If Sage is skeptical but willing to give it a shot, there are others who have had enough of grandiose project ideas.


Among them is a religious leader in Tahiti, Frère Maxime Chan, who heads Association 193, which advocates on behalf of those harmed by nuclear testing.


Chan is also vice-president of Te Ora Naho. (Sage, incidentally, is the organization's president.)


Chan says that his old friend Sage and the rest of the government are "dazzled" by the flash and money of the Seasteaders. He talks about recent projects - including a tourist resort, an aquaculture scheme and an eco-resort - that were all announced with fanfare and optimistic job projections, only to be cancelled, scaled back or put on indefinite hold.


Chan wishes the government would admit that the standard of living for the average Tahitian has been artificially inflated by nuclear-test payments and must come down.


This can be done without suffering, Chan contends, by gracefully returning to a version of the pre-1960s subsistence economy.

"Small is beautiful," he says.

Convincing French Polynesia to support the project will fall mainly to Marc Collins, another managing director of Blue Frontiers.


Collins is Tahitian and lives there now, but in the early 1990s he lived in Silicon Valley, and fell in love with its fast-paced culture of big ideas and endless possibility. Ever since, he's kept his toe in those waters in part by maintaining a subscription to Wired magazine.


In May 2015, the digital lifestyle glossy ran a story 3 about how the seasteading movement planned to scale back its grand, high-seas concept, reorienting towards safer, shallower waters and looking for,

"cost-reducing solutions within the territorial waters of a host nation".

Collins, a serial entrepreneur who has dabbled in every major French Polynesian industry, from hotels to black pearls and telecommunications, saw an opportunity to, as he puts it,

"bring some of the DNA of Silicon Valley to Tahiti".

Tahiti joined the world of high-speed Internet in 2010, with the completion of an undersea fibre-optic cable linking it to Hawaii.


It has calm lagoons aplenty and daily flights from Los Angeles, California, and, as a minor bonus, is widely regarded as paradise on Earth. Collins fired off a LinkedIn request to the Seasteading Institute's executive director, Randolph Hencken.


The Seasteaders were interested in Collins's pitch, but they wanted a more official gesture of support. So Collins, who served as French Polynesia's minister of tourism in 2007 and 2008, began working his government contacts.


By August, the president of French Polynesia, Édouard Fritch, signed a letter formally inviting the Seasteaders to present their ideas.


A delegation of nine took him up on the offer the next month, and by January, a memorandum of understanding with pledges of cooperation was signed.


The next step in making the island a reality will be the passage of a law defining the 'special economic zone' that will cover the synthetic island. Blue Frontiers isn't asking French Polynesia for any subsidies to build the island, but it is asking for a 0% tax rate, among other regulatory exceptions.


It has hired French firm GB2A, based in Paris, to prepare legal research and a set of requests, which Blue Frontiers presented to the government at the end of September. The team hopes to see a bill emerge before the end of the year.


In the meantime, the Seasteading Institute is building excitement and courting potential investors with a series of gatherings. In May, it held talks, networking events and tours in Tahiti.


Speakers included,

  • Édouard Fritch

  • Tony Hsieh, chief executive of online retailer Zappos in Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Tua Pittman, a master canoe navigator from the Cook Islands

  • engineers, nanotechnologists and a 'blockchain strategist'

  • a specialist in the distributed information systems behind cryptocurrencies

The seasteaders hope to use such systems to handle their financials, as well as any scientific data that they generate. But the event wasn't all work.


An announcement for a party on outrigger canoes cheerfully suggested:

"Do not wear heels. Bring a swimsuit for an optional moonlight swim."

On 22–29 October, Blue Frontiers will hold an Insiders Access Week for supporters and potential investors, a mix of tours, discussion and morning yoga with Hencken.


Always ambitious, the team hopes to have draft legislation from the Polynesian government by then, and some detailed architectural plans. The goal is to break ground - or rather, sea - in 2018.


While all this work goes on behind the scenes, the lagoon remains fairly quiet.


On a day in July, locals compete in a stand-up paddle-board race while families play on the shore and young women drink beer with their feet in the waves. By the roadside, freshly caught tuna are for sale. On one level, it is hard to imagine this place being improved upon.


Time will tell whether the Seasteaders' island becomes a refuge for Polynesians facing rising seas and an incubator for Polynesian science and business, or merely a playground for wealthy foreigners who want to dodge bothersome regulations.


That is, if it materializes at all.