Orona atoll, also known as Hull Island, is one of the Phoenix Islands in the Republic of Kiribati. It measures approximately 8.8 km by 4 km, and like Kanton, is a narrow ribbon of land surrounding a sizable lagoon with depths of 15–20 metres. Numerous passages connect the lagoon to the surrounding ocean, only a couple of which will admit even a small boat. Total land area is 3.9 km2, and the maximum elevation is nine metres.
Although occupied at various times during the past, including as late as 2004, Orona is uninhabited today.
Flora and fauna
Like Manra, Orona is covered with coconut palms (mostly on the western side), towering 12–18 metres above the surface. The remainder of the atoll is covered with scrub forest, herbs and grasses, with a maximum height of 6–12 metres. Feral cats exist on the island, together with rats, pigs and dogs. Ducks and chickens were raised by the former inhabitants, but it is unknown whether any remain. Orona also boasts three species of lizards, land and hermit crabs, together with approximately fifty species of insects. Turtles are also known to use the island as a nesting area.
Unlike Manra, whose lagoon is too salty for marine life, Orona's lagoon teems with fish and giant clams.
Like Manra, Orona contains evidence of prehistoric Polynesian inhabitation. An ancient stone marae stands on the eastern tip of the island, together with ruins of shelters, graves and other platforms.
No one is certain who discovered Orona or when, but history shows that it was named "Hull Island" in honor of Commodore Isaac Hull, USN by Commander Charles Wilkes of the USS Vincennes when he visited the island on 26 August 1840 in the United States Exploring Expedition. It continued to be generally known by this name until the Republic of Kiribati was granted independence in 1979, when its name was changed to the I-Kiribati Orona.
Unlike Manra, Orona does not seem to have been worked for guano, and was apparently not claimed (unlike the other Phoenix Islands) by American guano diggers. The British flag was raised there on 11 July 1889, and the island became part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony. Orona was leased in 1916 to a Captain Allen of the "Samoan Shipping and Trading Company", and became a copra plantation. Allen's lease was bought out by the British government in 1938.
It was one of the islands involved in the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme, the final colonial expansion of the British Empire. Residents were evacuated in 1963, due to persistent drought and the declining copra market. Photos of the abandoned settlement, Arariki, circa 1967, may be seen here. Hull Island Post Office opened on 1 January 1939 and closed around January 1964.
British and American claims to the island ended in 1979 with the independence of Kiribati from Great Britain and the signing of the Treaty of Tarawa by the United States.
- Kiribati Constitution of 12 July 1979
- Resture, Jane. "Hull Island - Phoenix Group". Jane Resture. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- Editor. "Phoenix Islands Protected Area". Government of Kiribati. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- Jamieson, Regen (18 April 2014). "Removing Rats and Rabbits: An Interview with Ray Pierce". New England Aquarium - Phoenix Islands Blog. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- Resture, Jane. "Kiribati – Hull Island images". Jane Resture. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Premier Postal Auctions. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- News from the LinNix in Kiribati
- Oceandots article with satellite photo at the Wayback Machine (archived December 23, 2010)
- Jane Resture page, with links to 1967 photos
- US-Kiribati Treaty of Friendship