Nations have been founded for a number of reasons, but the Principality of Outer Baldonia may be the only one that owes its existence to the spirit of pure spoof. Before the 1950s Baldonia was not a nation at all. It was a bleak eight-acre mass of rock shaped vaguely like a torpedo, lying 18 miles off the coast of Wedgeport, Nova Scotia. It was called, unromantically, Outer Bald Tusket Island. But an ardent fisherman, Russell M. Arundel, chairman of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Long Island, spotted it while attending the International Tuna Cup Match in 1949, thought it deserved better and bought it for $750.
Now, despite his prosaic occupation, Mr. Arundel is a man with a pronounced romantic streak. His first act as sole proprietor of this unprepossessing chunk of Atlantic rock was to rename it Outer Baldonia; his second was to declare it an independent principality of sport fishermen, with himself as the ruling Prince of Princes. To surround himself with a suitable court, he installed his fishermen friends—who are businessmen from the U.S. and Canada—as vassal princes, knights and admirals, depending on their prowess with rod and reel.
Like another offshoot nation of the West, Baldonia began its career with an official Declaration of Independence. Its premises: "Fishermen are endowed with the following inalienable rights: The right to lie and be believed. The right of freedom from questioning, nagging, shaving, interruption, women, taxes, politics, war, monologues, cant and inhibition. The right to applause, vanity, flattery, praise and self-inflation. The right to swear, lie, drink, gamble and be silent. The right to be noisy, boisterous, quiet, pensive, expansive and hilarious."
But in spite of such official trappings as a national flag consisting of a tuna tail in a circle of white on a sea-green background and stationery with the Great Seal of the Prince of Princes in gold leaf, the only institution in any world capital to officially recognize Outer Baldonia was the Washington, D. C. telephone directory.
September 17, 1967
Undaunted, the Prince went right ahead making proclamations of a varying nature and unvarying solemnity. He tried to issue stamps (a failure) and to talk Rand McNally into putting Baldonia on the map (a success). In a confidential letter in 1951 he revealed that all representatives of the Soviet Union and Red China had been fed to the tuna. Although probably unaware of this correspondence, the Russians sensed a new menace in the North Atlantic and in 1952 the otherwise staid Moscow Literary Gazette attacked Outer Baldonia as an imperialislic stronghold promoted by Wall Street. Actually, the island's only residents for the past century have been a herd of wild sheep and some seals.
The Russians' vicious attack was noted widely in the Canadian newspapers, whereupon the Royal Yacht Club of Halifax offered to contribute all its vessels to Outer Baldonia. One of the members of the club was with the Nova Scotia legislature. He made a speech excoriating Russia and moved that the government legally recognize the independence of the island principality, and it did. Its only condition: the Baldonians must continue to pay the equivalent of their real-estate taxes into the Nova Scotia treasury each year.
At this point, the governments of the United States and Canada got into the act, each issuing a White Paper "with its tongue embedded deeply in its cheek." The United States ridiculed Russia for attacking seriously and publicly an institution created in pure fun. Not that any of this impressed the Prince. "We didn't ask the United States to recognize our independence. We haven't recognized their independence."
Probably the best feature of Outer Baldonia is that no one ever has to live there. The only building on the island is the Royal Palace, actually a humble cottage. The Prince himself has spent only one night in it, which he reports was "windy, cold and miserable." The citizens, when they gather for a fishing party, usually rent hotel rooms in Wedgeport, which they rarely use.
"You don't get up," says the Prince. "You stay up. You find some convenient bar or table to collapse on. By 5:30 in the morning you're out fishing. You have breakfast on the way out, usually lobster stew, cooked on the boat, and masses of coffee. You sit in the rip tide, and some of you hope you get a tuna, and some hope you don't."
Each year the Baldonians conduct their own spoof of the International Tuna Cup Match, with prizes for the ugliest fish, the most beautiful, the smallest and even the most intelligent-looking. "We get letters from all over the world," says the Prince, "from people wanting to belong. One English fellow even has great plans for populating the island—he wants to emigrate. Vice-President Barkley, under Truman, wanted to be Secretary of the Outer Baldonia Treasury. He wanted to handle a treasury with no money, no assets, no debits, just a blank piece of paper and a few speeches." Eventually even one honorary princess was added, Arundel's former secretary, Florence McGinnis, because, she says, "I was doing all the paperwork." She has never been to the island because of the law against women, but the Prince says that none of the wives ever wanted to go to a place as uninviting as Outer Baldonia anyway.