Recently an ad appeared in the Wall Street Journal Ottering
Office space on a modern, fully stabilized ocean liner, sailing
under Panamanian registry, and anchored in international
waters just 20 miles out from New York City. The ship would be
leased from an established steamship line and would be
operated by a fully licensed professional crew. Its offshore
location would put the ship outside the US Government
Jurisdiction, but it would be close enough to shore that land
phones and Shuttle Service to shore would be available. Thus
the ship would provide the legal advantages of a tax haven
combined with the convenience of proximity to the US
metropolis. Rents would be in the $50 to $100 per Square foot
per year ränge, which is similar to the cost of modern Office
space in a Carribean tax haven and compares to about $20 per
Square foot in New York City.
It should be emphasized that there is nothing illegal about this
proposal and no grounds for the US Government to oppose it.
While activities might take place on board this ship which are
not legal to do inside US territory, this should be no more a
matter of US Government concern than if such activities were to
occur in Bermuda, or the Bahamas, or in any other foreign
This offshore location might be especially suitable, for
example, for physicians wishing to set up a clinic to practice
therapies not presently allowed in the US, such as treatment
with Laetrile or other treatments now in use in other countries
which are not yet approved for use in the US because the yearslong
government approval process has not yet been completed.
Another use for such a ship would be for an offshore commodity
exchange which would stand outside the increasingly strict
regulatory climate in the US.
There are numerous advantages to living on the open sea
(outside government jurisdiction), whether on an ocean liner, or
on some kind of floating platform. For one thing, taxes would be
greatly reduced. There would be no State income tax, no sales
tax, use tax, property tax, excise taxes, etc. But the Situation
regarding federal income tax is somewhat complicated. The U S
Government levies income taxes on all income earned by
anyone within the US. Also, US Citizens must pay income tax to
the US on any income earned outside the country. The U S is the
only nation that makes such a demand. However, if you stay
outside US Jurisdiction, the US Government can’t legally force
you to pay what they say you owe them. But if you ever expect
to reenter US territory, you should have paid what they say you
owe, or you risk being arrested. If you are, or become, a non-US
Citizen, and if you live and earn your income outside the US,
then the US Government will make no further Claim on you. And
a non-US Citizen earning only foreign income can visit the US as
a tourist without being hassled about US income taxes.
Another benefit you would enjoy on the open sea is mobility.
If your home is on a ship, you can sail to any part of the world
you please. an unpowered floating platform can be towed
anywhere. You can stay in any one place for as long as you like,
and move on when you like. Your home can be anchored just
outside any of the world’s great seacoast cities, or alternately,
you can linger just off an uninhabited coast or island.
Many of the problems of on-shore living can be left behind
when you take to the sea. There are no muggings or burglaries
on the open sea, no big city noise, no air pollution, no
dangerous traffic, no streets being torn up for repairs. You won’t
have to look at decaying slums or dismal public housing
barracks when you can enjoy an ocean view on all four sides.
And yet, if you locate just outside a major population center, all
the amenities of big city living would be easily accessible to you
A short trip by boat or helicopter would bring you ashore. There
you could connect with any means of transportation to rapidly
travel anywhere in the world. You could send your children to
schools ashore and pay tuition for only the Services you use
You won’t have to pay school taxes to support facilities that you
have no use for. And if you like, you can keep your children out
of school and educate them at home, without violating any laws
It’s entirely up to you. The local shops, sporting events and all
other entertainment is just as easily available to you
Meanwhile, at home on the open sea, all water sports are
available year round. You can swim, fish, or go boating just
outside your own front door.
If you run a business on the open sea, you would enjoy
addit.onal advantages. There are tax benefits: no federal tax on
corporate profits, no State corporation tax, no social security
tax. And any open sea facility is a free port. You can bring in any
raw materials and ship out any finished products, without
paying tariff duties.
Outside government Jurisdiction on the open sea, there are no
regulatory agencies tö contend with. You can dispense with the
expense and bother of excessive paperwork, forms and reports.
You won’t be ordered to waste your time appearing before
government bodies. Licenses and permits will be things of the
past. Government litigation and harassment, and the uncertainty
caused by changing laws, regulations, and interpretations
will be eliminated.
A floating place of business has all the watery surface of the
Earth to choose from for its location, including Sites just a few
miles from major markets and transportation centers. So you
can find a site close to your market, to your labor supply, and to
your source of raw materials.
An offshore location would make possible easy daily commuting
by workers living nearby on shore. By selecting a
suitable location, you can employ a large number of unskilled
laborers who are eager to work, even for low wages. There
would be no immigration barriers preventing workers from
Coming into your open sea workplace. Other skilled workers
could live and work at your open sea location and remain
outside any government’s jurisdiction while there. In particular,
non-US Citizens could live and work at a site just off the US
coast and not be subject to US income taxes or to any military
draft as they would be if they were employed on shore. And yet
they could travel freely within the US, to shop and play, as
foreign tourists.
Labor relations on the open sea would not be subject to the
labor laws of any government, so workers and employers could
contract freely and set any terms of employment that they find
mutually agreeable.
Developing the ability to live on the oceans opens for
settlement the 70% of the Earth’s surface that is covered by
water. No government has jurisdiction over the high seas.
Freedom of passage over the ocean is a tradition as firmly
rooted in international law as any could be. With the growing
interest in exploiting the resources of the seabeds, governments
in recent years have been discussing the legal Status of the
oceans in several Law of the Sea Conferences. But what is under
discussion is the use and ownership of the sea bed. No one is
suggesting any limitation on the right of free passage through
and on the water above. Furthermore, these discussions seem to
be in a long term deadlock between the developed nations,
whose industries have the technology to exploit the seabed, and
the backward countries that do not have this ability. The
governments of these “third world” nations are demanding to be
paid a share of the wealth recovered anyway, using the selfserving
and socialistic argument that the resources of the ocean
belong to everyone in common, and dismissing the traditional
concept that unowned resources belong to the first person who
can obtain and make use of them.
While this political squabble is going on, technology continues
to advance. Oil drilling rigs are being used at increasingly
greater depths. Some tower above the sea bed; others float on
the surface and are held in place by anchors or by powerful
engines. Several designs have been developed for artificial
habitats in which people could live on the surface of the ocean.
For example, William Barkley has designed a housing unit that
he calls a “reefhome”. This could be used as an individual family
home, or as a school, factory, störe, Community center, etc. The
reefhome would consist of a large diameter pipe section,
suspended horizontally, in which living quarters would be built.
A deck would be raised above the pipe section and would be
connected to it by two hollow cylinders with circular staircases
inside. Suspended on cables below the pipe section would be a
concrete open-lattice mat. The unit would float at a depth such
that the pipe section/living quarters would be below the surface
(for protection from bad weather), while the deck would be
above the surface, allowing free access to sunshine and open
air. While the reefhome could be towed from place to place, it
isn’t really designed to be mobile, and it would usually be
anchored in one place. The mat suspended below would add
stability to the unit. Also, various forms of sea life would attach
to and grow on the mat, and fish would gather to feed on them.
The reefhome could be made out of steel, fiberglass, or
concrete. Steel would allow the fastest construction, but
fiberglass would be lighter, and concrete would be the cheapest
and the most durable. Barkley calculates that a 20 foot diameter
by 100 foot long reefhome with rounded ends on the pipe
section would provide 2,100 square feet of living space on the
main deck of the living quarters, with more space on a lower
deck in the bottom of the cylinder and perhaps a larger square
footage than that again on the deck above the surface.
This above-water deck could be used for conventional
gardening in Containers, as a dock for boats, and perhaps as a
landing päd for helicopters. We might think of it as the sea
dweller’s patio or back yard. The living cylinder below would be
fitted with numerous Windows, allowing easy Observation of the
underwater world. The artificial reef growing on the mat below
would serve as the ocean settler’s farm, providing a home for
aquatic plant and animal life that would be a source of food for
the humans residing below.
An artificial breakwall could be built around a group of
floating platform homes like reefhome or some other design, to
shelter them from rough seas. Or they could make use of
naturally existing “breakwalls” in the form of coral atolls. A
floating habitat could be anchored in the sheltered lagoon of
any atoll, but the most interesting Situation is to use the lagoon
of an uninhabited atoll which may have only a small land area,
or even to use a bare reef with no land area at all. Many bare
reefs offer the added attraction that they are not even claimed
by any government, and so they are available to the first
pioneers equipped to use and defend them.
A typical bare reef is North Minerva Reef, which lies
southwest of Tonga in the South Pacific. Minerva Reef is nearly
round and about 31/z miles in diameter. The reef encircles a
lagoon, but there is no land or any islands there. An approach is
best made at low tide when most of the reef is visible. One sees
waves breaking on the reef and dark rocks sticking out of the
water up to five feet high. There is a straight, wide, fifty foot
deep pass through the reef on the northwest side. Anchoring
inside the lagoon provides protection from high seas, but there
is no wind protection. Inside the lagoon there are patches with a
sandy bottom at 25 to 50 foot depths. A reef such as Minerva
forms an effective breakwall and yachts have successfully
weathered storms with gale force winds while anchored in such
places. (This description follows an eyewitness report from a
letter dated June 5, 1978 from Sue and Don Moesly, on board
their ketch SVEA, at Suva, Fiji Islands, which was published in
Seven Seas Cruising Association Bulletin.)
The oceans are füll of dozens, maybe hundreds of bare reefs
similar to Minerva. However, Minerva itself is no longer a good
prospect for ocean settlers to consider since it has now been
claimed by the King of Tonga, following the abortive attempt to
establish a new nation, which was to have been called the
Republic of Minerva, there.
Another way that a bare reef or an uninhabited atoll could
be settled is to use a large ship to create an artificial island.
Consider what might be done with an oil tanker: At the present
time there is an over-supply of oil tankers, many of which are
being kept in storage in Norwegian fiords. It might be possible
to purchase one of these surplus vessels at a price which is low
for such a large ship. Even regardless of the supply Situation,
tankers, like all ships, have a limited useful life, and end up (if
they don’t sink first) being sold for scrap, when they get too old
to profitably carry oil. After obtaining one of these ships, one
would clean out the oil tanks and rebuild them into living
quarters. Then the ship would sail to its chosen destination,
which would be an uninhabited atoll or a bare reef similar to
Minerva. Somewhere along the way, it would take on a load of
topsoil. Before the converted oil tanker arrives at its chosen reef,
an advance party would have opened a passage through the
reef, probably with explosives, on the side away from the
prevailing wind. This has been done in several places. The
former tanker would sail into the lagoon, and find (or create) an
anchorage with a level bottom at a suitable depth. The ship
would then be carefully scuttled, so that it slowly sinks until it
sits upright on the bottom at such a depth that its deck would
remain at a desireable height above the high water mark. It
would be firmly anchored in this position. Then the topsoil
would be brought up from the hold and spread on the large flat
deck of the tanker and suitable atoll Vegetation would be
planted, especially the highly important coconut palm. In this
way, a large, artificial island could be created quickly, easily,
and at relatively low cost.
Having completed its last voyage, the former tanker could
convert its engines into a temporary Community power plant.
But it would probably be desireable to change over to the use of
some renewable energy source rather quickly to eliminate
dependence on imported fuel. Later, if the settlement grows and
Prospers, additional tankers could be added to the permanent
fleet in the same way. Also, numerous other floating homes and
vessels could join the Community for a Short or a long stay.
Plenty of living space is available since even small atolls often
have lagoons that are thirty square miles or more in area.
If we were to live at sea within a natural or manmade reef, in a
floating platform such as reefhome, or on an artificial island,
such as one made from a scuttled oil tanker, these are the
conditions we would find:
The energy to run such a sea habitat would come from solar
energy, wind energy, power from waves, or an O T E C (ocean
thermal energy conversion System). An O T E C uses the temperature
difference between warm surface water and cooler water
from the depths to produce power. It is really a solar energy
device that uses the surface of the ocean as a huge natural
collector. There are three other ways to get energy from the
ocean, which harness currents, tides, and differences in salinity,
but these methods probably would not be as feasible at a midocean
site as along the coast of the mainland.
Food would be available in the form of fish, seafood, and
seabirds, either captured from the wild or cultivated. The
scuttled tanker would provide a large growing area on its soilcovered
deck, on which salt-hardy plants could be intensively
cultivated. The reefhome would allow some terrestrial plants to
be grown in Containers on its above water deck, but more food
would come from the artificial reef suspended below. Ample
fresh water could be made through solar distillation of sea
water. Either the former tanker or the floating platform would
provide a larger living space and greater stability than the
cramped quarters one would have in a small boat, but the small
boat would offer more security in the form of mobility: it could
make a Strategie withdrawal in the face of an overwhelming
threat. By contrast, the scuttled tanker could not be moved at
all. And while a floating platform such as reefhome could be
towed to a new location, it couldn’t slip away in the middle of the
night as easily as a small boat could.
Security of one’s person and property would be enhanced by
the vast uninhabited area of the ocean that a settler would have
to choose from, but the use of defensive force would still
sometimes be required, so appropriate preparations would be a
necessity. Small boats have been hijacked on the high seas.
Their owners are never seen again, but the vessels sometimes
turn up, being offered for sale, or being used by drug smugglers.
The newspapers are füll of stories of Thai pirates attacking
Vietnamese Boat People in the South China Sea. And we hear of
rapacious government actions like forces of the King of Tonga
driving peaceful republic of Minerva settlers off the Minerva
Reef. These are the kinds of aggressions that ocean settlers
should be prepared to defend against. Living outside the
sovereign territory of any government, ocean settlers would be
on their own in matters of defense. But on the other hand, they
wouldn’t be paying taxes to support a bloated “National
Defense” bureaucraey of questionable effectiveness, and this
would leave them with more of their income free to spend
meeting their real defensive needs.
The cost of construeting a floating habitat like reefhome
would probably be modest, comparable to the cost of a small
boat. The cost of obtaining an oil tanker and Converting it into
an artificial island would be much higher, but that cost would be
divided among a Community of people who would live there,
rather than just a Single family.
The income possibilities aboard a sea home include locationindependent
income such as from writing, and also exploiting
marine resources. Later, as communities of ocean settlers come
together, some people will be able to make a living providing the
kinds of Services that are in demand in any small Community. In
certain locations there may be underwater mineral resources
that can be harvested and exported, and minerals could be
extracted from seawater in any location, provided that sufficient
energy was available, which could be supplied by an OTEC.
An ocean settler could choose to locate in any latitude and
thus select any kind of oceanic climate he might want, from
torrid to frigid. But I imagine most would prefer a subtropical
location, perhaps in the thirties of latitude. Happily, there are
truly vast empty ocean areas in such regions available for
The oceans remain one of the last relatively unpopulated and
unpolluted regions on Earth. The technology which would
enable humans to live on the oceans is now becoming available
and use of this technology would make possible a high quality,
comfortable and free lifestyle on this watery last frontier.

Throughout the world’s oceans there are hundreds, if not
thousands, of uninhabited islands. Many are located in tropical
and subtropical regions of the Pacific. By now all of these
islands have been claimed by some government. But if one were
to settle on certain of these islands, even with the knowledge
and permission of the government, he would be free from much
intrusion by the government simply because the island is so
remote. Another possibility is for one to sneak into one of these
places without anyone’s knowledge or consent. Then you would
be completely free from any government interference — unless
you were discovered.
Many empty Pacific islands are uninhabited for one of three
good reasons: either they are barren sandy or rocky places
where there is little Vegetation, or they are active volcanoes, or
they are tiny atolls with very little land area above sea level.
Places like these are not very attractive prospects for settlement,
but they do have the advantage that no one would expect to find
anyone living there, so they probably won’t come looking. This
means that the hardy person who can devise a way to live in one
of these places will have located quite a good hideout. And the
sizes of tiiese islands ränge from a couple dozen acres to
several square miles, which is a largeracreagethan most people
could afford to buy or lease elsewhere. All of this space and all
of the resources found there are available for a settler to use as
he wishes, without anyone interfering, as long as he remains
Barren islands very often support huge populations of sea
birds which could be used for food and fertilizer and anything
eise that a clever person could devise. On any dry island
drinking water could be made from sea water using solar
distillation. Or the occasional rainfall could be captured and
held in cisterns. Otherwise, living on a barren island would
require a nearly self-sufficient habitat similar to what one would
need for living in a desert.
Rock islands offer tremendously good defensive possibilities.
Among the strongest fortresses in the world are those cut into
the rock at Gibraltar and on the Nationalist Chinese island of
Quemoy. Powerful guns mounted in caves dug deep into the
rock are very hard to knock out. There are many empty rock
islands in the Pacific that could be made into fortresses by any
person so inclined, limited only by the amount of money he has
to spend. One problem is that most rock islands have no good
harbors. But many have flat areas on top and that suggests that
an airship (blimp) would provide a good means of access to
such a place.
Islands that are active volcanoes have very little going for
them, except for the fact that geothermal energy is available
The small atolls offer another interesting Option: A typical
atoll consists of a coral reef that forms a ring around a shallow
lagoon. The reef rises above sea level in some places and this
forms the land area of the atoll. The interesting point is that even
those atolls whose land area is only a few dozen acres or less in
extent, have relatively large lagoons, often in the ränge of 30 to
50 square miles. So if one could provide the means to live on or
under the water in the lagoon, and not just on the tiny land area
on the reef, he would have all the living space he could use.
Even the deepest lagoons are less than 200 feet deep, and
“aquanauts” have already lived in underwater habitats at greater
depths than that, which means that all lagoons are inhabitable
using technology that already exists.
The greatest threat to life one would face on a small atoll is
from tropical storms with high winds and from “tidal waves”
(tsunamis). These winds and high seas have been known to strip
an atoll bare of all Vegetation. There is a report about how,
during a hurricane in 1942, a man living on the small Pacific atoll
of Suvarov had to tie his children to the largest tree on the island
to keep them from being blown out to sea.
But the Solution to this problem lies near at hand. Only a few
feet below this maelstrom, beneath the water of the lagoon,
relative calm prevails. This suggests that an appropriate
strategy would be to build a storm shelter underwater in the
lagoon. Then, when a tropical storm blows up, the islander
could retire to the shelter and wait in safety for it to blow over.
Alternatively, the roles could be reversed and the underwater
habitat could be made into one’s main dwelling place. Then the
underwater home would be the place where you actually live,
and you could use the above sea level area of the atoll for
recreation, growing food, etc. The land area could be left in a
nearly natural State, which would make it almost impossible for
Outsiders to discover that someone was actually livinq there on
the atoll.
But there are some deserted islands in the Pacific that are
quite nice places to live even in conventional ways. For example,
in the Marquesas Islands, which are part of French Polynesia!
the two northernmost islands of Eiao and Hatutu are empty!
They are large for uninhabited islands and physically very
attractive. Eiao is 6 miles long by 3 miles wide and rises to an
elevation of 1,889 feet. Located in the tropics at 8 degrees south
latitude, it is covered with a tropical rain forest, but the higher
elevations are somewhat cooler than the coast. At one time a
Polynesian population lived there. Laterthe French used it as a
prison island, but no one lives there now. Domestic animals
were brought in during these previous occupations, and now
sheep, cattle, pigs, and asses run wild on the island. Hatutu lies
a few miles across a Channel from Eiao and is somewhat
smaller, about 4 miles by one mile, rising to 1,404 feet. Both of
these islands lie 56 miles northwest of the populated island of
Nuku Hiva, and they are well off the beaten track. It seems like it
would be easy for a settler to survive on these islands eating the
tropical fruit and other Vegetation, hunting the animals for meat,
and building with native materials. However, the French
authorities probably would not allow westerners to settle on
these islands. On the other hand, if one were determined to live
there, perhaps the hardest part would be arranging transportation
to the island. Once a resourceful person had taken up
residence on Eiao, if he didn’t want to be found, he could hide
out in the jungle for years. It is the kind of rugged terrain where
it would be all but impossible for the authorities to find a person
who didn’t want to be found.
Another excellent prospect is the Kermadec Islands on the
other side of the Pacific near New Zealand. The Kemadecs are a
dependency of New Zealand. The group consists of the island of
Raoul (also known as Sunday) with an area of 11 square miles,
and the smaller islands of Macauley, Curtis, L’Esperance Rock,
and many smaller islets. The group has never had a native
population. The only inhabitants now are about two dozen
people who work at a weather Station that New Zealand
maintains on Raoul. There is no one on the other islands.
Physically, the islands have a quite pleasant, subtropical
climate, with plentiful rainfall. The land is mountainous, fertile,
and forested. There is a light easterly prevailing wind. The
temperature ranges annually from about 82° F to 48° F. The
main reason why there has been no settlement on these islands
is because there are no sheltered harbors, and boats can only
land in good weather. But it is interesting to note that Pitcairn
Island, which has a very similar climate, also has no good
anchorage, and yet Pitcairn has been populated for over 200
My guess is that the New Zealand government might be
persuaded to allow western immigrants to settle on one of the
Kermadecs. Most likely they would hesitate only out of a
concern that the settlers would get into trouble and have to be
rescued by the government at considerable expense. Probably if
the authorities could be convinced that you were well prepared
and determined to make a go of it, they could be persuaded to
give the project their approval. Or you could choose the other
alternative and go in secretly without asking for permission.
My opinion is that empty islands are unowned and belong to any
persons who care to go there and make use of them. Sovereign
governments take a different view of the matter, of course.
For more Information, see:
$5.00 postpaid from Loompanics Unlimited, PO Box 264,
Mason.MI 48854. A report by this author which describes over
80 deserted islands, telling about the history and physical
conditions of each and including maps showing the exact
location of each island. This is the first book to deal exclusively
with uninhabited islands.
AN ISLAND TO MYSELF, by Tom Neale. Neale lived alone for
about three years on Suvarov, an atoll in the Cook Islands and
his book teils about his life there. Much detail is given about
conditions on a typical atoll and what it is like to live alone on
FATU HIVA, BACK TO NATURE, by Thor Heyerdahl, 1974. Teils
about the year (1936) that Thor, then 22, and his wife Liv spent
living off the land on the southernmost Marquesas Island of Fatu
Hiva. He gives extensive descriptions of climate, Vegetation, and
physical conditions on Fatu Hiva. While Fatu Hiva itself has a
small popualtion, I mention this book because much of this
description also applies to the uninhabited islands of Eiao and
Hatutu (about which no books have been written).
PITCAIRN ISLAND, by David Silverman, 1967. A thorough
description of the history and physical and social Situation on
Pitcairn. Pitcairn also has a tiny population, but I include this
book because Pitcairn is quite similar to the uninhabited
Kermadec Islands which are situated at about the same latitude.
Also, anyone thinking about establishing a small Community on
an empty island would do well to study Pitcairn to get a taste of
the social Situation that is likely to result.
Beverly Dubin, Capra Press, 1975. This is a Photographie report
about the highly individualistic houseboat communities at
Sausalito, Calfiornia and elsewhere. These communities are
under attack by local government authorities who seem unable
to tolerate anyone who chooses to live differently from the
conventional herd. One Solution for houseboat people would be
to relocate to some deserted Pacific atoll. Looking at these
pictures, you can imagine these bizarre and beautiful floating
homes anchored in a distant lagoon, using the reef as a
breakwall for protection against ocean waves, and using the
land area and beaches as a backyard and playground.