Tern Island (Hawaii)

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Tern Island, the French Frigate Shoals airfield
United States Coast Guard PBY-5A at Tern in 1953

Tern Island is a tiny coral island located in the French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, at 23°52′12″N 166°17′02″W / 23.870°N 166.284°W / 23.870; -166.284Coordinates: 23°52′12″N 166°17′02″W / 23.870°N 166.284°W / 23.870; -166.284, approximately 490 miles (790 kilometres) west north west of Oahu. It has a land area of 105,276 m2 (26.014 acres). The island provides a breeding habitat to 18 species of seabirds, threatened Hawaiian green sea turtles, and endangered Hawaiian monk seals.[1] It is maintained as a field station in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.


After the Battle of Midway, the U.S. Navy built a Naval Air Station on Tern Island, enlarging the island sufficiently to support a 3300 ft. (1005 m) landing strip. The Station's main function was as an emergency landing site for planes flying between Hawaii and Midway Atoll. The original seawall, runway, and some of the buildings remain.

The aforementioned Naval base operated from 1942 to 1946, and a U.S. Coast Guard station operated from 1952 until 1979.[2] In 1969, a tsunami wiped out much of the station, and it had to be rebuilt.[3]

A Piper Aztec has landed over 600 times at Tern Island.[4] There are typically monthly flights to Honolulu for mail, but heavier cargo typically comes by water.[5] An alternative is email, either by satellite phone or the island's broadband internet connection.[5]

The old U.S. Coast Guard barracks continued to be used into the 21st century.[4] Upgrades include the cleanup of old waste, improved water tanks, and solar power.[2] The solar power runs a reverse osmosis water maker, capable of producing 1200 gallons a day.[2] There is also a diesel generator with a 500-gallon fuel tank.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Good. "Tern Island Preliminary Assessment and Technical Support Document". Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  2. ^ a b c d Tern Island
  3. ^ LORAN Station French Frigate Shotals
  4. ^ a b Heart of the sanctuary
  5. ^ a b Tern Island - at Work

External links[edit]