Kingman Reef Largely Submerged US Outlying Island

Kingman Reef is a largely submerged, uninhabited tropical atoll located in the North Pacific Ocean, roughly half way between Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa at 6°24’N 162°24’WCoordinates: 6°24’N 162°24’W. It is the northernmost of the Northern Line Islands and lies 65 km NNW of Palmyra Atoll, the next closest island, and has the status of an unincorporated territory of the United States, administered from Washington, DC by the U.S. Navy. The atoll is closed to the public. The total area within the rim of the reef, which has greater depths in the western part, is 60 km². There is just one small strip of dry land on the eastern rim, with an area of less than 0.01 km².

The pre-20th century names Caldew Reef, Maria Shoal and Crane Shoal refer to this atoll, which by then was still entirely submerged at high tide.

Kingman Reef was found in 1789 by the American Captain Edmund Fanning of the ship Betsey. Captain W.E. Kingman described it in 1853. It was claimed for the United States under the name Danger under the Guano Islands Act of 1856[1]. It was formally annexed to the United States on May 10, 1922 when Lorrin A. Thurston read this declaration on shore, Be it known to all people: That on the tenth of May, A.D. 1922, the undersigned agent of the Island of Palmyra Copra Co., Ltd., landed from the motorship Palmyra doth, on this tenth day of May, A.D. 1922, take formal possession of this island, called Kingman Reef, situated in longitude 162 degrees 18′ west and 6 degrees 23′ north, on behalf of the United States of America and claim the same for said company.

Kingman Reef is about 920 nautical miles (1,700 km) south of Honolulu. At times, its shoreline might reach three kilometers in circumference, but the highest point on the reef is about one meter above sea level and wetted or awash most of the time, making Kingman Reef a maritime hazard. It has no natural resources, is uninhabited, and supports no economic activity. The reef partly encloses a lagoon up to 73 meters deep that was used in 1937 and 1938 as a halfway station between Hawai’i and American Samoa by Pan American Airways flying boats. In 1937, Pan Am had plans to anchor the ship North Wind as a floating tanker at Kingman and use the reef as a stopover for its flying boats on the route to New Zealand. It served as the base for the ‘Sikorsky Clipper’ and the ‘Samoan Clipper’, captained by Edwin C. Musick, who made 5 successful landings in the lagoon in 1937 and 1938. The idea was abandoned as Pan Am found that the costs of supporting a mostly idle tanker ship prohibitive. There were also concerns that comfortable overnight accommodations would not be available in the event of a mechanical breakdown. As a result, Pan Am switched to Canton Island on May 18, 1939 and began service to New Zealand on July 12, 1940.

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