Under a Jarvis Moon

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Under a Jarvis Moon
Directed by Noelle Kahanu and Heather Giugni
Produced by Noelle kahanu, Heather Giugni, Lisa Altieri
Edited by Lisa Altieri
Release date
  • January 2010 (2010-01)
Country United States
Language English

Under a Jarvis Moon[1] is a 2010 documentary film about the young men, mostly of Hawaiian origin, sent in the 1930s and 1940s to colonize the Line Island of Jarvis and the Phoenix Islands of Howland and Baker. The film is related to a 2002 Bishop Museum exhibition "Hui Panala'au: Hawaiian Colonists, American Citizens."[2]


During the 1930s, the United States government made a decision to send colonists to the islands of Baker, Howland, and Jarvis under the American Equatorial Islands Colonization Project, in order to lay claim to the islands. The stated reason for the claim would be to further commercial aviation. Documents presented in this movie suggest that military purposes were contemplated, though they were not to be divulged.

The government recruited the initial colonists among young men at Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii, and also among furloughed Army personnel. The students from Kamehameha school were generally not given very much information about their upcoming assignment. The Coast Guard cutter "Itasca" delivered the colonists to their islands, and was subsequently used for bringing replacements and supplies.

At the end of the first 3-month tour, the furloughed military personnel reported dissatisfaction with the experience, whereas the young men of Native Hawaiian ancestry reportedly enjoyed the experience. Throughout the 1930s, the vast majority of subsequent colonists sent to these islands were Native Hawaiian young men recruited from Kamehameha schools.

Although the colonists initially attempted to grow plants on these islands, they were largely unsuccessful. The most notable achievement of the colonists, besides helping the United States claim these three islands, was to prepare a runway on Howland Island for Amelia Earhart on her planned trip around the world (Amelia Earhart disappeared en route to Howland).[3]

The documentary describes the living conditions of the colonists, including the water scarcity, the abundance of fish and surfing opportunities, the abundant bird life, the isolation of the colonists prior to the installation of radios, and the social and personal interactions of the colonists with each other. Mention is also made of the hardships of the colonists after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

The documentary includes interviews with the (now aged) surviving colonists, many contemporary photographs, and occasional descriptions of related political and world events.

The title of the movie is the title of a song written by one of the colonists on Jarvis.

Outcome of the colonization effort[edit]

Today, in part because of the efforts of these colonists, these islands are grouped as part of the United States Minor Outlying Islands. They are currently uninhabited and have National Wildlife Refuge designation, meaning they are set aside as protected areas.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mike Gordon, Advertiser staff writer (January 24, 2010). "Desert-island adventure". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2012-02-28. Her documentary, Under a Jarvis Moon, is almost finished and completes a years-long effort that also includes a traveling exhibit for the Bishop Museum and interviews with eight surviving colonists, recorded by the University of Hawai'i Center for Oral History in 2006. 
  2. ^ Star-Advertiser Staff (18 January 2011). "Hawaiian Colonists Chronicled". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "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]

  • "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 Panala`au 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. 

External links[edit]