Photo Credit: Jay Barnes
Lord Howe Island is an irregularly crescent-shaped volcanic remnant, located in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. An unincorporated territory of the Australian state of New South Wales, the island is just over 5.5 miles in area, and supports a permanent population of under 400. Previously uninhabited, the island was first discovered in 1788 by Lt. Henry Lidgbird Ball of the Royal British Navy. Lt. Ball named the island for his boss, First Lord of the Admiralty, Richard Howe, First Earl Howe. The island group is noted for its lush tropical beaches, unique wildlife and remote location. Thank you, Wikipedia. My name is Jay, and I want to own Lord Howe Island.
Ever since I was a young lad, I’ve wanted Lord Howe Island. That’s right, not just visit; no, I would not settle for anything less than complete ownership of the island. I can still recall poring over the large atlas in the basement of my old house, and first seeing that small outline of land halfway between Ozzie and Kiwi. I knew that I had to own this place.
My adopted hometown of Athens has often been described in this austere publication as a “blue island in a red sea,” so island life should come naturally to all of us. While I am not going to divert into politics at this time, I feel the question should be asked: Why own an island? Why not? Plenty of people own islands, or at least, own a piece of paper that allows them to yell at other people for setting foot on said island. It should be the dream of everyone alive to one day possess their own island, no matter how big or small. I have dibs on Lord Howe Island, OK? I called it first, Lt. Ball be damned, so no one can take it from me.
What no one can really take from Lord Howe Island are the spectacular views and wildlife. The island is the only known natural habitat of the insanely cute Lord Howe Woodhen, a flightless bird about the size of a chicken. These birds are relatively tame and always curious about their human friends. Does your island have its own species of soft, squeaky, endemic fuzzy animals? No, I didn’t think so. Get back on your own island.
A unique geological feature of the island group is Ball’s Pyramid, a huge mountain at sea, which rises from the ocean some 14 miles southeast of Lord Howe Island. While of interest to thrill seekers and climbing enthusiasts alike, I have no use for a large rock in the middle of an ocean. Or… do I?
Part and parcel of my plan to own Lord Howe Island is not to purchase it, but to simply invade it. A mercenary army of just over 1,000 should be more than enough to overwhelm the tiny island’s defenses, of which there are none. That’s right: No artillery installations, no air force, and no mined harbors. While the Northern end of the island is the most populated and easiest upon which an amphibious landing assault could take place, I think I’d rather opt for the element of surprise for my mercenary army, and have them be airlifted to Mt. Gower, the island’s highest point, on the Southern end of the island. From there, it would be a short walk (down well-groomed paths, with woodhens!) to the main settlement. I would personally lead a brigade of flamethrower-wielding maniacs.
As an administrative division of New South Wales, Lord Howe Island has its own small governing board, which keeps the tiny community of fewer than 400 neat and organized. Of course, this insurgent governing body would have to go. As my chief political rivals, I would have to make examples of them, and so I would send them to my highly secure prison/secret fortress/“re-education center” on Ball’s Pyramid. So, yes, there is a need for a large rock at sea. You just have to be able to think laterally, that’s all!
The Lord Howe Island group is known to be the home of the world’s rarest insect: The Lord Howe Island Phasmid or Stick Insect. Measuring in at a mature length of about 6–7 inches, this “land lobster” looks like the cross between a cricket and a piece of asparagus. Thought extinct after 1918 when rats were accidentally released into the island’s sensitive ecosystem, a climbing expedition on Ball’s Pyramid in 2001 found a tiny but sustainable population on a single native shrub some 300 feet above sea level. This remarkable insect has been pulled back from the brink of extinction by sheer chance and tenacity.
Now, the Lord Howe Stick Insect is nowhere near as cute as the woodhen, so it needs some rebranding. While efforts are underway from entomologists to breed and hopefully one day re-introduce this insect back into its natural habitat, I’d like to take that a step further: Large-scale food production of the Stick Insect, to be served at my famous worldwide fast food chain, Howe-ies. Deep-fried phasmids. Reconstituted woodhen patty sandwiches. Island pumpkin spice lattés. Hey, I have to pay all those mercenaries who helped me invade the island, right? (Note: I have just received an urgent telegram from my crack team of lawyers, who inform me that notable pizza chain Hungry Howie's may have a prior copyright on this franchise name. Even though I enjoy their delicious fare, my goals must ensure that this competing claim is dealt with swiftly and severely.)
So, a program of violent invasion, oceangoing food factory production of a rare species and questionable resettlement practices would just be part of my first few months of reign. And I say reign, since I’d have myself declared King Howe of Lord Howe Island, First of his Name, Ruler of Mounts Gower and Lidgbird, Keeper of the Woodhen, Preserver of That Nice Little Restaurant on the Beach With the Drinks With Little Umbrellas in Them, Duke of Ball's Pyramid. Yes, that would be my full title.
I imagine that the Australian people, as well as the native Lord Howe inhabitants, may possibly have some discreet issues with some of my policies. There are many mitigating factors, I’ll admit, the first being that I am not an Australian citizen (this is easily fixed as soon as I assume my royal status). Others may argue that I simply cannot invade a small territorial island in the South Pacific without significant financial resources. Still others still will point out that it may be highly immoral, not to mention illegal under international law, to remove people from their homes and “resettle” them on a volcanic crag in the middle of the ocean.
To this, I ask: Is it illegal to dream? It’s been a dream of mine to own Lord Howe Island for some time now, and who can deny anyone a chance to fulfill their dreams? So, many years hence, if you hear about a crazy guy taking over a small island in the South Pacific and ruling it with a gentle yet efficient benign dictatorship, you’ll know I’ve made my dream a reality. You can even come and visit, and we’ll listen to the song of the woodhens and stick insects as the sun rises over Ned’s Beach. Just telegram to ask my permission first, right mate? The automated machine-gun turrets will be the first thing I install.