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The Phoenix Islands: An Annotated Chronology. Compiled and published by Ian D Ellis-Jones. First Edition---Pymble, NSW: Ian D Ellis-Jones, 1979. (Held by Mitchell Library, Sydney, NSW.) Revised [second] edition---Turramurra, NSW: Ian D Ellis-Jones, 1990. (Held by Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.) Updated [third] edition---Turramurra, NSW: Ian D Ellis-Jones, 2002. Updated [fourth] edition---Turramurra, NSW: Ian D Ellis-Jones, 2014. Copyright Ian Ellis-Jones 1979, 1990, 2002, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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  1. 1. THE PHOENIX ISLANDS AN ANNOTATED CHRONOLOGY by IAN ELLIS-JONES BA, LLB (Syd), LLM, PhD (UTS), DD, Dip Relig Stud (LCIS) Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia Former Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Technology, Sydney Lecturer, New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry IAN ELLIS-JONES 12A NULLA NULLA STREET TURRAMURRA NSW 2074 AUSTRALIA 2014 Copyright © 2014 Ian Ellis-Jones Updated Fourth Edition 2014 (Fourth Edition) 2002 (Third Edition) 1990 (Second Edition) 1979 (First Edition) All Rights Reserved Email: 1
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  3. 3. 3 Dedicated to the legacy of Edwin Horace Bryan, Jr (1898-1985) Explorer ~ Scientist ~ Author Polymath Extraordinaire
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  5. 5. 5 INTRODUCTION The Phoenix Islands (now part of the Republic of Kiribati, the largest atoll state in the world) are a group of 8 small, low-lying, desolate coral islands in the central Pacific Ocean (Polynesia), scattered (in a more-or-less oval shape) between 2 30' and 4 30' South Latitude and 170 30' and 174 30' West Longitude, and situated north of Western Samoa and the Tokelaus, about midway between Fiji and Hawaii. The islands, once an important source of guano, have a total land area of about 29 sq km. All are low atolls enclosing lagoons, or the remnants of lagoons. The group consists of Kanton1 (formerly Canton, also known as Abariringa [Aba-Riringa], and known previously as Mary, Mary Balcout, Babcut, Balcott, and Swallow), Enderbury, Rawaki (Phoenix), Manra (Sydney), Birnie, McKean (once named Drummond's Island, and later Arthur Island'), Nikumaroro (Gardner, once named Kimins [or Kemin’s] Islands or Mary Letitia’s Island) and Orona (Hull).2 Archaeological evidence shows that Manra, Orona and Nikumaroro were inhabited by humans in pre-European times, both from Eastern Polynesia and (it would appear) Micronesia, but when the first European whalers visited the group in about 1820 the islands were uninhabited. The later inhabitants were not indigenous to those islands. Kanton Island is the largest atoll in the group (9 sq km) and consists of a roughly chop-shaped lagoon almost completely ringed by a narrow ribbon of flat, barren land up to 3.66 m above sea level. On the west, the atoll has an overall width of 8.05 km. Its length to the south-eastern point is about 16 km. 1 Now with a "K" as there is no "C" in the Kiribati language. In this Chronology, those of the Phoenix Islands that have "native" names are referred to by those names, since those names have now largely superseded the names bestowed by the explorers. However, this is not to suggest that the so-called "historical" names have been rendered obsolete, as many current maps and gazetteers continue to use them, nor are the "native" names truly indigenous to the islands in question. 2 Howland and Baker Islands, to the north of the Phoenix group, do not belong to the group and are US possessions.
  6. 6. 6 Kanton’s lagoon (about 11 km long and about 5 km wide) is a beautiful stretch of glass-smooth, deep-blue water filled with tropical fish; the surrounding rim is seldom more than 550 m wide. The island carries a little stunted vegetation (low shrub) and a few coconut palms on the north-western side. By the mid1960s, about 40 per cent of the land area of Kanton had been covered with man-made structures. An American-built wharf is capable of handling large freighters. Seagulls, formerly a menace to planes, seek refuge on the island and tiny insect-eating lizards dart through the ruins and debris of the US base. Enderbury Island (which lies about 60 km ESE of Kanton) is almost completely solid land, the lagoon now only a shallow pond dotted with sand islets. The island is less than 4.83 km long and about 1.61 km wide. Its elevation around the rim is between 4.57 and 6.7 m. Much of the island's surface is covered with bunchgrass. The island reeks of guano from kilometres away on the leeward side. Colonies of seabirds can be found on the island,3 which is also important for green sea turtle breeding. There is no anchorage. Rawaki is roughly pear-shaped (with a shallow ankle deep lagoon), less than 1.2 km long and 0.8 km wide. The island, predominantly coral rubble, is more bare in terms of vegetation than Enderbury. The highest point on the island is not quite 6 m. The island was for many decades heavily populated with rabbits (they were brought to the Phoenix Islands by guano collectors in the 1870s) but, after recent eradication work, a 2009 survey found the presence of no European rats on the island. There are also many thousands of sea birds on the island, which is a declared wildlife sanctuary. Manra4 is roughly triangular, with sides of 2 km in length and base and about 3.22 km in width. It encloses a land-locked lagoon (once open to the sea). Polynesian ruins have been located on the island which has dense vegetation on it. 3 4 Some of the birds use the remnants of buildings left by the Phoenix Guano Company. Named after a legendary ancestral place.
  7. 7. 7 Birnie Island is the smallest in the group, less than 1.6 km in length and 550 m at its widest part. It possesses a shallow brackish lagoon. A navigation beacon was erected on its eastern side. McKean Island is oval-shaped, 56 ha in area, 0.8 km in length and about 732 m in width. The highest point of land on the island rises to 5.18 m. There is a fairly recent but very prominent wreck on the island. Nikumaroro5 consists of a narrow but fertile rim of land (about 6.5 km by 2 km) around a wedge-shaped lagoon. Most of the rim is covered with forest, 4.6 to 15 m in height. Numerous coconut palms can be found on the island. There is no effective place to anchor a ship, and the fringing reef can only be penetrated on the island’s west end where a human-made channel has been blasted through to the beach. The beach itself is lined with a nearly impenetrable wall of Scaevola (te mao). Orona,6 which lies eastward of Nikumaroro, is shaped like a parallelogram and contains a deep lagoon. It is about 11 km long by 5 km wide. The rim of land around the lagoon is cut by about 20 channels. Orona is perhaps the most archaeologically interesting island in the group; at its eastern end have been found ancient Polynesian graves and a stone marae. The US built a radar station on the island. The climate of the Phoenix Islands can be summed up in one word - hot. Rainfall is generally low, except in the wetter, southern islands of Manra, Orona and Nikumaroro, but even those islands are subject to severe droughts. Daytime temperature is between 26.70 and 33.9OC; night time temperature is seldom below 21.10C. Since the Phoenix Islands are close to the Equator, the sun's descent is rapid and almost vertical. Consequently, twilight is very short. Although the Phoenix Islands are low-lying, they are generally protected from heavy seas by outlying coral reefs. However, the Pacific Ocean breakers 5 Named after a land, with many buka trees, that supposedly lay in the direction of Samoa, from which a legendary ancestress had come to the Kiribati home islands. 6 A Polynesian name borrowed from Niue Islanders who had worked coconut plantations.
  8. 8. 8 incessantly pound their way on the sea sides of the islands, throwing white spray high into the air. The Phoenix Islands, whose colonisation represented “the last expansion of the British Empire”,7 have been the subject of, and base for, numerous important archaeological, anthropological, ornithological and scientific studies. Kanton Island became an important international airport on the trans-Pacific route and was later an integral part of the United States' defence and space programs. In more recent years, the island has been a world weather watch global observing system station, and a part of the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere (TOGA) program. In 2008 the Phoenix Islands become the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), the world's largest marine protected area, covering a total area of 410,500 sq km of land and ocean. Now that the Phoenix Islands, with the exception of Kanton, are once again deserted, one can only wonder if and when they, like the fabulous Egyptian bird, will rise again from the ashes in the renewal of youth. The biggest peril the islands face is climate change. Humans always cause the most damage. NOTE. Acknowledgments are due to the relevant rights holders whose intellectual property rights are strictly reserved. There is no intention to infringe copyright in respect of any copyrighted material. If any person believes there is or may be an infringement of their copyrighted material on any page of this website please advise me by email and any offending material will be removed immediately. 7 King, Thomas F, “Gallagher of Nikumaroro and the Last Expansion of the British Empire”,
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  12. 12. 12 CHRONOLOGY Pre-European Times Archaeological evidence indicates that at least some of the Phoenix Islands, relevantly, Nikumaroro, Manra and Orana, were inhabited by humans (Polynesians) in pre-European times. c3500 -2000 BCE Much of Western Micronesia is settled. c1500 BCE Ancestors of present-day Polynesians reach Fiji. c1200 BCE Proto-Polynesian colonising of Tonga takes place; subsequent movement into Samoa. c300-500 CE Marquesas are colonised; subsequent settlement of Eastern Pacific, including Hawaii (oldest carbon date, South Point, Island of Hawaii, 124 CE). Ancient stone marae on Manra Photo taken in 1924
  13. 13. 13 Whaling Days European whalers visited the Phoenix Islands probably in the early 1820s. By 1840 American whaling ships were all over the waters of the Pacific. 1794 Captain Henry Barber (Arthur) discovers McKean and names it “Drummond's Island”. 1820 Several American whalers and British warships have by now visited Kanton. 1823 Captain James J Coffin, in command of the British whale ship Transit, reportedly discovers and names Enderbury (as "Enderby's Island", after a London whaling house named “Enderby”). 1823 British whaler Captain Emment [query “Emmett” or “Emmert”] (Sydney Packet or the Sydney) comes across Manra and also names Birnie (after a well known British shipowner of the time).
  14. 14. 14 1823-24 Captain Barney in the Equator possibly “discovers” Kanton. 1824 (January 8) Captain Kemin, of an unnamed ship, discovers what is possibly Gardner Island and McKean Island, naming them the "Kemin Islands". 1824 An island named “Mary Island" and "Mary Balcoutts Island", at similar coordinates to Kanton, exist in reports and charts from 1825. 1825 Captain Joshua whaler Ganges), Gardner discovers (reportedly Nikumaroro aboard and names the it "Gardner's Island"; Gardner’s discovery is reported in the Nantucket Enquirer in December 1827; Joshua Coffin (also reportedly on the Ganges) is also sometimes credited with the discovery, naming the island after his ship's owner, Gideon Gardner [see below]. 1828 (prob.) Frenchman Louis Tromelin, aboard the corvette Bayonnaise, comes across Manra and Rawaki, probably in 1828; some sources state 1823 and 1826. 1828 Rawaki has by now been discovered by the American ship Phoenix (of Nantucket, Massachusetts); Jeremiah N. Reynolds' 1828 report to the US Navy describes a "Barney's Island", roughly at Kanton's position, which was possibly named and discovered by Captain Joseph Barney (Equator), who was whaling in the area in 1823-4; a "Phenix" [sic], plus unnamed islands at similar coordinates, also feature in Reynold's report. 1828 (or 1825) Captain Joshua Coffin (Ganges) is credited with discovering Nikumaroro, naming it Gardner (after the ship’s owner and apparently his father-in-law).
  15. 15. 15 1840 (August 19) Lieutenant Charles Wilkes (USS Vincennes), of the us Exploring Expedition, comes across, maps, and renames McKean (after a member of his crew) and also confirms Nikumaroro’s position and name (“Gardner”). 1840 Wilkes, during his American Exploring Expedition, comes upon Orona; a Frenchman and 10 Tahitians were then living ashore. 1840-41 Enderbury is surveyed by vessels of the US Exploring Expedition. 1841 The existence of Orona is confirmed by the US Exploring Expedition; the island is found to be inhabited, and is named “Hull Island” by Charles Wilkes after Commodore Isaac Hull. 1850s British vessel HMS Curacao, under the command of Captain Gibson, visits Kanton. 1851 Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick is published; the author places the final confrontation involving Captain Ahab in the Phoenix group. 1854 New Bedford whaling vessel Canton is wrecked on Kanton; the vessel was under the command of Captain Andrew J Wing.
  16. 16. 16 Guano and Coconuts Between 1859 and 1877 Enderbury, McKean and Phoenix Islands were worked for guano. After the guano deposits were exhausted coconut plantations began on Orona and Manra. Over the years leases passed from one company to another (J T Arundel & Co, Pacific Islands Company Ltd, Lever’s Pacific Plantations Ltd, Samoa Shipping and Trading Co Ltd). 1856 US claims 14 islands in the Line and Phoenix groups under the Guano Act of 1856. 1856 American guano companies claim Kanton. 1859-77 American companies work the guano deposits on Rawaki, Enderbury and McKean. Abandoned guano miners' huts (c1870) on Enderbury Island (Bottom photo taken in 1938)
  17. 17. 17 1859 (December 31) US Secretary of State issues rights to dig guano on Enderbury to the Phoenix Guano Company. 1860 (April) Phoenix Guano Company commences guano digging on Enderbury. 1861 The US Guano Company, headed by Alfred G Benson, unsuccessfully attempts to gain control of Enderbury by force. 1866 (December 11) British bark Golden Sunset, under the command of E H Tidmarsh, goes ashore on Enderbury; the 20 passengers, captain and crew are later brought safely to Honolulu on the Hawaiian supply ship Kamehameha V. 1872 (March 27-29) Commander Richard W Meade, of the USS Narragansett, maps Enderbury. 1872-73 Meade's report describes his visit to Kanton, which (as “Canton”, the name Meade gives to the island, after the whaler Canton, which was wrecked there in 1854) becomes the official name of the island. 1877 (March) Guano operations on Enderbury cease. 1881-91 Kanton is worked for its guano by John T Arundel & Co, pursuant to a lease from the British Government. 1882 John T Arundel & Co, of London, leases Manra and later uses Enderbury during the 1880s. 1982-85 Guano is shipped from Manra; coconuts are planted. 1884 Guano vessel Howard E Troup is driven on to the reef at Kanton.
  18. 18. 18 1885-86 Guano is shipped from Kanton. 1887 John T Arundel & Co plant coconuts on Orona and Nikumararo; they do not thrive because of a drought in the 1890s. 1889-92 Britain annexes the Phoenix Islands. 1989 (June 26) British flag is raised on Manra. 1889 (June 29) Britain annexes Rawaki. 1892 Britain establishes a protectorate over the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. 1892 (May 28) Captain Gibson (HMS Curacao) annexes Nikumaroro in the name of Queen Victoria. 1899 Britain leases Kanton, Enderbury and Birnie to the Pacific Islands Co. 1900s Lever Bros maintain coconut plantations on Manra. 1914 (January 1) Phoenix Islands (except McKean and Enderbury) are leased to the Samoa Shipping and Trading Co for 87 years. 1915 Captain Allen, of the Samoa Shipping and Trading Co, visits Kanton, erects a beacon and plants hundreds of coconut
  19. 19. 19 trees, with the prospect of establishing a copra industry on the island. 1916 Samoa Shipping and Trading Co establishes camps on Orona and Manra for copra-cutting. 1919 Captain Allen returns for an inspection of Kanton; most of the coconut trees have died. 1922 (March) American scientist and explorer Edwin H Bryan Jr visits and conducts a scientific exploration of Kanton; recommends Kanton to Charles Kingsford-Smith as a possible landing spot if needed (see next entry). 1928 Charles Kingsford-Smith chooses Kanton as an emergency landing place (should it be necessary) on his trans-Pacific flight in the Southern Cross, via Hawaii and Suva, Fiji. 1928 SS Norwich is beached, with some fatalities, on Nikumaroro during a storm. 1933 Ancient Polynesian structures are found on Orona. 1935 USA annexes Howland and Baker Islands. 1936 (August 6) British officials from HMS Leith land on Kanton; British sovereignty is asserted in the name of King Edward VIII.
  20. 20. 20 Annexation, Colonisation and Aviation The Phoenix islands were included within the boundaries of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony in 1937. Between 1938 and 1940 Orona, Manra and Nikumaroro are colonised with people from the overcrowded Gilbert Islands; the scheme is known as the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme. During 1938-39 Pan American Airways develop an airport on Kanton. In 1939 Great Britain and USA agree to jointly administer and control Kanton and Enderbury. 1937 (May) Burns Philp & Co's Makoa is wrecked on Orona's reef. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, July 6, 1937, p 11 1937 Britain visits every one of the Phoenix Islands to confirm her sovereignty; she includes all of them (except Kanton and Enderbury) in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony; administration officials are stationed on Kanton and Orona.
  21. 21. 21 1938 (May) USS Avocet carries the National Geographical Society US Navy eclipse party to Kanton. 1937 (June 3) British officials from HMS Wellington land on Kanton and confirm British sovereignty in the name of King George VI; the ship also brings New Zealand scientists to Kanton to observe the sun's eclipse; a radio network’s transmitter beams an on-the-spot description of the eclipse to the US. 1937 (July 2) Amelia Earhart's twin-engined Lockheed plane vanishes, supposedly in the vicinity of Howland Island; the Phoenix Islands are visited as part of the official search.
  22. 22. 22 Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart in Bandoeng, Indonesia, about a week before their final flight Source: George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers Courtesy Purdue University Libraries, Karnes Archives & Special Collections
  23. 23. 23 1937 (June 8) American and New Zealand eclipse expeditions use Kanton as a spot from which to view the sun's eclipse. Solar corona, at the total solar eclipse, June 8, 1937, Kanton Island. Portrait by Irving Gardner (US National Bureau of Standards) on a joint expedition with the US Naval Observatory and the National Geographic Society. Towering above the edge of the black moon is an unusual prominence, shaped like a bird or dinosaur, nicknamed "Heliosaurus". 1937 (August 31) Two British agents land on Kanton from HMS Leith and proceed to erect a radio station on the island. 1937 (October) British vessel HMCS Nimanoa (with Harry E Maude, Administrator for the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony, and later officer-in-charge of the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme [PISS]) visits the Phoenix group prior to the colonisation of Orona, Manra and Nikumaroro. 1938 (January) PAA Clipper Samoan, with the legendary Captain Edwin C Musick at the controls, explodes in flight while
  24. 24. 24 dumping fuel; a light tower (“Musick Light”) is later erected on Kanton as a memorial to Captain Musick and his crew. 1938 (March 3) US President Franklin D Roosevelt, by an administrative order, places Kanton and Enderbury under the jurisdiction of the US Department of the Interior. 1938 (March 6) American party of 7, including Hawaiian colonists, land from the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney on Enderbury and establish their camp there. 1938 (March 7) American colonists land on Kanton from Taney. US Coast Guard Cutter Taney. The Taney was present at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. 1938 (July 25-27) E H Bryan Jr revisits Kanton with a scientific expedition.
  25. 25. 25 1939 British and US colonists settle in Kanton. British and American camps on Kanton Island in 1938 1938-40 Orona, Manra and Nikumaroro are colonised with people from the overcrowded Gilbert Islands; the scheme is known as the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme. 1938 Orona's population numbers 610, following the transfer of Southern Gilbertese. 1940 Samoa Shipping and Trading Co, controlled by Burns Philp & Co, sells its lease to the Gilbert and Ellice Government., which buys the Phoenix Islands from Burns Philp to re-settle the Gilbertese.
  26. 26. 26 1938-39 Pan American World Airways lay out and develop an extensive airport on Kanton and deepen and clear its lagoon (for seaplane runway). Kanton Island---lagoon---seaplane runway---Pan-Am flying boat 1939 Dr Leonard P Schultz of the Smithsonian Institution catalogues 221 species of fish in the waters of Kanton and its neighbours. 1939 (April 6) Agreement is reached, by an official exchange of notes, between Britain and USA under which both nations will jointly administer and control Kanton and Enderbury for a period of 50 years and "thereafter until such time as it may be modified or terminated by the mutual consent of the two Governments"; both countries would be entitled to use the two islands for communications and as airports for international aviation.
  27. 27. 27 1940 (August) Seaplane California Clipper sets out for the first survey flight over the new trans-Pacific route. 1939 (November) Second survey flight over the trans-Pacific route takes place. 1940 Co-op store is erected on Nikumaroro. 1941 (Spring) Natives clearing a forest on Nikumaroro find and bury a human skull; Gerald Gallagher, Administrator of the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme, conjectures that the bones might be those of Amelia Earhart; a thorough search of the area is ordered to be carried out. 1940 (July 12) Pan American World Airways American Clipper takes off from San Francisco Harbor, inaugurating a regular fortnightly service to New Zealand, via Los Angeles, Honolulu, Kanton Island and Noumea.
  28. 28. 28 Pan American Airways Clipper advertisement, 1940
  29. 29. 29 1942 Population of the Phoenix Islands, before the arrival of US troops after 1941, is approximately 850 (including 260 on Manra). 1940 Nikumaroro colonisers allegedly find near the southeast end of the island the partial skeleton of a woman, wearing an American shoe, as well as the skull of another person; the bones are also associated with a sextant box, a Benedictine bottle, and the remains of a fire with bird and turtle bones; Gallagher thinks they might represent the remains of Earhart; the bones are shipped to Fiji and are examined by Dr. David Hoodless, who decides they represent a male of European or mixed ethnicity; controversy and speculation remain to this day about the find and its possible significance and relevance to Earhart’s disappearance. 1943 (January 9) Enderbury is once again surveyed by the US. 1941 (September 27) Gerald B Gallagher, officer-in-charge of the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme (PISS), dies on Nikumaroro, aged 29 years. World War II After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the Kanton airport passes into US military control. During World War II thousands of American troops are brought to Kanton. The importance of the island to the US and its allies during the War cannot be overstated. 1941 (December 7) Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Kanton airport soon thereafter passes into US Naval control, but is not bombed by the Japanese throughout World War II.
  30. 30. 30 1942 American Polynesia and the Hawaiian Chain, by Edwin H Bryan Jr, is published by Tongg Publishing Company, Honolulu, Hawaii; the book contains first-hand descriptions of each of the Phoenix Islands as well as situated in other islands “American Polynesia”. 1942-43 US Air Force builds a modern airport for landplanes on the northwest land rim of Kanton; flying boats also visit Nikumaroro during World War 11; during the late war years a large four-engined aircraft from Kanton crashes on Manra. 1942 (January) The first landplanes to use the new coral runway on Kanton fly from Hawaii to Kanton. 1942 (February 14) SS President Taylor, with 1,400 troops aboard, runs aground on Kanton after being pursued by two Japanese submarines. 1942-45 Kanton becomes an important US Air Force base in the Pacific Ocean; 30,000 American troops are brought to Kanton during World War II, many of them stationed there for months.
  31. 31. 31 Palm tree observation point on Kanton Island Kanton Island military base during World War II
  32. 32. 32 Kanton Island port 1944-46 A US Coast Guard Loran station operates on Nikumaroro. 1944 (June) Famed English-born American actor and comedian Bob Hope visits Kanton on a pacific USO tour and entertains American troops stationed on the island After the War After World War II, Kanton airport becomes an important refuelling stop on the trans-Pacific airline route between the years 1945 and 1958. The Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme fails. After 1958 Kanton airport is used for emergency landings only and as a land port for light aircraft and a base for the US Air Force and NASA aircraft. 1945 After World War II, Kanton airport becomes an important refuelling stop on the trans-Pacific airline route; the main runway is 6,000 feet; there is also an auxiliary runway (former fighter strip) of 6,800 feet.
  33. 33. 33 Pan American's Kanton Island terminal Photo: Bill Johns 1946 British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines (BCPA), operating Australian National Airways (ANA) DC-4 Skymasters, open a service from Australia to North America, via Suva, Kanton Island and Honolulu; BCPA was liquidated in favour of Qantas Empire Airways operating the trans-Pacific route on March 31, 1954, and was absorbed by Qantas on April 1, 1954. 1946 (September) Renowned Australian professional tennis player Rod Laver plays tennis at the ‘Canton [sic] Court’. 1948 US Act of Congress extends the jurisdiction of the District Court, Hawaii, over Kanton and Enderbury. 1948 (May) SS President Taylor is gutted by fire. 1949 The first civilian commercial airliner, a Qantas L-49 Lockheed Constellation, lands at Kanton; this flight opens up the Pacific skies.
  34. 34. 34 1949 (July 13) Canadian Pacific Airlines (later CP Air) opens its first international route across the South Pacific from Vancouver to Sydney, via San Francisco, Honolulu, Kanton Island and Nadi. 1949 (October-December) New runway paving and lighting are installed at Kanton Airport. 1950 Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony decides Manra can no longer properly support a permanent population and prepares for a resettlement of the population. 1951 Commercial fishing becomes more important on Kanton. 1952 Ornithologists Alfred M Bailey and Robert Niedrach of the Denver Museum list a total of 28 bird species and subspecies at Kanton. 1953 (February) First American child is born on Kanton. 1954 (May 15) Qantas Airways begin trans-Pacific operations to the US (Sydney, Australia—Nadi, Fiji---Kanton Island---Honolulu-San Francisco), using Lockheed Super Constellations; 3 airlines (Pan American, Canadian Pacific and Qantas) now route passenger and cargo planes through Kanton. 1954-55 Many attractive, modern houses are built on Kanton, south of the airport terminal building. 1955 Valuable radio equipment is reported to be rusting on Nikumaroro.
  35. 35. 35 1955 (July 11) 300-ton vessel Caronia, moored at Kanton and being used to salvage the President Taylor, is itself gutted by fire; salvage operation of the President Taylor ceases. The President Taylor was the first US shipping casualty of the Pacific war. The wreck dominated the coralscape of Kanton Island---and in many ways most of the island---for the next 14 years after it grounded on the reef in February 1942 1956 Population of the Phoenix Islands numbers 1,257. 1956 Civil Aviation Authority directs the installation of a new powerful homing device on Kanton to assist pilots. 1957 (January) Last of the "Taylor Salvors" forsakes Kanton. 1957 (March 31) US Coast Guard tows the wreck Caronia from Kanton lagoon out to sea and sinks her.
  36. 36. 36 1958 Long-range aircraft are overflying Kanton and it ceases to be a stopover station on the trans-Pacific route. Kanton Island Airport
  37. 37. 37
  38. 38. 38 Aerial view of Kanton Island Kanton Island Airport in 1973
  39. 39. 39 Kanton Island airstrip (also known as “Topham Field” and “Runway 26”) Residential accommodation on Kanton Island
  40. 40. 40 Kanton Island---former British sector Enderbury Island
  41. 41. 41 Dedication ceremony---July 27, 1938 Kanton Light (aka Musick Light) … then and some 70 years later
  42. 42. 42 Masked boobies on Enderbury Island Enderbury Island lagoon and colony of frigates
  43. 43. 43 Northern end of Enderbury Island from the air, 1973 Enderbury Island from the air, July 2011
  44. 44. 44 Graves on Orona Swamp on Orona
  45. 45. 45 Aerial view of Nikumaroro Nikumaroro
  46. 46. 46 McKean Island reef McKean Island
  47. 47. 47 Birnie Island lagoon Day beacon on Birnie Island
  48. 48. 48 Scaevola (in Hawaii "beach naupaka") bushes on Manra Manra lagoon
  49. 49. 49 Rawaki Rawaki
  50. 50. 50 1958 Kanton's Pan American World Airways hotel has by now been abandoned. 1958 Phoenix Islands Co-operative Society continues to work Manra's coconut plantations. 1958 Manra inhabitants are evacuated to the British Solomon Islands. 1958-67 Kanton airport is used for emergency landings and as a land port for light aircraft and a base for the US Air Force and NASA aircraft; the Federal Aviation Agency administers Kanton and Enderbury. Tracking Station In the early 1960s Kanton Island becomes a satellite tracking station. In the early 1970s it becomes a tracking station for anti-ballistic missiles. The other islands in the Phoenix group remain deserted. 1958-62 US space research (Project Mercury) results in the establishment on Kanton of a satellite tracking station; NASA selected the island as a station for its worldwide Mercury tracking network in September 1959; the station became operational on April 1, 1961 and supported the first Mercury space flights, providing, monitoring and recording of telemetry date and voice communications. 1960 Population of Kanton numbers approximately 320. 1960s Smithsonian Institute scientists set up camps on Enderbury during bird-tagging expeditions, as part of their study of Pacific migratory birds.
  51. 51. 51 1961-62 Severe droughts, saline well water and difficulties in maintaining communications between the islands of Orona, Manra and Nikumaroro cause the three settlements to fail. 1963 Estimated population of the Phoenix Islands, before the resettlement program of 1963-64, is 1,019. 1963-64 Entire population of Orona, Manra and Nikumaroro is moved to the British Solomon Islands; the Phoenix Islands (except Kanton and Enderbury) now become administered solely from Tarawa, Gilbert Islands. 1964 A scientific party from the Smithsonian Institution visits Nikumaroro to study the bird and plant life. 1964 Abandoned dogs on Orona and Nikumaroro are poisoned. 1965 (November) The last Pan Am flight (a DC-7C) returns to Miami from Kanton after the opening of a new airport in Auckland, enabling New Zealand to be added to Pan Am's jet routes; Kanton's airport remains operational, but only as an emergency landing field. 1966 (December 31) Kanton's population numbers about 132, including 67 Gilbert and Ellice Islanders. 1967 Kanton's military base is closed down. 1967 (December) Kanton airport's non-directional radio beacon (generally regarded by pilots as the loudest in the Pacific) closes down.
  52. 52. 52 1967 (December 22) US personnel leave Kanton; all NASA operations cease on December 31; the American Samoan Government is authorised to salvage the installations. 1968 (January) Kanton airport officially closes down. 1968 (February 12) Colony personnel leave Kanton; US and British administrative officers are withdrawn. 1969 Kanton is reinhabited by 200 US Air Force personnel; the Phoenix Islands (except McKean, Nikumaroro and Rawaki) are used in the US anti-ballistic missile program. 1970s Geomarex Corporation surveys the Phoenix group for exploitable minerals but finds none; the US Air Force also examines the islands with a view to their possible use as biological weapons testing sites. 1970 (September 18) Kanton becomes a US tracking station for anti-ballistic missiles, being serviced by US and American Samoan personnel; the Space and Missile Test Centre (SAMTEC) starts its Kanton Island Operating Location with further bases located on Enderbury and Orona. 1970 A 60 in radio antenna, two 12 in sighting towers and a road across the island are constructed on Enderbury; a tracking station beacon is installed on Manra and a radar station is erected on Orona, by virtue of a lease to end in 1980 1970s The US Coast Guard maintains buoys and markers for the Kanton lagoon ship channel for a number of years in the 1970s and beyond.
  53. 53. 53 Kanton Island in 1973 Kanton Island in 1973 1974 Panala’au Memoirs, by E H Bryan Jr, is published by the Pacific Scientific Information Center, Bernice P Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii; the book is an intimate story of events on 5 coral islands (including Kanton and Enderbury) during the years 1935 to 1941, and of their colonisation.
  54. 54. 54 The former “British/Pan-Am” south side of Kanton Island at dawn, 1974 1975 Smithsonian naturalists return to Nikumaroro; Birnie is declared a wildlife sanctuary. 1976 (October) Ellice Islands separate from Gilbert Islands, formally taking effect from 1 January 1976. Abandoned cottage on Kanton Island
  55. 55. 55 Kanton Island tracking station, 1975 1978 (October 1) Ellice Islands become the independent nation of Tuvalu.
  56. 56. 56 Independence and Beyond In 1979 the Gilbert Islands become the independent nation of Kiribati. The US relinquishes its authority over the Phoenix Islands. Oversight of the Phoenix Islands is maintained by the Kiribati Ministry of Line and Phoenix Groups, Kiritimati (Christmas) Island. The Intenational Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), as part of its “Earhart Project”, explores the Phoenix Islands and concludes that Amelia Earhart’s aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed into the waters off Nikumaroro. TIGHAR’s research and investigations continue right up to the present day. Kanton Island is used for meterological purposes, tropical ocean and atmospheric research, and amateur radio and fishing expeditions. The island has a small resident population. The other islands remain unpopulated but are important wildlife sanctuaries In 2008 the Phoenix Islands become the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), the world's largest marine protected area. 1979 (July 12) Gilbert Islands become the independent nation of Kiribati; (September) the new nation and the US sign a Treaty of Friendship, the US relinquishing its authority over Kanton and Enderbury and any other interests it may have in the Phoenix Islands; by this time the US has closed down all installations and withdrawn all personnel; the treaty specifies that the islands will not be used for military purposes by third parties without consultation. Flag of the Republic of Kiribati
  57. 57. 57 1980 Kanton is peopled by seven I-Kiribati and one Samoan, who take care of the unused US facilities. 1981 Te Mautari Ltd, fishing company, is established to provide fish for the local market and for export; Kiribati plans to establish a long-line fishing fleet in the Line and Phoenix groups, using Kanton's American-built wharf capable of handling large freighters. 1982 US Senators oppose ratification of Treaty of Friendship; Queen Elizabeth 11 visits Kiribati; Kiribati buys Fanning and Washington atolls back from Burns Philp. 1983 (June 21) US Senate approves recognition of Kiribati's sovereignty of the Line and Phoenix groups, except Kingman Reef and Palmyra (still US possessions). 1985 Estimated population of Kanton is 24; the other islands remain uninhabited. 1985 Kiribati signs a fishing agreement with the USSR. 1985 (July 24) Edwin H Bryan Jr, famed Pacific island explorer and scientist, and long-time curator of collections at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, dies in Honolulu, aged 87. 1986 US Government agrees to a US $60 million aid package, including licensing fees for US tuna boats to work the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the 16 member states of the South Pacific Forum (including the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, and Nauru) for 5 years; the Soviet-Kiribati fishing agreement is not renewed.
  58. 58. 58 1989 Oversight of the Phoenix Islands continues to be maintained by the Kiribati Ministry of Line and Phoenix Groups, Kiritimati (Christmas) Island. 1989 The Intenational Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) explores Nikumaroro and McKean in connection with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart; the search team finds an aluminium box on Nikumaroro that the team believes was used as a navigator’s bookcase aboard Earhart’s plane. 1990 Kiribati signs agreement under which the UN Development Program (UNDP) will assist in economic advancement of the Line and Phoenix Islands groups, with the aim of resettling the islands; in more recent years 5 of the Phoenix Islands have been earmarked for residential development with a grant of US$0.4m from the Asian Development Bank; Kanton’s airport is upgraded to serve as an emergency strip for two engined jets flying between Kirimati and Tarawa. 1991 TIGHAR finds an aluminium sheet on Nikumaroro believed by the search team to be part of the fuselage of Earhart’s plane; the search team also finds other fragments, including aviation wire and a shoe heel and sole of a size and style similar to Earhart’s; a sonar scan of the ocean around Nikumaroro by Oceaneering International fails to find the bulk of the plane. 1992 (March) TIGHAR announces the Earhart mystery has been solved; other researchers and aviation experts remain unconvinced.
  59. 59. 59 Cartoon---The Detroit News---March 18, 1992 Copyright © 1992 All Rights Reserved (Note. The present author intends no disrespect to TIGHAR or its dedicated people.) 1996 TIGHAR’s current working hypothesis is that the aircraft debris found on Nikumaroro originated from 2 distinct aircraft, one being a B-24 and the other Earhart’s Lockheed. 1997 A re-enactment of Amelia Earhart’s last flight refuels at Kanton using avgas specially shipped in for the occasion. 1998 (February) TIGHAR team flies to Kanton to investigate the possibility that an engine reportedly found on the reef of Nikumaroro and brought to Kanton in 1971 during a US Air Force missile testing program might be from the missing Earhart aircraft. 2000 The conservation organisation WWF joins a unique scientific expedition to investigate the unspoiled marine environment around the Phoenix Islands.
  60. 60. 60 2001 About 10 families reside on Kanton, mainly involved in making weather observations, maintain a customs station, and maintaining the airstrip with, it is said, an aviation fuel farm in anticipation of a possible future airline service as well as to service the needs of occasional visiting aircraft; the 6,000 foot paved runway (which is an emergency landing strip between Tarawa and Kiritimati) remains reasonably serviceable and jet fuel is said to be ordinarily available (although its safety may at times be questionable); Kanton is also used for tropical ocean and atmospheric research, and amateur radio and fishing expeditions. 2001 (July) TIGHAR announces that satellite images of Nimumaroro appear to show rusting metal under water just offshore, in an area where native fishermen are said to have once seen the wreckage of an airplane; later (September 2001) it transpires that the “rusty splotch” is red algae. 2001 (October) Australia and Kiribati investigate the possibility of converting the former US military base on Kanton into a refugee processing camp; the island is officially inspected by an engineer, an Australian Foreign Affairs official and an Australian police officer; nothing comes of the idea. 2001(2?) Korean fishing vessel MV Chance is shipwrecked on McKean.
  61. 61. 61 MV Chance shipwrecked on McKean Island 2002 (March) Deep-sea searches for Amelia Earhart’s lost airplane take place in the vicinity of Howland Island. 2002 (May 18 to June 16) Panala’au: “Survivor” Hawaiian Style is exhibited at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii; the inhouse travelling exhibit tells the story of how 60 young Hawaiian men were sent to occupy the Phoenix Islands and other equatorial Pacific islands from 1935 to 1942. 2004 The Kanton runway still remains on the north side of the island, close to the village; the old seaplane landing strip is still clearly marked in the lagoon with sticks in the water.
  62. 62. 62 Hydnophora rigida corals on Kanton, part of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area Copyright © Randi Rotjan/New England Aquarium 2004 Quantitative and qualitative surveys reveal near 100 per cent coral mortality in the lagoon of Kanton and 62 per cent mortality on the outer leeward reef slopes of the island as well as elsewhere throughout the Kiribati Phoenix islands; this is due to a sudden increase in water temperature; the coral bleaching and destruction is described as being “catastrophic” and “one of the worst bleaching events ever recorded”.
  63. 63. 63 2005 The population of Kanton is 41, down from 61 in 2000. 2007 The Phoenix Islands are submitted as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 2008 The Phoenix Islands become the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), the world's largest marine protected area, covering a total area of 410,500 sq km of land and ocean. 2009 (November/December) A survey of selected atolls of the Phoenix Islands group is undertaken; the main aims are to check on rabbit and rat eradication work undertaken in 2008 and to help plan for the restoration of additional priority islands in the group; the work is funded by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (administered by Conservation International) and NZAID (the latter facilitated by the NZ Department of Conservation). 2010 A survey of the Kanton reef reveals that the coral bleaching has killed all the coral on the lagoon floor, but almost half appears to be growing back thanks to the presence of abundant fish which eat the algae, thus keeping it from smothering the coral.
  64. 64. 64 The reefs of the Phoenix Islands bounce back … but will it last? Photo: National Geographic Society 2010 (May) The population of Kanton is reportedly 24, with 14 adults and 10 children; the island's sole village is called Tebaronga; most of the island’s inhabitants live in abandoned structures from the US/UK occupation (1936–1976). 2010 (June) TIGHAR makes its 10th expedition to Nikumaroro in its search for the remains of Amelia Earhart’s airplane. 2012 (July 2) TIGHAR launches its 9th expedition to Nikumaroro, on the 75th anniversary of Earhart’s disappearance; forensic imaging specialists, using sonar, find what looks like a wheel and other landing gear off Nikumaroro’s coast, right where TIGHAR thinks Earhart's plane went down; the objects, in a debris field, are said to be related to the so-called “Bevington Object” seen at the reef edge in some 1937 photos [see below] taken by a British Colonial
  65. 65. 65 Service officer; TIGHAR is currently raising money to return to the site to confirm what they believe to be the most groundbreaking evidence behind Earhart’s disappearance; TIGHAR’s thesis is by no means universally accepted. [Photo (previous page): Lagoon fish---Nikumaroro] 2012 There are now some 23 people (including about 10 schoolchildren) on Kanton, being transient caretakers from Kiribati; they rotate in 2-5 years shifts, use some of the remaining structures on the island, and rely upon a government ship for re-supply (2 visits a year, at the most); TIGHAR states that an Australian team recently undertook a hazmat cleanup of debris left by the US Air Force in the 1970s. The so-called “Bevington Object” at Nikumaroro reef edge in 1937
  66. 66. 66 Map of Kanton Island at the airport terminal British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines (BCPA) Douglas DC-6 VH-BPH Discovery arriving at Kanton Island, early 1950s (pre-1954) Photo: Pekka Kauppi Collection
  67. 67. 67 Qantas Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation refuelling on Kanton Island, c1958 Royal Australian Air Force C-130A A97-210 Lockheed Hercules at Kanton Island, 1963 Photo: Wynnum Graham
  68. 68. 68 The eastern windward coast of Kanton Island The south side of Kanton Island
  69. 69. 69 Kanton lagoon The less-than-pristine marker left by the National Geographical Society to commemorate their 1937 “solar eclipse” visit to Kanton Island
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  71. 71. 71 BIBLIOGRAPHY Alling, A, et al. “Catastrophic Coral Mortality in the Remote Central Pacific: Kiribati Phoenix Islands.’ Atoll Research Bulletin No. 551. Washington DC. National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Dec 2007. Anon. "From busy air base to deserted Pacific atoll." Syd Morning Herald. p.14. Nov 14, 1967. ----------. "How Canton Island Got Its Name; Epic Open-Boat Voyage That Rivalled Bligh's." Pacific Is Month. 11(2): 29-30. Sep 1940. Bryan, E.H, Jr. American Polynesia and the Hawaiian Chain. Honolulu: Tongg. 1942. ----------. Panala'au Memoirs. Honolulu: Pac Sci Info Ctr., Bishop Museum. 1974. Clune, Frank. Hands Across the Pacific. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1951. Coates, Carl (with John M. Sully, ed). Canton Island: Aerial Crossroads of the South Pacific. McLean VA: Paladwr Press. 2002. Emory, Kenneth P. Archaeology of the Phoenix Islands. Spec Pub 34 (Proc Hawaiian Acad Sci, 1938-39). Honolulu: Bishop Museum. 1939. Gardner, Irvine C. “Crusoes of Canton Island; life on a tiny Pacific atoll that has flashed into world importance.” Natl Geog Mag. 73(6): 749-777. Jun., 1938. Gillespie, Richard. “The Mystery of Amelia Earhart.” Life. 15(4): 68-74. Apr 1992. Hellweg, J F. "Eclipse Adventures on a Desert Isle." Natl Geog Mag. 72(3): 377-94. Sep 1937.
  72. 72. 72 King, Thomas F. “Gallagher of Nikumaroro and the Last Expansion of the British Empire”. Krauss, N L H. Bibliography of the Phoenix Islands, Central Pacific. Honolulu: Author. 1970. Lal, Brij V., and Kate Fortune, eds. The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 2000. Luke, Harry. Islands of the South Pacific. London: Harrap. 1962. Maude, H E (ed). Of Islands and Men. London: OUP. 1968. Mitchell, Samuel Alfred. "Nature's Most Dramatic Spectacle." Natl Geog Mag. 72(3): 361-76. Sep 1937. Murphy, Robert Cushman, Robert J Neidrach and Alfred M Bailey; with hist. notes, comp. by E H Bryan Jr. Canton Island. Denver Mus Nat Hist, Mus Pict Ser: No. 10. 1954. Nicholas, William H. "American Pathfinders in the Pacific." Natl Geog Mag. 89(5): 617-640. May 1946. North, David. “In search of Amelia Earhart.” Pacific Is Month. 61(4): 24-27. Apr 1991. ----------. “On the verge of solving the Earhart mystery.” Pacific Is Month. 62 (3): 53. Mar 1992. Pacific Islands Yearbook. 16th edn. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. 1989. Randall, John E, Gerald R Allen, and Roger C. Steene. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 1996. Rea, Billy A. “Lost at Sea.” World War II. Feb 2004, 18:6, 30-38.
  73. 73. 73 Sibley, Charles G., and Burt L Monroe Jr. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press. 1990. Stanley, David. Micronesia Handbook: Guide to the Caroline, Gilbert, Mariana, and Marshall Islands. Chico CA: Moon Publns. 1989. Stattersfield, Alison J and David R Capper. Threatened Birds of the World. BirdLife International. 2000. Stone, Gregory S. “A Coral Reef Wilderness Revealed: Phoenix Islands.” Natl Geog Mag. 205:2. Feb 2004. ----------. “Phoenix Rising,” Natl Geog Mag. 219:1. Jan 2011. Talu, Sister Alaima, et al. Kiribati: Aspects of History. University of the South Pacific and the Ministry of Education, Training, and Culture. 1979. US Department of State. Agreement between the United States of America and Great Britain concerning a joint administration of Canton and Enderbury Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. (Effected by exchange of notes signed April 6, 1939.) E A S. No 145. United States Statutes at Large. 1939. Vol 53; Pt 3. Washington, D.C: US Govt Print Off. 1939. Walker, Howell. “Air Age Brings Life to Canton Island." Natl Geog Mag. 107(l): 117-132. Jan 1955. Zwick, Jesse. “Up in the Air: Hillary Clinton, a lone explorer, and the search for Amelia Earhart.” The New Republic 243(11): 20-26. Jul 12, 2012.
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