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US Minor Outlying Islands - Kingman Reef

Hidden : 4/18/2010
Difficulty:
2 out of 5
Terrain:
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: micro (micro)

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Geocache Description:


The United States Minor Outlying Islands consist of nine United States insular areas in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea: Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island. The Caribbean territories of Bajo Nuevo Bank and Serranilla Bank can also be included as per U.S. sources.

Kingman Reef is a largely submerged, uninhabited triangular shaped reef with its apex in the north, located in the North Pacific Ocean, roughly half way between the Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa at 6° 24' N, 162° 24' W. It is the northernmost of the Northern Line Islands and lies 65 kilometers (40 mi) north-north-west of the next closest island (Palmyra Atoll), and about 920 nautical miles (1,700 km) south of Honolulu.

The reef partly encloses a lagoon 73 meters deep, with the greater depths in the western part. At times, its shoreline might reach three kilometers in circumference; the total area within the outer rim of the reef is 76 km². There is just one small strip of dry land on the eastern rim, with an area of less than 10m²/30 ft². The highest point on the reef is about 1 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.

Kingman Reef has the status of an unincorporated U.S. possession of the United States, administered from Washington, DC by the U.S. Department of Interior. The atoll is closed to the public. For statistical purposes, Kingman Reef is grouped as part of the United States Minor Outlying Islands. In January 2009, Kingman Reef was designated a marine national monument.

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

Kingman Reef was discovered by the American Captain Edmund Fanning of the ship Betsey in 1798. Captain W. E. Kingman (whose namesake the island bears) described it in 1853. It was claimed for the United States under the name "Danger Reef" under the Guano Islands Act of 1856.

Lorrin A. Thurston formally annexed Kingman to the United States on May 10, 1922 when reading 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."

The lagoon was used in 1937 and 1938 as a halfway station between Hawai'i and American Samoa by Pan American Airways flying boats (Boeing 314). Pan Am wanted to expand flights into the Pacific and include Australia and New Zealand to their “Clipper” air routes. In 1935 it was decided that the lagoon at Kingman Reef was suitable for overnight stops en route from the U.S to New Zealand via Samoa. Kingman Reef became the stopover to and from Pago Pago American Samoa, located 1,600 miles further south. A supply ship, the North Wind, was stationed at Kingman Reef to provide fuel, lodging, and meals. The S42B Pan American Clipper ii, piloted by Captain Edwin Musick, landed at Kingman on its first flight on March 23 1937. Several successful flights followed, however the flight on January 11, 1938 ended in tragedy. Shortly after the early morning take off from Pago Pago, bound for New Zealand the Clipper exploded. The right outboard engine developed an oil leak and the plane burst into flames while dumping fuel, and there were no survivors. As a result of the tragedy, Pan American ended flights to New Zealand via Kingman Reef and Pago Pago. A new route was established in July of 1940 by way of Canton Island and New Caledonia.

In 1941 The US navy assumed jurisdiction over Kingman Reef. In 2000 the Navy relinquished its control over Kingman Reef to the US department of the Interior and on January 18, 2001 the Secretary of the Interior signed Secretary’s Order 3223 establishing Kingman Reef as a National Wildlife Refuge including 483,702 acres. The National Wildlife Refuge is composed of all the emergent sand spit and all waters out to 12 nautical miles. In January 2009, Kingman Reef was designated a marine national monument.

Since the early 1940s Kingman Reef has had very little human contact, though amateur radio operators from around the world have occasionally visited the reef to put it "on the air" in what is known as a DX-pedition. In 1974, a group of amateurs using the callsign KP6KR sailed to the reef and set up a temporary radio station and antenna tower. Other groups visited the island in subsequent years, including 1977, 1980, 1981, 1988 and 1993.

Most recently, a group of 15 amateur radio operators from the Palmyra DX Group visited the reef in October 2000. Using the FCC-issued special event callsign K5K, the group made more than 80,000 individual contacts with amateurs around the world over a period of 10 days.

Kingman Reef supports a vast variety of marine life below its surface. Giant Clams are abundant in the shallows, and there are approximately 38 genera and 130 species of stony corals present on the reef. This is more than three times the species diversity of corals found in the Main Hawaiian Islands. The ecosystem of the reef and its subsequent food chain are known for their distinct quality of being primarily predator-based. The percentage of the total fish biomass on the reef is made up of 85% apex predators, creating a high level of competition for food and nutrients among local organisms — particularly sharks, jacks and other carnivores. The threatened green sea turtles that frequent nearby Palmyra atoll travel to Kingman Reef to forage and bask on the sand spit at low tide.

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