The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Howland Island


Howland Island is an uninhabited atoll located just north of the equator in the central Pacific Ocean at 0°48′ N, 176°38′ W, about 3,100 km (1,675 nautical miles) southwest of Honolulu. It is about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Australia.

Howland Island National Wildlife Refuge consists of the 455 acre (1.84 km²) island and the surrounding 32,074 acres (129.80 km²) of submerged land. The island is now a National Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an insular area under the U.S. Department of the Interior. Howland Island is an unincorporated and unorganized territory of the US.

The island has no economic activity and is perhaps best known as the island that Amelia Earhart never reached. Defense is the responsibility of the United States, the island is visited annually by the US Coast Guard.



The United States of America took possession of the island in 1857, claimed under the Guano Islands Act of 1856. Its guano deposits were mined by US and British companies during the second half of the 19th century. In 1935, a short-lived attempt at colonization was begun on this island, with a population of four in the settlement Itascatown (named after the vessel that brought the settlers) - as well as on nearby Baker Island and on Jarvis Island - but was disrupted by World War II and thereafter abandoned.

Howland Island was a refueling stop for American pilot Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan on their round-the-world flight in 1937. They took off for the island from Lae, New Guinea, but were never seen again.

American civilians were evacuated in 1942 after Japanese air and naval attacks during World War II; the island was occupied by the US military during World War II, but abandoned after the war. Public entry to the island is by special-use permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service only and is generally restricted to scientists and educators, though the island is visited annually by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

See also the History of the Pacific Islands.


Located in the North Pacific Ocean at (0°48′ N, 176°38′ W), the island is tiny at just 1.84 kmē (455 acres) and 6.4 km of coastline. The island has an elongated shape on a north-south axis. The climate is equatorial, with little rainfall, constant wind and a burning sun. The terrain is low-lying and sandy: a coral island surrounded by a narrow fringing reef with a depressed central area. The highest point is 3 meters above sea level.

There are no natural fresh water resources. The island is almost totally covered with grasses, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs with a small area of trees in the center; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife

The U.S. claims an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles (370 km) and territorial sea of 12 nautical miles (22 km).

The island's Time zone: UTC -12


There are no ports or harbors: the reefs may cause a hazard. There is one boat landing area along the middle of the west coast. There is an unserviceable airstrip, constructed in 1937 for a scheduled refuelling stop for Amelia Earhart's ill-fated flight (see History, above).

Earhart Light is a day beacon near the middle of the west coast that was partially destroyed during World War II, but has since been rebuilt and named in Earhart's memory.

External links

  • Howland Island National Wildlife Refuge
  • Howland Island daylight
  • Geography, history and nature on Howland Island
  • 'Voyage of the Odyssey' - pictures and travelogue

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Last updated: 02-07-2005 01:31:59
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55