Jarvis Island

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Map of Jarvis Island
Map of Jarvis Island

Jarvis Island is an uninhabited 4.5 square kilometer island located at 0°22′ S 160°03′ W in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to the Cook Islands. It is an unincorporated territory of the United States administered from Washington, D.C. by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States Department of the Interior as part of the National Wildlife Refuge system.

The island was discovered on August 21, 1821 by the British ship Eliza Francis, and named by her commander, one Captain Brown. The uninhabited island was annexed by the U.S. in 1858, but abandoned in 1879 after tons of guano had been removed. The UK annexed the island in 1889, but never carried out plans for further exploitation. The guano deposits were mined until the late 1800s. The U.S. occupied and reclaimed the island in 1935.

The Millersville settlement on the western side of the island was occasionally used as a weather station from 1935 until World War II, when it was abandoned; it was reoccupied in 1957 during the International Geophysical Year by scientists but again abandoned in 1958.

Public entry to Jarvis Island requires a special-use permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is generally restricted to scientists and educators only. The island is visited annually by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Coast Guard.

There are no ports or harbors, but there are offshore anchorage spots. There is one boat landing area in the middle of the west coast and another near the southwest corner of the island. A day beacon is near the middle of the west coast.

The climate is tropical, with scant rainfall, constant wind, and burning sun. Varying from sea level to 7 meters, the terrain is sandy, and the coral island is surrounded by a narrow fringing reef. Its sparse bunch grass, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs are primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife. The island has no natural fresh water.

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