Howland and Baker Islands

Coordinates: 0°48′24″N 176°36′59″W / 0.80667°N 176.61639°W / 0.80667; -176.61639
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0°48′24″N 176°36′59″W / 0.80667°N 176.61639°W / 0.80667; -176.61639

Location of the Howland and Baker Islands

Howland Island and Baker Island are two uninhabited U.S. atolls in the Equatorial Pacific that are located close to one another.[1] Both islands are wildlife refuges, the larger of which is Howland Island. They are both part of the larger political territory of the United States Minor Outlying Islands and they are also both part of the larger geographic grouping of the Phoenix Islands. Each is a National Wildlife Refuge managed by a division of Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.[2] On January 6, 2009, U.S. President George W. Bush included both islands to the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.[3][4]

The Howland-Baker exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a 400 nautical-mile diameter area protected by the U.S. Coast Guard.[5] The Howland-Baker EEZ has 425,700 km2;[6] by comparison, California has 423,970 km2.

Howland Island was the area that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were trying to reach in 1937 when they disappeared. The islands are the only land masses in the world associated with UTC−12:00, which is the last area on Earth for deadlines with a date to pass.[7]

EEZ History[edit]

The 1976 Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act provided for the U.S. EEZs, which were further established by the Presidential Proclamation of 1983.[8] The Treaty of Tarawa, signed in September 1979, came into force in September 1983, and created the international boundary of the EEZ between Baker Island and McKean Island. Article 4 specifically states, "The two Governments recognize the interest of their peoples in close cooperation for their mutual benefit in economic development relating to fisheries off their coasts."[9] Since 2008, the Kiribati side of this boundary has been a marine protected area, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.

Land area and territorial claim[edit]

The islands combined are 855 acres (1.336 sq mi; 3.46 km2) of uninhabited land. Howland and Baker are separated by 37 nautical miles (43 mi; 69 km).[10] Were Howland and Baker separate EEZs, the 200 nautical mile EEZ radius for either of the two islands would overlap with 80% of the EEZ for the other island. As a combined area, this EEZ is 4% of the total U.S. coastline (425,000 km2 out of 11,300,000 km2), larger than that of South Korea or Cuba.

The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument extends out 50 nautical miles (58 mi; 93 km) from each island.[11]

As per the 2009 presidential proclamation, the National Wildlife Refuge extends out 12 nautical miles (14 mi; 22 km) from each island.[11]

Geologic setting[edit]

Howland and Baker islands are volcanoes approximately 120-75 million years old,[6] on top of which coral has formed platforms. In the EEZ there are ten moderate-sized seamounts from the Cretaceous Period. Most of the seabed is more than 5,000 meters (16,000 ft) in depth, covered with abyssal sediment.[6]

Economic potential[edit]

The only immediate mining potential is on and immediately offshore of the islands themselves (phosphates, sand, gravel, and coral) which would conflict with their protected status per the study. Iron deposits on a few seamounts are also mentioned as an intermediate possibility but no energy resources are identified.[12] The islands have phosphorite and guano resources.[6] However, all commercial extraction activities, including fishing and deep-sea mining, are prohibited in the wildlife refuges and submerged lands and waters of the monument.[13]

Boundary with Kiribati[edit]

The islands are considered to be a part of the Phoenix Islands, the rest of which are in Kiribati. The Winslow Reef borders the Howland-Baker EEZ, but is in Kiribati.[6][14] The PacIOOS mentions that Winslow Reef is "on the southeast boundary line of the EEZ". The EEZ boundary lies halfway between Baker Island and McKean Island.

Kiribati, as traced by the 1995 realignment of the International Date Line, arcs around Howland and Baker Islands as well as the US Possession Jarvis Island, from the west to the south and to the east. For example while the Winslow Reef in Kiribati is to the southeast of Howland and Baker Islands, the capital of Kiribati is on the Tarawa archipelago, and lies 625 nautical miles (719 mi; 1,158 km) to the west of Howland.[10]

After the Pacific Leaders Forum met in August 2009, Kiribati invited the U.S. to add Howland and Baker to its Phoenix Islands Protected Area to create its Phoenix Ocean Arc concept.[14] In November 2014, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined Republic of Kiribati President Anote Tong to sign a Cooperative Arrangement to coordinate and jointly support research and conservation activities for nearly 490,000 square nautical miles in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (Monument) in the United States and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) in Kiribati.[15]

Boundary enforcement[edit]

In 2005, the U.S. Coast Guard seized a $3,000,000 purse seiner two miles from the Howland-Baker EEZ border with Kiribati, and a year later the case went to the federal District Court of Guam.[5][8] The jurisdiction in Guam is provided by the 1976 Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.[16]

At the corner of the world[edit]

Based on nautical time, the Howland and Baker islands are the last part of the U.S. to bring in the New Year, being the only territory of the U.S. in UTC−12. They are 24 hours behind the Wake Island Time Zone.

The area is also in the equatorial band above which satellites can remain in geosynchronous Earth orbit, and NSS-9 is above. In 1964, Syncom 3 was positioned on the International Date Line at the equator, a point 210 nautical miles (240 mi; 390 km) from Howland, and 22,236 miles (35,785 km) into space. Syncom 3 was the first geostationary satellite, and was used to convey live TV coverage of the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics.[17]

PTWC warning point[edit]

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issues tsunami warnings for "Howland-Baker", with the name of the "Warning Point" as "HOWLAND_IS.".[18]

Under a Jarvis Moon[edit]

The colonization of Jarvis, Howland, and Baker islands by a few Hawaiians and military personnel in 1935 was followed a year later by the claim of possession by Franklin D. Roosevelt in May 1936.[19] Canton Island and Enderbury Island, now a part of Kiribati, were colonized in March 1938.[20]

An 88-minute documentary, Under a Jarvis Moon (2010) captures the story of the 130 Americans who colonized these islands between March 1935 and February 1942.[19] The settlers lived on the islands for 3- to 4-month shifts. This colonization was kept secret until Franklin Roosevelt claimed these islands as the territory of the United States in May 1936. It was these settlers who prepared the airstrip for Amelia Earhart.[21]

The colonization came to an end on December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Howland and Baker were bombed, and two of the four colonists on Howland died. Although Wake Island was also bombed on December 8, Wake is west of the International Date Line, and the attack on Wake occurred only a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The last of the colonists on Jarvis, Howland, Baker, and Enderbury islands were removed in February 1942.

See also[edit]

Other combined EEZ[edit]


  1. ^ "U.S. Possessions in the Pacific Islands, 1903". Maps ETC. College of Education, University of South Florida. Retrieved 2012-02-25. Description: A map from 1909 of the Central Pacific islands under United States possession at the time. This series of detailed maps include...Howland and Baker islands...
  2. ^ "Howland Island, Baker Island, and Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuges. Comprehensive Conservation Planning. Planning Update #2 – Spring 2006" (PDF). U.S. Department of Interior. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. National Wildlife Refuge Complex. May 2006. Retrieved 2012-04-28. Refuge boundaries are rarely portrayed on nautical charts, and other maps and erroneous information about Howland and nearby Refuges have also been recently presented on the Internet.
  3. ^ "Presidential Proclamation 8336" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-10.
  4. ^ "Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents: Monday, January 12, 2009 Volume 45—Number 1" (PDF). p. 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 1, 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Fishing Vessel Illegally Fishing In U.S. Waters Seized". World Maritime News. 21 September 2006. Retrieved 2012-05-21. A Coast Guard C-130 airplane and crew were on patrol in the Howland/Baker EEZ Saturday when the crew spotted a purse seiner...about two miles inside the EEZ.
  6. ^ a b c d e "PacIOOS. Howland & Baker". Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System. Retrieved 2013-08-07. Captain George B. Worth on the U.S. whaling ship Oeno discovered these islands in 1822.
  7. ^ "IEEE 802.16 AOE deadline documentation". IEEE 802.16. Retrieved 2013-05-05. Therefore, the day ends AOE when it ends on Howland Island.
  8. ^ a b Gina Tabonares, Variety News Staff (24 July 2008). "Court sets hearing for Marshalls 201". Marianas Variety-Guam Edition. Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 2012-02-23. District Court of Guam... According to MIMRA, the vessel was straddling an area near the EEZ boundary between the United States and Kiribati, approximately equal distance between Baker Island (U.S.) and McKeon [sic] Island (Kiribati).
  9. ^ "Treaty of friendship between the United States of America and the Republic of Kiribati". Retrieved 2013-06-08. Advise and consent to ratification by the Senate June 21, 1983;
  10. ^ a b "How far is it from Howland Island – US Minor Outlying Islands..."
  11. ^ a b "Welcome to Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. April 5, 2011. Retrieved 2013-03-09. On January 6, 2009, President George W. Bush established the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906. The monument incorporates approximately 86,888 square miles within its boundaries, which extend 50 nautical miles from the mean low water lines of Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands; Johnston, Wake, and Palmyra Atolls; and Kingman Reef.
  12. ^ USGS, pp. 23–24. (25 megabyte)
  13. ^ "Establishment of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument".
  14. ^ a b "Phoenix Island protected area. Management plan, 2009–2014" (pdf). UNESCO. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  15. ^ "USA and Kiribati to work together on managing Phoenix Islands". Associated Press. November 13, 2014. Archived from the original on 22 October 2017.
  16. ^ U.S. Coast Guard (20 September 2006). "Fishing Vessel Illegally Fishing In U.S. Waters Seized". Retrieved 2012-05-21. Jurisdiction for this case is set forth in the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act, which establishes the U.S. Attorney in Guam as the lead authority for prosecution.
  17. ^ "Syncom 1, 2, 3". 2013-03-06. Retrieved 2013-03-10. Syncom 3 was the first geostationary satellite...It was...placed over the equator at 180 degrees longitude in the Pacific Ocean. The satellite provided live television coverage of the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan...
  18. ^ "Richard H. Hagemeyer Pacific Tsunami Warning Center Director's Report" (PDF). Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (of UNESCO). 2 October 2005. p. 9. Retrieved 2012-02-26. ...the PTWC is...the national source of Tsunami Warnings, Watches, Advisories, and Information Bulletins for Hawaii, US possessions, and all other US interests in the Pacific located outside of the continental United States... The PTWC is operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ a b Mike Gordon, Advertiser staff writer (January 24, 2010). "Desert-island adventure". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2012-02-28. The project's secrecy would last just more than a year, until President Franklin D. Roosevelt claimed the islands in May 1936.
  20. ^ "112th CONGRESS, 1st Session, H. RES. 388". 6 September 2011. Retrieved 2013-06-02. Resolved, That the House of Representatives-- (1) acknowledges the accomplishments and sacrifices of the Hui Panalāʻau colonists and extends appreciation on behalf of the people of the United States; (2) acknowledges the local, national, and international significance of the 7-year colonization project, which resulted in the United States extending sovereignty into the Equatorial Pacific; and (3) recognizes and commends the accomplishments, sacrifices, and contributions of the more than 130 young men, the majority of whom were Native Hawaiian, who participated in the Equatorial Pacific colonization project.
  21. ^ "Vital islands. Baker and Howland. Lack of flora and water". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 19 February 1937. p. 7. Retrieved 2013-01-23. At the present time, Hawaiian boys of the Kamehameha school are maintaining the wireless station and working to clear the areas of Howland of debris to provide landing facilities for Mrs. Amelia Earhart, who is to fly to Australia. There is a possibility that they may also lay concrete runways in time for her arrival.

Further reading[edit]