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Republic of Minerva
Land of the Rising Atoll
|- President||Morris C. Davis|
|Established||19 January 1972|
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.
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 countries (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:
A Tongan expedition was sent to enforce the claim. Tonga’s 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 claimant group has to date made any attempt to take possession of the Minerva Reefs territory.
Tonga has lodged a counter claim. The Minerva "principality" group also claims to have lodged a counter claim.
Area: North Reef diameter about 5.6 km, South Reef diameter of about 4.8 km. Cities: Capital—Port Victoria. Terrain: 2 island atolls—mainly raised coral complexes on dormant volcanic islands.
Both Minerva Reefs are about 435 km southwest of the Tongatapu Group. The atolls are on a common submarine platform from 549 to 1097 meters (1800 to 3600 feet) below the surface of the sea. Cardea is circular in shape and has a diameter of about 5.6 km. There is a small island around the atoll, with a small entrance into the flat lagoon with a somewhat deep harbor. Aurora is parted into The East Reef and the West Reef, both circular with a diameter of about 4.8 km. Around both atolls are two small sandy cays, vegetated by low scrub and some trees. Several iron towers and platforms are reported to stand near the atolls, along with an unused light tower on Aurora, erected by the Americans during World War II. Geologically the Minervan islands are 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 (December–April), during which the temperatures rise above 32 °C (90 °F), and a cooler period (May–November), with temperatures rarely rising above 27 °C (80 °F). The temperature increases from 23 °C to 27 °C (74 °F to 80 °F), 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 80%.