In 2001, while a seaman in the United States Navy, McHenry founded the micronation of Westarctica. In 2004, he appointed himself ruler of the Grand Duchy of Westarctica, which was located in the Marie Byrd Land region of Antarctica. He has said that this took advantage of a loophole in the Antarctic Treaty System. In 2006, after learning that McHenry had been communicating with foreign governments asking them to recognize the nation, the Navy required him to abdicate. As of August 2018[update], Westarctica claims a population of 2,356 citizens (none of whom actually live there), and McHenry still calls himself its Grand Duke.
In 2009, after McHenry left the military, he acquired a few acres of rural desert land in Southern California from his family, and founded Calsahara. McHenry later expanded it to cover 117 acres. A 2015 profile in Los Angeles magazine described the project as good-natured, but said, "It's hard to discern whether Calsahara is a serious endeavor or an absurdly long-term joke."
Sometime before 2011, McHenry changed the name of Westarctica from "Grand Duchy of Westarctica" to "Protectorate of Westarctica."
In 2014, McHenry made Westarctica into a non-profit organization that advocates for protection of Antarctic wildlife and for the study of climate change.
In October 2017, McHenry's two micronations were linked when Calsahara was 'annexed' by Westarctica becoming a 'colony' of the Westarctican territory.
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- Harlander, Thomas (8 December 2015). "California's Only Dictator Rules a Tiny Fake Nation in the Middle of Nowhere". Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
- Parker, Jennifer (2015-04-30). "The Weird, Wild World of Micro-Nations Where Anybody Can Be King". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
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- Bahareth, Mohammad (2011). Micronations: For Those Who Are Tired of Existing Incompetent Governments and Are Longing for Something New and Refreshing. iUniverse. p. 2010. ISBN 978-1-4620-6926-2.
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- "Colony of Calsahara". Westarctica. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
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