Palmyra Atoll is an incorporated atoll administered by the United States government. The atoll is 4.6 square miles (12 km), and it is located in the Northern Pacific Ocean at 553’N, 1625’W. Geographically, Palmyra is one of the Northern Line Islands (southeast of Kingman Reef and north of Kiribati Line Islands), located almost due south of the Hawaiian Islands, roughly halfway between Hawaii and American Samoa. Its 9 miles (14.5 km) of coastline has one anchorage known as West Lagoon. It consists of an extensive reef, two shallow lagoons, and some 50 sand and reef-rock islets and bars covered with vegetationmostly coconut trees, Scaevola, and tall Pisonia trees.
The islets of the atoll are all connected, except Sand Island in the West and Barren Island in the East. The largest island is Cooper Island in the North, followed by Kaula Island in the South. The northern arch of islets is formed by Strawn Island, Cooper Island, Aviation Island, Quail Island, Whippoorwill Island, followed in the East by Eastern Island, Papala Island, and Pelican Island, and in the South by Bird Island, Holei Island, Engineer Island, Tananger Island, Marine Island, Kaula Island, Paradise Island and Home Island (clockwise). Average annual rainfall is approximately 175 inches (4,445 mm) per year. Daytime temperatures average 85F (29C) year round.
Palmyra was first sighted in 1798 by an American sea captain, Edmund Fanning of Stonington, Connecticut, while his ship the Betsy was in transit to Asia, but it was only lateron November 7, 1802that the first western people landed on the uninhabited atoll. On that date, Captain Sawle of the U.S. ship Palmyra was wrecked on the atoll.