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Palmyra Atoll

Palmyra Atoll is an uninhabited 12 square kilometer atoll in the Northern Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to American Samoa, at 5°52'N, 162°6'W. Its 14.5 km of coastline has one harbor known as West Lagoon. It comprises about 50 islets covered with dense vegetation, coconut trees, and balsa-like trees up to 30 meters tall.

Palmyra is incorporated territory of the US. It is privately owned by the Nature Conservancy[?] and managed as a nature reserve, but administered from Washington DC by the Office of Insular Affairs[?], United States Department of the Interior. The surrounding waters, out to the 12 mile limit, were transferred to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and designated as a National Wildlife Refuge in 2001. Defense is the responsibility of the United States.

There is no economic activity on the island. Some roads and causeways were built during World War II but are now unserviceable and overgrown. There is one unpaved airstrip about 2000 meters long.

History

Palmyra was first sighted in 1798, but it was only in 1802 that the first people landed there, when a ship, the Palmyra was wrecked on the atoll. The land was claimed for the United States in 1859 and for Hawaii by King Kamehameha IV[?] in 1862. From then until 1940, when the U.S. Navy took over, it was owned privately by Hawaiian and American citizens. Palmyra was explicitly excluded from being part of the United States, when Hawaii achieved statehood in 1950.



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