in the middle of the largest contrast any of us have ever experienced. There is no land in sight from horizon to horizon. In fact we had our last sight of land 3 days ago as we sailed away from Tongpatapu, the southernmost port in the kingdom on Tonga. The cabin of Khulula is filled with the sound of wavelets gently lapping against her side, juxtaposed against the muted roar of the Pacific Swell crashing on the reef around us. 3 miles in diameter, Minerva Reef is one of the most remarkable and stunningly beautiful places I have ever seen.

We are 25% of the way to New Zealand, partway through a passage that does not act kindly towards those who dawdle. We had no intention to stop at this place, but are compelled to as gales rage below us (further south). We have 780 miles to go, a mere hop skip and a jump compared to our distance traveled so far (over 6000miles), but this passage demands attention to detail weather and timing details. A daily analysis of the weather systems moving around us, and the careful positioning of our boat in relation to these systems will be the difference between a windy, stormy passage and a cruisy sunny one. Well take the latter, please!

Yesterday morning saw all four of us in the cockpit, watching the distance to Minerva field on the GPS slowly clock down. With nine miles to go, all we could see was deep blue Pacific Ocean. At seven miles to go, we could make out the mast of a boat seemingly sitting among the waves, but with no sail to be seen. At three miles to go we could make out the breakers around the reef and could see a slightly smaller mast next to the original one, also seemingly bobbing up and down on the waves with no sail up. At one mile to go we could see the turquoise center of Minerva Reef, as its associated flat water and perfect sandbank anchorage. The colour of the water was so vivid it looked like it had been Photoshopped.

Approaching a navigational hazard such as Minerva, we are reminded of a realization that we have had on multiple occasions during this voyage. We are WIMPS compared to the seafarers of old. Historically, during the days of wooden ships iron men there were no charts, no weather outlooks, and the sailor were in a boat that does not sail upwind. On many occasions we have adjusted our course in the middle of the night to avoid a reef or shoal, who to us only exists on a paper and electronic chart. We know exactly where we are, and know EXACLTY where the shoal is, as well as how large the shoal is and the best course of action to avoid it. The iron men on those wooden ships would have no idea! Spare a thought for the watch boy, sitting high up in the Crows Nest of a wooden galleon, trying to stay awake on night shift as strains his eyes searching and searching for breakers in the night. If he spots them (assuming no rain, no mist), the captain would have no idea whether it was a small reef, a 50-mile long reef (like Fakarava), or the lee shore of another continent for that matter! Had he come across Minerva Reef, and seen it in time, Captain Cook would not have known whether it was one of hundreds of atolls (like the Tuamotus) or the reality that is is just one of a pair of tiny reefs in the middle of millions of square miles of featureless Pacific Ocean. It is incredible.

We have decided that the seafarers of old were completely and utterly nuts! Here we were, glancing over the bow with trepidation, searching for a reef that we know is directly ahead, and less than 5 miles away! Our GPS gives us our position to within 3 feet, and there is no confusion as to what it what. The historical captain would maybe know his position to within 150 miles, and that is if the sun had been shining recently.

At two miles to go, everything happened at once: We were furling in our headsail (the forwardmost sail on the boat) to slow down and prepare for the transit of the reef pass. In the middle of this job there are sheets and lines (ropes) everywhere, a NZ airforce plane buzzes the atoll and starts demanding that everyone check in over the radio: This is the New Zealand Air Force, please state the name of your vessel, your intended destination, your ETA (if NZ), name of your skipper, number and names of crew, and declare any firearms or pets aboard. Just as other boats started answering, our fishing line got hit by a 30lb yellow fin Tuna WHAM! So here we are, trying to reduce sail, shoot a reef pass in the middle of nowhere, steer the boat, reel in a fantastic Tuna, and answer the call from a large aircraft doing passes just above our head demanding our attention on the VHF radio! Um, sorry for the delay, but we are a LITTLE busy here!! Needless to say, they did not hear a response back from s/v Khulula. All the other boats did check in though, I emailed NZ customs in the evening to file our report!

So, Minerva! Wow, anyone that gets a chance to visit this place should NOT miss out on it. Granted, it is a little out of the way, being 400 miles away from anything with an airport, having no dry land and all that, but IF you find yourself in a sailboat in this area, STOP, it is incredible. With no continents and associated alluvial runoff around, the water is completely absent of fines translation, CRYSTAL CLEAR! Looking over the bow of Khulula, we can see a giant sandbank all around us, 12m down. Sitting in the lagoon in flat water, watching waves explode on the reef around us, with not a scrap of land in sight is an experience none of us will ever forget. Also, as you can imagine, the reef is teeming with life such is the nature of a reef inaccessible to significant amounts of human population.

In the evening we went for a snorkel and scored a wonderful Minerva lobster. Last night we watched an amazing sunset while feasting on Yellow Fin sashimi and garlic steamed lobster tail. We are planning on leaving Minerva tomorrow morning (14th November 2007), and beeline it for NZ. It is time to take the jump. As wonderful as this place is, there are harrowing reminders in the lagoon (in the form of a couple of wrecked sailboats) of the perils of being anchored inside a submerged atoll during a storm. This ocean us unpredictable, and it is prudent to briefly enjoy the wonders of this remote place, and then move on. So, after a weather check in the early am, we begin out 780 mile passage to New Zealand and the end of the 1st year of the OceanGybe expedition. We have a HUGE amount of data to compile, and presentations to prepare, in line with our quest to continue to bring awareness to oceanic garbage.

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Minerva Reefs – Surfer’s Path

Minerva Reefs – Wikipedia

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.

Both North and South Minerva Reefs are used as anchorages by yachts traveling between New Zealand and Tonga or Fiji. While waiting for favourable weather for the approximately 800-mile (1,300km) passage to New Zealand, excellent scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and clamming can be enjoyed. North Minerva (Tongan: Teleki Tokelau) offers the more protected anchorage, with a single, easily negotiated, west-facing pass that offers access to the large, calm lagoon with extensive sandy areas. South Minerva (Tongan: Teleki Tonga) is in shape similar to an infinity symbol, with its eastern lobe partially open to the ocean on the northern side. Due to the lower reef and large entrance, the anchorage at South Minerva can be rough at high tide if a swell is running. The lagoon also contains numerous coral heads that must be avoided. While presenting an attractive area to wait out harsh weather occurring farther south, the Minerva reefs are not a good place to be when the weather is bad locally. This does not occur often, but it is important to maintain awareness of the situation and put to sea if necessary.

Scuba diving the outside wall drop-offs at the Minerva Reefs is spectacular due to the superb water clarity and extensive coral, fish and other marine life. There are few suspended particles and the visibility is normally in excess of 100 feet (30m) since there is no dry land at high tide. Of particular note are the numerous fan coral formations near the pass at North Minerva and the shark bowl area located by the narrow dinghy pass on the western lobe of South Minerva. The inside of the lagoon at South Minerva is also home to numerous giant clams. Divers at Minerva must be entirely self-sufficient, with their own compressor, and should also be aware that the nearest assistance is a multiple-day boat ride away in Tonga. Due to the vertical drop off and water clarity, divers must watch their depth carefully.

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.[1]

The Republic of Minerva was a micronation consisting of the Minerva Reefs. It 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 City 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.”[2] According to Reason, Minerva has been “more or less reclaimed by the sea”.[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 Islands) 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:

PROCLAMATION

A Tongan expedition was sent to enforce the claim the following day. It reached 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.[4]

Tongas 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 known claimant group since 1982 has made any attempt to take possession of the Minerva Reefs.[citation needed]

In 2005, Fiji made it clear that they did not recognize any maritime water claims by Tonga to the Minerva Reefs under the UNCLOS agreements. In November 2005, Fiji lodged a complaint with the International Seabed Authority concerning Tonga’s maritime waters claims surrounding Minerva. Tonga lodged a counter claim, and the Principality of Minerva micronation claimed to have lodged a counter claim. In 2010 the Fijian Navy destroyed navigation lights at the entrance to the lagoon. In late May 2011, they again destroyed navigational equipment installed by Tongans. In early June 2011, two Royal Tongan Navy ships were sent to the reef to replace the equipment, and to reassert Tonga’s claim to the territory. Fijian Navy ships in the vicinity reportedly withdrew as the Tongans approached.[5][6]

In an effort to settle the dispute, the government of Tonga revealed a proposal in early July 2014 to give the Minerva Reefs to Fiji in exchange for the Lau Group of islands.[7] In a statement to the Tonga Daily News, Lands Minister Lord Maafu Tukuiaulahi announced that he would make the proposal to Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. Some Tongans have Lauan ancestors and many Lauans have Tongan ancestors; Tonga’s Lands Minister is named after Enele Ma’afu, the Tongan Prince who originally claimed parts of Lau for Tonga.[8]

Area: North Reef diameter about 5.6 kilometres (3.5mi), South Reef diameter of about 4.8 kilometres (3.0mi). Terrain: two (atolls) on dormant volcanic seamounts.

Both Minerva Reefs are about 435 kilometres (270mi) southwest of the Tongatapu Group. The atolls are on a common submarine platform from 549 to 1,097 metres (1,801 to 3,599ft) below the surface of the sea. North Minerva is circular in shape and has a diameter of about 5.6 kilometres (3.5mi). There is a small sand bar around the atoll, awash at high tide, with a small entrance into the flat lagoon with a somewhat deep harbor. South Minerva is parted into The East Reef and the West Reef, both circular with a diameter of about 4.8 kilometres (3.0mi). Around both reefs are two small sandy cays, vegetated by low scrub and some trees[dubious discuss]. Several iron towers and platforms are reported to have stood on the atolls, along with an unused light tower on South Minerva, erected by the Americans during World War II.[citation needed]. Geologically, Minervan Reef is 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 (DecemberApril), during which the temperatures rise above 32C (90F), and a cooler period (MayNovember), with temperatures rarely rising above 27C (80F). The temperature increases from 23C to 27C (74F to 80F), 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 80percent.

The Tuaikaepau (‘Slow But Sure’), a Tongan vessel on its way to New Zealand, became famous when it struck the reefs on 7 July 1962. This 15-metre (49ft) wooden vessel was built in 1902 at the same yard as the Strathcona. The crew and passengers survived by living in the remains of a Japanese freighter. There they remained for three months in miserable circumstances and several of them died. Finally Captain Tvita Fifita decided to get help. Without tools, he built a small boat from the wood left over from his ship. With this raft, named Malolelei (‘Good Day’), he and a few of the stronger crew members sailed to Fiji in one week.

Coordinates: 2338S 17854W / 23.633S 178.900W / -23.633; -178.900

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Minerva Reefs – Wikipedia

Chesterfield Islands – Wikipedia

Chesterfield Islands (les Chesterfield in French) is a French archipelago of New Caledonia located in the Coral Sea, 550km northwest of Grande Terre, the main island of New Caledonia. The archipelago is 120km long and 70km broad, made up of 11 islets and many reefs. The land area of the islands is less than 10km.[citation needed]

During periods of lowered sea level during the Pleistocene ice ages an island of considerable size (Greater Chesterfield Island) occupied the location of the archipelago.

Bellona Reef, 164km south-southeast of Chesterfield, is geologically separated from the Chesterfield archipelago but commonly included.

The reef complex is named after the ship Chesterfield, commanded by Matthew Bowes Alt, which explored the Coral Sea in the 1790s.[1]

The Chesterfield Islands, sometimes referred to as the Chesterfield Reefs or Chesterfield Group, are the most important of a number of uninhabited coral sand cays. Some are awash and liable to shift with the wind while others are stabilized by the growth of grass, creepers and low trees. The reefs extend from 19 to 22S between 158160E in the southern Coral Sea halfway between Australia and New Caledonia. The Chesterfield Reefs are now part of the territory of New Caledonia while the islands farther west are part of the Australian Coral Sea Islands Territory.

Chesterfield lagoon, located between 1900′ and 2030′ S and 15810′ and 159E covers an area of approximately 3500km2. A barrier reef surrounds the lagoon, interrupted by wide passes except on its eastern side where it is open for over 20 nautical miles (37km). The major part of the lagoon is exposed to trade winds and to the southeastern oceanic swell. The lagoon is relatively deep with a mean depth of 51 m. The depth increases from south to north.[2]

Chesterfield Reefs complex consists of the Bellona Reef complex to the south (South, Middle and Northwest Bellona Reef) and the Bampton Reef complex.

Captain Matthew Boyd of Bellona named the reefs for his ship. He had delivered convicts to New South Wales in 1793 and was on his way to China to pick up a cargo at Canton to take back to Britain for the British East India Company when he passed the reefs in FebruaryMarch 1793.

South Bellona Reef or West Point 2152S 15925E / 21.867S 159.417E / -21.867; 159.417 (Bellona Reefs – West Point), Approximately 3 m tall sand islet. Lieutenant John Lamb, R.N., Commander of the ship Baring, spent three days in the neighborhood of Booby and Bellona Shoals and reefs. Lamb took soundings between nineteen and forty-five fathoms (114270ft), and frequently passed shoals, upon which the sea was breaking. Lamb defined the limits of the rocky ground as the parallels of 2040 and 2150 and the meridians of 15815 and 15930. He also saw a sandy islet, surrounded by a chain of rocks, at 2124 south and 15830 east. The ship Minerva measured the water’s depth as eight fathoms (48ft), with the appearance of shallower water to the southwest; this last danger is in a line between the two shoals at about longitude 15920 east, as described by James Horsburgh.[3]

Observatory Cay 2124S 15851E / 21.400S 158.850E / -21.400; 158.850 (Bellona Reefs – Observatory Cay), 800 m long and 2 m high, lies on the Middle Bellona Reefs at the southern end of the Chesterfield Reefs and 180nm east of Kenn Reef.

The Chesterfield Reefs is a loose collection of elongated reefs that enclose a deep, semi-sheltered, lagoon. The reefs on the west and northwest are known as the Chesterfield Reefs; those on the east and north being the Bampton Reefs. The Chesterfield Reefs form a structure measuring 120km in length (northeast to southwest) and 70km across (east to west).

There are numerous cays occurring amongst the reefs of both the Chesterfield and Bampton Reefs. These include: Loop Islet, Renard Cay, Skeleton Cay, Bennett Island, Passage Islet, Long Island, the Avon Isles, the Anchorage Islets and Bampton Island.

Long Island 1953S 15819E / 19.883S 158.317E / -19.883; 158.317 (Chesterfield Reefs – Long Island), 10nm NW of Loop Islet, is the largest of the Chesterfield Islands, and is 1400 to 1800 m long but no more than 100 m across and 9 m high. In May 1859 Henry Mangles Denham found Long Island was a heap of ‘foraminifera’ densely covered with stunted bushtrees with leaves as large as cabbage plants, spreading 12 feet (3.7 m) and reaching as high, upon trunks 9 inches (23cm) diameter… The trees around the margin of this island were leafless, as if from the seafowl.”[citation needed] Although wooded in the 1850s, it was stripped during guano extraction in the 1870s and was said to be covered in grass with only two coconut trees and some ruins at the south end early in the 20th century. The vegetation was growing again by 1957 when the remaining ruins were confused with those of a temporary automatic meteorological station established in the same area by the Americans between 1944 and 1948. Terry Walker reported that by 1990 there was a ring of low Tournefortia trees growing around the margin, herbs, grass and shrubs in the interior, and still a few exotic species including coconuts.

South of Long Island and Loop Islet there are three small low islets up to 400 m across followed, after a narrow channel, by Passage or Bennett Island, which is 12 m high and was a whaling station in the first half of the 20th century. Several sand cays lie on the reef southeast of the islet.

The two Avon Isles 1932S 15815E / 19.533S 158.250E / -19.533; 158.250 (Avon Isles), some 188 m in diameter and 5 m high to the top of the dense vegetation, are situated 21 n.m. north of Long Island. They were seen by Mr. Sumner, Master of the ship Avon, on 18 September 1823, and are described by him as being three-quarters of a mile in circumference, twenty feet high, and the sea between them twenty fathoms deep. At four miles (7km) northeast by north from them the water was twelve fathoms (72 feet) deep, and at the same time they saw a reef ten or fifteen miles (2030km) to the southeast, with deep water between it and the islets. A boat landed on the south-westernmost islet, and found it inhabited only by birds, but clothed with shrubs and wild grapes. By observation, these islands were found to lie in latitude 19 degrees 40 minutes, and longitude 158 degrees 6 minutes. The Avon Isles are described by Denham in 1859 as densely covered with stunted trees and creeping plants and grass, and… crowded with the like species of birds.”[citation needed]

Renard Island North Bampton Reef 1914S 15858E / 19.233S 158.967E / -19.233; 158.967 (Bampton Reefs – Renard Island), Approximately 6m (20ft) tall sand islet lies 45nmi (83km) northeast of the Avon Isles and is 273m (896ft) long, 180m (590ft) across and also 6m (20ft) high to the top of the bushes.

Southeast Bampton Reef 1908S 15840E / 19.133S 158.667E / -19.133; 158.667 (Southeast Bampton Reef) Sand Cay 5m (16ft) elevation

Loop Islet 1959S 15828E / 19.983S 158.467E / -19.983; 158.467 (Loop Islet), which lies 85nm farther north near the south end of the central islands of Chesterfield Reefs, is a small, flat, bushy islet 3 m high where a permanent automatic weather station was established by the Service Mtorologique de Nouma in October 1968. Terry Walker reported the presence of a grove of Casuarinas in 1990.

Anchorage Islets are a group of islets five nautical miles (9km) north of Loop Islet. The third from the north, about 400 m long and 12 m high, shelters the best anchorage.

Passage (Bonnet) Island reaches a vegetative height of 12 m

Bampton Island 1907S 15836E / 19.117S 158.600E / -19.117; 158.600 (Bampton Island), lies on Bampton Reefs 20nm NW of Renard Island. It is 180 m long, 110 m across and 5 m high. It had trees when discovered in 1793, but has seldom been visited since then except by castaways.

The reefs and islands west of the Chesterfield Islands, the closest being Mellish Reef with Herald’s Beacon Islet at 1725S 15552E / 17.417S 155.867E / -17.417; 155.867 (Herald’s Beacon Islet), at a distance of 180 nm northwest of Bampton Island, belong to the Coral Sea Islands Territory.

Booby Reef in the center of the eastern chain of reefs and islets comprising Chesterfield Reefs appears to have been discovered first by Lt. Henry Lidgbird Ball in HMS Supply on the way from Sydney to Batavia (modern day Jakarta) in 1790. The reefs to the south were found next by Mathew Boyd in the convict ship Bellona on his way from Sydney to Canton (modern day Guangzhou) in February or March 1793.[4] The following June, William Wright Bampton became embayed for five days at the north end of Chesterfield Reefs in the Indiaman Shah Hormuzeer, together with Mathew Bowes Alt in the whaler Chesterfield.[5] Bampton reported two islets with trees and a number of birds of different species around the ships, several of them the same kind as at Norfolk Island.[6]

The reefs continued to present a hazard to shipping plying between Australia and Canton or India (where cargo was collected on the way home to Europe). The southern reefs were surveyed by Captain Henry Mangles Denham in the Herald from 1858 to 1860.[7] He made the natural history notes discussed below. The northern reefs were charted by Lieutenant G.E.Richards in HMS Renard in 1878 and the French the following year. Denham’s conclusions are engraved on British Admiralty Chart 349:

These Plans and a masthead Lookout will enable a Ship to round to under the lee of the Reefs where she may caulk topsides, set up rigging, rate Chronometers, [and] obtain turtle, fish and seafowl eggs. On some of the more salient reefs, beacons were erected by Capt. Denham, and for the sake of castaways, cocoanuts, shrubs, grasses & every description of seed likely to grow, were sown in the way to promote the superstructure; and it is most desirable that these Refuge spots should be held sacred for universal benefit and not ruthlessly destroyed by the Guanoseeker.[8]

The area is a wintering ground for numerous Humpback whales and smaller numbers of Sperm whales. During the 19th century the Chesterfield Islands were visited by increasing numbers of whalers during the off season in New Zealand. L. Thiercelin reported that in July 1863 the islets only had two or three plants, including a bush 34 m high, and were frequented by turtles weighing 60 to 100kg.[9] Many eggs were being taken regularly by several English, two French and one American whaler. On another occasion there were no less than eight American whalers.[10] A collection of birds said to have been made by Surgeon Jourde of the French whaler Gnral dHautpoul on the Brampton Shoals in July 1861 was subsequently brought by Gerard Krefft (1862) to the Australian Museum, but clearly not all the specimens came from there.

On 27 October 1862, the British Government granted an exclusive concession to exploit the guano on Lady Elliot Island, Wreck Reef, Swain Reefs, Raine Island, Bramble Cay, Brampton Shoal, and Pilgrim Island to the Anglo Australian Guano Company organized by the whaler Dr. William Crowther in Hobart, Tasmania. They were apparently most active on Bird Islet (Wreck Reef) and Lady Elliot and Raine Islands (Hutchinson, 1950),[citation needed] losing five ships at Bird Islet between 1861 and 1882 (Crowther 1939).[citation needed] It is not clear that they ever took much guano from the Chesterfield Islands unless it was obtained from Higginson, Desmazures et Cie, discussed below.

When in 1877 Joshua William North also found guano on the Chesterfield Reefs, Alcide Jean Desmazures persuaded Governor Orly of New Caledonia to send the warship La Seudre to annex them. There were estimated to be about 185,000 cu m of guano on Long Island and a few hundred tons elsewhere, and 40% to 62% phosphate (Chevron, 1880),[citation needed] which was extracted between 1879 and 1888 by Higginson, Desmazures et Cie of Nouma (Godard, nd),[citation needed] leaving Long Island stripped bare for a time (Anon., 1916).[citation needed]

Apparently the islands were then abandoned until Commander Arzur in the French warship Dumont dUrville surveyed the Chesterfield Reefs and erected a plaque in 1939. In September 1944, American forces installed a temporary automatic meteorological station at the south end of Long Island, which was abandoned again at the end of World War II. The first biological survey was made of Long Island by Cohic during four hours ashore on 26 September 1957.[11] It revealed, among other things, a variety of avian parasites including a widespread Ornithodoros tick belonging to a genus carrying arboviruses capable of causing illness in humans. This island and the Anchorage Islets were also visited briefly during a survey of New Caledonian coral reefs in 1960 and 1962.

An aerial magnetic survey was made of the Chesterfield area in 1966, and a seismic survey in 1972, which apparently have not been followed up yet. In November 1968 another automatic meteorological station was installed on Loop Islet where 10 plants were collected by A.E. Ferr.[citation needed] Since then the Centre de Nouma of the Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre Mer has arranged for periodic surveys and others when this installation is serviced.

From 1982-1992 Terry Walker carried out methodical surveys of the Coral Sea islets with the intention of producing a seabird atlas. He visited the central islands of the Chesterfield Reefs in December 1990.[12]

An amateur radio DX-pedition (TX3X) was conducted on one of the islands in October 2015.

Unless otherwise noted, information in this section is from Coral Sea and Northern Great Barrier Reef Shipwrecks.[13]

Coordinates: 1921S 15840E / 19.350S 158.667E / -19.350; 158.667

See original here:

Chesterfield Islands – Wikipedia

Balvenie: Magical Moments at Minerva Reef.. November 2016

09 19 November 2016: North Minerva Reef ~ 23 37S 178 54W

Our Passage South from Tonga

There was a mass exodus from Big Mamas anchorage off Pangaimotu Island, Tongatapu on this partly cloudy Wednesday morning in November. Several of us had gathered at Big Mamas the previous evening for the last supper (whoops! we were an hour late as we hadnt changed our clocks to Tongan Summer time, didnt seem worth it for 2 days)

The consensus was unchanged Wednesday and Thursday were the best days to sail to Minerva Reef, 270 miles south. The winds would be out of the south-south-east but light, the swell under a metre, the skies partly cloudy, the moon waxing in the final quarter- ah perfect!

When we got up at 7am the first 3 boats had already left and we could see them slipping out of the pass to the east. A couple more left soon after, they exited via the north pass. When we left at 9.30am we had Randivag in front of us and Windance III behind us, we all went out the western pass. Funny how we all have different tactics to get to the same place! 3 more left in the afternoon, the mass exodus was underway.

Day One was somewhat more lively than expected, funny that, we really should know better by now. The winds were 15 18 knots in front of the beam so we sailed as close to the wind as we could without becoming a submarine, the waves crashed over the bow frequently ~ on a positive note the teak deck got a very thorough water blasting, but the clean stainless steel got thoroughly covered in salt yet again!

Day Two conditions were far more favourable, the wind eased to around 12 knots, much more comfortable and lovely sailing on the wind.

North Minerva Gets Invaded

Just after dawn on Day Three we were amongst the leaders in the procession of yachts arriving, not just the 12 we knew about but more floated in directly from Vavau and the Haapai, it was party time in this very remote paradise. The clouds parted, and daylight exposed this mid ocean masterpiece. North Minerva Reef is like a donut with a little piece nibbled out of the west side to allow entry into the inside ring. You can anchor almost anywhere in here but we all headed up to the Northern end for the best protection for the next few days.

Boats just kept arriving, we peaked at 26, one of the busiest anchorages we had been in for a while. The promised weather window to migrate south was still developing and no one wanted to miss out !! Meanwhile the weather was perfect here while we listened to the reports of gales buffeting northern New Zealand and temperatures of 10c in our homeland. No one was in a hurry to leave this last slice of the tropics!

The Water Has Got Cold!

We dinghied in company with Confidence and Gypsy Heart to the reef entry to snorkel the pass. Definitely something to do in company as you dont want to break down out here alone with the closest land 270 miles away! Jumping overboard took our breath away, the water temperature felt freezing initially but it wasnt so bad once we adjusted to it. We saw live colourful coral, thousands of Sergent-Majors, several white tipped sharks, a brown puffer fish (with a happy looking face on top if you look at the photo again) and several dinner sized fish down in the depths.

One afternoon there was a buzz of activity as we were overflown by the New Zealand Air Force Orion. VHF Channel 16 burst into (official) life as we were all asked to provide our boat names for them. They circled a couple of times, were very friendly and professional, wished us all a safe sail then flew off into the sun. It was reassuring to know we were being watched!

Pizza Delivery in Paradise

The days passed by, a couple of boats left but were replaced by late runners from Tonga. There were 7 boats with children onboard so there was a holiday atmosphere as endless activities were planned to keep them all amused. Michelle on Jade risked total chaos in her galley when she had 8 children making pizza dough one afternoon. Early the next evening Pizza on the Reef delivered piping hot pizzas to the yachts that had pre-ordered, unfortunately we had moved anchorage so missed out. All proceeds were donated to a Kiwi Sanctuary in Whangarei, well done to all the budding pizza chefs!

The snorkelling inside the reef edge was very good and walks on the reef were popular at low tide, especially on the eastern and southern reefs which dried completely. The reef was vast, about 400 metres deep and in places flat and even enough to run along or even ride a bike ~ no we didnt take our bikes ashore!

On the seaward side there were hundreds of indentations along the edge, full of hidey holes for dinner sized fish and lobsters. Those with spear guns would catch enough to feed everyone in a matter of minutes, and were happy to share them around. We had a very good diet of fresh fish and lobster during our stay.

We moved around the inside of the reef as the winds changed direction and ended up enjoying 3 anchorages, it was surprising how different the reef was at low tide in the various spots, great to have time to see it all. We even found the sand cay inside the southern curve, you had to be quick though, it only dried for about 2 hours each low tide.

Is It Really Time To Go?

The promised weather window of a big slow moving high continued to develop although shortened slightly by a mild low that was to follow.

The slower boats in the fleet started to eye up a departure a day before the rest of us so they could arrive into Opua in New Zealands Bay of Islands before the low, this meant however that they would leave Minerva and beat into a 20 knot souwester and 3 metre swell for the first day, the remnants of the big low we were waiting to pass ~ yuk. One boat left and soon after there was a steady trickle heading for the pass. Half the fleet did go and reported a bouncy first night and little gain of their distance to Opua. The rest of us enjoyed another peaceful and calm night in our remote Pacific paradise, the last night at anchor on our amazing voyage ~ what a spot to end it all.

All good things do have to come to an end, this was a major ending for us and 3 other kiwi boats though, we were all on the last leg of our circumnavigation of this huge planet.

Next morning we completed our final preparations for our passage home and lifted anchor at 7.30am. We were the second yacht to exit the pass out of North Minerva that morning, by 11.30am the last had left, peace returned to this outstanding tiny speck in the South Pacific.

There Is Nowhere Else To Stop We Are Going Home

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Balvenie: Magical Moments at Minerva Reef.. November 2016