Baffins Pond is a small lake in East Portsmouth, it is bordered by a library, playground, and basketball court and is a nice place to relax and possibly walk your dog. The lake, home to plenty of ducks, geese, and swans, is also home to three islands in the middle of it.
The quiet atmosphere of this small and tranquil nature reserve is not where you might expect to find an ongoing territorial dispute. In 2005, inspired by the stories of other micronations, local school teacher Louis Stephens started to look into his own micronation experiment. A local area, formerly known as Baffins Farm, which included a reasonably sized pond, was sold to the Portsmouth Council in 1938. However, the pond on this land was not specifically mentioned within the land sale (despite centuries of official documentation showing that the pond existed as part of Baffins Farm). This admittedly ambiguous loophole was all Stephens needed to get the ball rolling on his micronation. He filed a land claim on the three small islands in the middle of Baffins Pond to Portsmouth Council.
With that, on August 16, 2005, the Grand Duchy of the Lagoan Isles was formally established. But unlike other micronations that will work hard to establish and fight to maintain their independence, Stephens wasn’t looking to stubbornly enforce his claim. He saw his three-island nation more as a school experiment. The islands never had any residents, border controls, established regulations, or anything to actually establish the islands as an independent nation aside from Stephens saying it was so.
At some point over the next decade, Stephens stepped back from the experiment. The websites for the nation shut down, and the islands lay “unclaimed” once again. Stephens didn’t know it yet, but his claim on the “disputed” islands was only the first. Beck Brogen, a teenager in the United States, was surfing YouTube one day when he saw a video about the unclaimed islands and that they were no longer claimed.
On November 8, 2019, Beck decided, with the help of a couple of friends, to establish a new micronation: the Nation of the Unclean. However, Beck apparently wasn’t the first to re-claim these islands. On November 2, 2019, the Baffin Republic was formed and made a claim over the islands. They announced on Reddit their intention to “invade” the islands. The Nation of the Unclean denounced the invasion, however, it’s unclear if/when such an invasion ever occurred.
The Baffin Republic suddenly faced its own internal issues, during party elections on September 26, 2020, a party had decided to break away from the Republic, form their own micronation (The Communist Republic of Baffin), claim all three of the islands, and then declare war on the Baffin Republic.
Now, reading all of this, this tall tale must sound utterly bonkers. Overlapping land claims, political parties, and declarations of war, all for three tiny islands that no one is allowed to access. But micronations all over the world experiment with new and interesting ways of establishing independence. Some do so officially, like the Principality of Sealand, others in a more light-hearted manner, like the Conch Republic, while others try in a purely experimental way, like the Grand Duchy of the Lagoan Isles.
Know Before You Go
Baffins Park is open 24/7. Though the islands themselves are not accessible, you can clearly see them from the pond's edge. The Pond is attached to a large recreation ground run by volunteers, this is the land originally sold to the Council to "preserve the site as an open space and not to erect any buildings thereon."