Westarctica, officially known as the Grand Duchy of Westarctica is an area of desolate land in western Antarctica that was unclaimed until an American declared the area his own micronation, a declaration of status not recognized by established countries, in 2001. The territory consists of Marie Byrd Land with a few additional claims and has no year round residents, although research stations have been located in the region. Westarctica was founded on a supposed loophole in the Antarctic Treaty. The claim of micronation status has been used as a basis to mint and sell coins to collectors.
The bulk of Westarctican territory consists of Marie Byrd Land; this was the original territory claimed. It was defined as all land south of 60° S and between 90° W and 150° W. This is between the claim of Chile and the claim of New Zealand. The original capital was named Achilles. Later on, the Balleny Islands claimed by New Zealand and Peter I Island claimed by Norway were annexed. Peter I Island was declared the new capital of Westarctica.
On November 2, 2001, Travis McHenry decided to claim Marie Byrd Land as a country upon discovering that no country yet claimed it. However, this was because the Antarctic Treaty prevented any new claims on Antarctica by countries. To get around this, McHenry claimed the land as an individual and then founded a country, the Achaean Territory of Antarctica, upon it. He sent letters to the governments of Russia, France, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, the United States, and the United Kingdom to inform them of his claim. All of these countries ignored McHenry and his claim.
In 2004, McHenry changed the name of his country to the Grand Duchy of Westarctica. The next year, he claimed the Balleny Islands and Peter I Island, which were already claimed by New Zealand and Norway, respectively. Grand Duke Travis abdicated in 2006 in favor of being Baron of Dunluce Castle. He was replaced as Grand Duke by Philip Karns.
In early 2008 Health issues caused Philip Karns to cease his involvement in Westarctica. During this time operations moved from Westarctica.com to Westarctica.org. The head of state from 2008 until 2010 was Jon-Lawrence Langer, the Duke of Moulton-Berlin. Langer requested that Westarcticans and Westarctica's allies in the micronational community aide in the projects revitalization, but those projects were largely unsuccessful.
On June 3, 2010, the founder of Westarctica, Travis McHenry, aided by members of the Westarctica Baronage, overthrew Grand Duke Jon-Lawrence and proclaimed a transitional government. The following day, the transitional authorities made sweeping changes to Westarctica's government, including rejecting the monarchical form of government, and recognizing all competing claims to Westarctican territory. As of June 4, 2010, Westarctica is being led by the Count of Waesche, who was appointed Prime Minister. The founder is now recognized as Travis, Protector of Westarctica.
Westarctica has produced several coins, in the form of both wooden nickel and metal coins. They have also made stamps. In 2006, Westarctica was featured in Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations.
In June 2010, Westarctica's executives entered into negotiations with members of the Antarctic Micronational Union concerning claims to Antarctica. As of June 7, negotiations remained cordial, and all parties were optimistic concerning a peaceful, mutually beneficial outcome.
Like all micronations, Westarctica is not recognized by the government of any larger country, despite its attempts to be. Its sovereignty comes from the declarative theory of statehood. Westarctica is recognised by other micronations. In 2008, Jon-Lawrence Langer assumed the position of Grand Duke of Westarctica.
Due to Westarctica being considered an inactive micronation shortly before Jon-Lawrence assumed power, several other micronations have claimed land in Marie Byrd Land. Finismund, Flandrensis and Marie State are among those whose claims conflict with Westarctica's. There is an ongoing disagreement of who the land belongs to.
According to Article IV of the Antarctic Treaty, no new claims may be made in Antarctica. Westarctica has operated under the contention that this section only applies to nations and not to individuals who choose to make such claims. The Federated States of Antarctica disagrees with this interpretation and has stated that the article in question makes no distinction between new claims made by signatory states, non-signatory states, or any other party or entity.
Article I of the Antarctic Treaty also prohibits all military activity on the continent. Therefore, even if claims are made in Antarctica, they cannot be asserted or enforced without violating international law. The Federated States believes that the Antarctic Treaty carries the effect of International law due to the fact that the most powerful nations in the world have agreed to it and enforced it since 1959.
The President of the Federated States made the following statement to the Antarctic Micronational Agreement Group:
"We believe that Westarctica has made an illegal claim to the territory in question based on an incorrect interpretation of the Antarctic Treaty. Much of the contention revolves around whether Westarctica became inactive, and, if so, whether this period of inactivity constitutes a relinquishment of any claims. We contend that this matter is not relevant, since Westarctica's original claim was illegal to begin with."