Johnston Atoll

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Johnston Atoll is a 2.8 km² atoll in the North Pacific Ocean at 16°45′ N 169°30′ W, about one-third of the way from Hawai'i to the Marshall Islands. Johnston Island and Sand Island are natural islands, which have been expanded by coral dredging. North Island (Akau) and East Island (Hikina) are artificial islands formed from coral dredging.

Johnston Atoll - NASA NLT Landsat 7 (Visible Color) Satellite Image
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Johnston Atoll - NASA NLT Landsat 7 (Visible Color) Satellite Image

Johnston is an unincorporated territory of the United States, administered from Washington, D.C. by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States Department of the Interior as part of the National Wildlife Refuge system. The defense of Johnston Atoll is managed by the military of the United States. The islands are not open to the public.

The climate is tropical but generally dry. Consistent northeast trade winds have little seasonal temperature variation. With elevation ranging from sea level to 5 m at Summit Peak, the islands contain some low-growing vegetation on mostly flat terrain and no natural fresh water resources.

History

The island was named for Captain James Johnston who claimed its official discovery on December 10, 1807. The Johnston Atoll was claimed by both the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1858. The Atoll's guano deposits, mined by U.S. interests operating under the Guano Islands Act, were worked until depletion at about 1890. On July 29, 1926, President Calvin Coolidge established the Johnston Atoll as a Federal bird refuge and placed it under the control of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On December 29, 1934 President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred control of Johnston Atoll to the U.S. Navy to establish an air station and also to the Department of the Interior to administer the bird refuge. In 1936, the U.S. Navy began developing a seaplane base, an airstrip and refueling facilities on the atoll. It was designated as a Naval Defensive Sea Area and Airspace Reservation on February 14, 1941.

Johnston Atoll was shelled by Japan in World War II. The area was subsequently a U.S. nuclear weapons test site and later the site of the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS).

Between 1958 and 1975 several sounding rockets were launched from Johnston Island. There were also rockets launched for nuclear tests related to a project called Starfish Prime. The launchpad was at 16.7370° N 169.5240° W.

Johnston Atoll

The atoll has no indigenous inhabitants, although during the latter twentieth century there was an average of 1,100 U.S. military and civilian contractor personnel present at any given time. The central means of transport to the island was the airport which had a paved, military runway. The islands were wired with 13 outgoing and 10 incoming commercial telephone lines, a 60-channel submarine cable, 22 DSN circuits by satellite, an Autodin with standard remote terminal, a digital telephone switch, the Military Affiliated Radio System (MARS station), a UHF/VHF air-ground radio, and a link to the Pacific Consolidated Telecommunications Network (PCTN) satellite.

The atoll's economic activity was limited to providing services to U.S. military personnel and contractors located on the island. All food and manufactured goods were imported. The base had six 25 MW generators supplied by the base's support contractor. The runway facility was also available to commercial airlines for emergency landings (a fairly common event).

By the end of 2003 the U.S. government transfered jurisdiction of the atoll to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Most structures and living facilities (along with those used in the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Destruction System (JACADS) were removed and the runway was visually marked as closed.

See also: Guano Islands Act

External links


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