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World's Smallest Country For Sale

By James Donahue

If you have the money and the willingness to live in a relatively inhospitable environment in the North Sea, off the East Coast of England, we suggest buying your own private nation.

It seems that Prince Michael is offering his country, known as Sealand, for sale this year at a "negotiable price.

Actually, a Swedish file-sharing website called The Pirate Bay is campaigning to raise money to buy Sealand as a hideout and a place to possibly escape international copyright laws. This group thinks that it can work outside the jurisdiction of other nations and get away with swapping music and other copyright materials.

That might be setting up business the hard way.

Technically, Sealand is a country although it is really a cluster of fire damaged buildings that once served as a wartime fort perched on top of two massive concrete pillars. There is no dry land and the best way to get from Sealand to civilization, seven miles away, is by helicopter or boat. It is a bit far to swim.

While it may seem strange, the old World War II vintage fortress was really recognized as a principality in 1967 after retired army major Paddy Roy Bates and his family moved in and declared it sovereign.

Sealand has its own flag, issues its own postage stamps, currency and even passports.

The fortress was originally called Roughs Tower. It was constructed as an anti-aircraft base designed to ward off German bombers during the war. When the war was over the fortress was abandoned until Bates claimed occupancy.

Bates got away with it because Sealand is located just outside of Britain's territorial waters, thus is like an island nation, but without any land.

Bates declared himself Prince Roy, adopted a flag, chose a national anthem and then minted silver and gold coins for currency.

The British government didn't take kindly to Bates' intrusion. The Royal Navy even attempted to evict the family without success. Then in 1978 Bates warded off an even more serious threat when a group of German and Dutch businessmen attempted to seize Sealand by force.

Bates and his son, Michael said they were driven off the fortress for a few days, but then launched a counter offensive. Michael tells how they slid down a rope from a helicopter and "took the place back against armed opposition."

The fort was extensively damaged by fire when a generator overheated in Juna, 2006. The only person on the site, a watchman, was hospitalized for smoke inhalation. The fire was fought by the Coastguard and firefighters from the National Maritime Incident Response Group.

Consequently, the buyer of the place also must be prepared to rebuild what was destroyed in the fire, or perhaps redesign the facility to meet their own personal needs.

What would be the advantages of living in what Prince Michael admits is "a cross between a house and a ship" and lacks any form of a picturesque view?

"The neighbors are very quiet and there is a good sea view," he answers. He said there is lots of living space since there are two large concrete towers with eight rooms in each tower.

While the environment is bleak, Michael notes that "it is quite pleasant sitting inside in the warm and watching the horrendous weather roaring past the double-glazed windows."

--January 2007