3 Unclaimed Islands from Across the World

Written by Kristen Holder
Updated: June 11, 2023
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Have you ever been so fed up with the rat race that you want to sail away and establish your own country? It’s technically not impossible, but it’s a difficult proposition. Not only does your runaway island need to lack a governing country, but it also needs to not be some kind of national monument or conservatory.

A country claims almost anything that resembles land above the water’s surface. That’s because international law dictates that the ocean surrounding land masses is governed by the owner of that land mass, and grabbing islands is a matter of oceanic control.

So great is the urge by major world players to own all of the locations on the planet that they’ve used satellites to identify otherwise unidentifiable land for the sake of ownership. There are even rules around how land in outer space should be treated regarding land rights.

Are there any unclaimed islands left in the world? Surprisingly, yes, there are a few. What are 3 unclaimed islands? Can I establish my own country? Can I claim a kingdom in outer space?

We’ll dive into these questions and more below.

What is Terra Nullius?

Azores Island

Terra nullius is the idea that land you find and then settle first becomes yours.


Terra nullius is the idea that unoccupied land can be claimed by occupying it. It’s somewhat like an antiquated idea used in areas under international law when a sovereign nation wants to lay claim to something.

If you found an unclaimed island, the way you’d take it is through the idea of terra nullius. You settled it first after finding it, and you get to claim it.

3 Unclaimed Islands

These are 3 places to find unclaimed islands across the world:

  1. Lagoan Isles
  2. Any Island in Mary Byrd Land
  3. Islands that Appear and Disappear in the Pacific Ocean

1. Lagoan Isles

A teacher noticed that these islands weren’t mentioned in a UK sales contract when the land changed hands, so he declared himself the Grand Duke of the Lagoan Isles successfully in 2005.

The islands are uninhabited, and the website has gone down. That means these little islands in Baffins Pond in the city of Portsmouth in England are up for grabs. There is no bridge across the pond to the islands, so if you’re going to claim it, you’ll have to boat or swim.

2. Any Island in Mary Byrd Land

Mary Byrd land is a wedge of unclaimed territory in Antarctica. It is the largest chunk of unclaimed land in the world, and that’s because it’s pretty much uninhabitable. With the right supplies, however, it’s not beyond comprehension that you could establish your own country here.

There’s nothing in Mary Byrd Land that anyone else has found worth claiming. It is mostly tundra dotted with volcanoes, and it’s too remote for anyone to find useful. Except maybe you if you’re looking to find an unclaimed island.

Byrd Station, owned by the US, does sit in Mary Byrd land, though the US has not laid claim to the entire area.

3. Islands that Appear and Disappear In the Pacific Ocean

Volcanic activity in the Pacific Ocean creates islands that theoretically could be claimed.


Some islands appear and disappear in the Pacific Ocean due to volcanic activity. Some of these islands are in international waters; therefore, they theoretically can be claimed by any country.

Good luck establishing ownership before another country swoops in and claims it for their own. There are satellite monitoring systems set up to find these islands as they appear.

Unclaimed Islands
Lagoan Isles
Any Island in Mary Byrd Land
Islands that Appear and Disappear In the Pacific Ocean

Can I Claim Land on Other Planets?

No, you cannot claim land on other planets. There are already laws in place governing whether or not you can claim extra-terrestrial land, and the answer is you can’t. Nations are not allowed to claim outer space.

That doesn’t stop people from trying, however.

Dennis Hope wrote the United Nations claiming the moon in the 1960s. Since they never wrote him back, he proceeded with his notion of ownership. He has sold 600 million acres of moon land for about $20 per acre.

Can I Make Up Laws I Enforce on a Private Island?

Bathurst Island Canada

If you purchase an island that’s already a part of a country, you cannot establish your own laws.

©NASA / public domain

You cannot set up laws on your private island, but you can establish rules.

While claiming an uncharted island might be out of the question, owning an island is more obtainable. There are plenty of islands around the world that are for sale.

That doesn’t mean owning land is the same as possessing a sovereign nation. Any island that is bought and sold belongs to some governing body, which is most likely a country.

Even some of the most isolated islands in the world, like those found in the most northern sections of Svalbard, all have someone who lays claim to them. That technically puts them under the jurisdiction of someone, which means that you can’t establish laws on your private island.

That doesn’t mean you can’t establish rules as long as they don’t violate the presiding country’s laws or any human rights. However, sounds like a gray area? It is.

What is a Micronation?

A micronation is an entity that declares its sovereignty but isn’t recognized by the larger international community. It’s plausible that any part of the world can be declared a micronation at any time by determined individuals, but not many places in the world will tolerate such claims and leave them uncontested.

Sealand is an abandoned platform used in WWII in the North Sea that is a micronation. It was established in 1967 on a floating British gun tower that remained afloat after the war. A man named Paddy Roy Bates declared himself the prince, and the British have never officially disputed this.

Can I Create a Country Without Land?

No, you need land to create a country. While one exception kind of exists that violates this, they still have areas of land that they control.

It’s not their land, so the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, that’s recognized as a country, doesn’t have any territory that they call their own. They have a governing body, including all of the entrapments needed to be a country, like passports, but their buildings are not on foreign soil.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/aroxopt

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About the Author

Kristen Holder is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics related to history, travel, pets, and obscure scientific issues. Kristen has been writing professionally for 3 years, and she holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of California, Riverside, which she obtained in 2009. After living in California, Washington, and Arizona, she is now a permanent resident of Iowa. Kristen loves to dote on her 3 cats, and she spends her free time coming up with adventures that allow her to explore her new home.

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