Link #51: A Piece of Land That No Nation Claims Except for an American Family!


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Link #51: A Piece of Land That No Nation Claims Except for an American Family!

No Man's Land
No Man’s Land by Paolo Crosetto cc2.0

While the Great Pyramid of Giza was being built in Egypt, there were mammoths still alive in another part of the world. The mammoths used to live on Wrangel Island but they died out when humans found the island, as we explained in our last post.

In fact, history is littered with examples of how, every time we have found something new, we have tried to claim it. The same is true for the moon and all other planetary bodies in our Solar System.

However, there is one piece of land in Africa that everyone wants to wash their hands off of except for a family of five in America. How did a small family from America come to claim land which none of the bordering countries want?

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What Is This Piece of Land That No One Wants?

Image credit: Eric Gaba (Sting) and NordNordWest GFDL v1.2

Bir Tawil is a piece of land that spans just a little more than 2,000 square kilometres on the border of Egypt and Sudan. It is almost entirely barren and arid. Moreover, there is no one living on it which means that its population is zero.

Bir Tawil’s name translates directly to ‘Deep Water Well’. It was given this name many years ago because it had one really deep well. Even the well doesn’t exist on Bir Tawil anymore.

Neither Egypt nor Sudan Wants Bir Tawil

Bir Tawil
Image credit: WonderWhy7439 cc2.0

The reason neither Egypt nor Sudan has claimed this piece of land isn’t even related to the fact that it is nearly worthless. Instead, the reason is that if either country claims Bir Tawil then it would automatically be relinquishing its claim on Hala’ib Triangle.

Hala’ib Triangle is located just to the east of Bir Tawil and is also on the border of Egypt and Sudan. The value of the Hala’ib Triangle is much more than Bir Tawil especially since it isn’t barren and is located on the Red Sea.

Egypt and Sudan both lay claim on the Hala’ib Triangle because it is worth more. Both countries claim the Hala’ib Triangle on the basis of different treaties. In one, Egypt receives Bir Tawil but has to give up the Hala’ib Triangle while in the other Sudan has to do the same.

How the Heatons Came to Claim Bir Tawil

Jeremiah Heaton
Mr Heaton and his seven year-old daughter, Princess Emily, show the flag the family designed. Picture: David Crigger Source: AP

The Heatons came to claim Bir Tawil because of part of an international law known as terra nullius. The term is Latin and translates into ‘land belonging to no one’. What the law says is that a terra nullius land can be claimed by any individual, corporation or nation through occupation.

Jeremiah Heaton took advantage of this rule by going to Bir Tawil and planting his flag there. The reason Jeremiah Heaton decided to claim a piece of land that no one wants was his daughter.

In a moment of weakness, Jeremiah Heaton made a promise to his daughter that she would be a princess one day. In order to keep his promise, he travelled all the way to Bir Tawil so that he could plant a flag made by his children there. Now, he wants everyone he knows to call his daughter Princess Emily.

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