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Baker Island (U.S. Minor Outlying Islands)

Last modified: 2002-11-09 by sam lockton
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by Zeljko Heimer

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From the CIA World Factbook:

Baker Island - 1.4 sq. km., uninhabited; treeless, sparse, and scattered vegetation consisting of grasses, prostrate vines, and low growing shrubs; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife.  American civilians evacuated in 1942 after Japanese air and naval attacks during World War II; occupied by US military during World War II, but abandoned after the war; public entry is by special-use permit only and generally restricted to scientists and educators; a cemetery and cemetery ruins are located near the middle of the west coast. Unincorporated territory of the US, administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the US Department of the Interior as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Jarig Bakker, 29 January 2000

And from Pacific Magazine (January/February 2000):

Baker island was reportedly first sighted in 1825 by Captain Starbuck in the ship Lopez, named New Nantucket (and also as Phoebe).  It was in 1832 that a Captain Baker, after whom the island is now named, also came to the island aboard the whaler Gideon Howard.  In 1855, guano from the island was tested, and in 1856 the United States passed the Guano Act, which allowed the United States to claim islands occupied by Americans (and some unoccupied islands were also claimed).  The guano on Baker was used not for fertilizer, but rather for the phosphorus on matchsticks (at least during the US excavation years).  From 1858 until 1870, guano was extracted by the American Guano Company and its subsidiary, Phoenix Guano Company.  The workers were carried to the island by schooner from Honolulu.  During this period several tramways were built from the center of the island to the waterfront, as well as a 400 foot wharf later destroyed by gales. Also during this time, two Chinese sailors in a crew of 9 whose junk was blown off-course were rescued at Baker Island.  From 1886 to 1891,  J. T. Arundel, a mining and copra plantation operation, ran the diggings at Baker Island, bringing in 100 workers from Niue and the Cook Islands.  In 1934, the US rights were reaffirmed by the visit of the USS Astoria to Baker Island.  In 1935, Pan American Airways explored the Pacific Islands for possible refueling and stopover points for their Pacific service (which was a seaplane-based service).  The expedition was aboard the Kinkajou and led by Francis Coman (who was with Admiral Byrd in Antartica at one time).  Baker was deemed inappropriate for a stopover.  In 1935, the U.S. attempted to colonize Baker Island with four Hawaiian natives, who built a small community named "Meyerton."  They were evacuated in 1942 due to the posibility of Japanese invasion.  From September 1943 to May 1944, the island was used as a support area for the American war effort, where 120 officers and 1,200 enlisted personnel built an airstrip.  Remaining from that time is the overgrown airstrip and a building which housed Army Post Office 457.  After the war, a LORAN station was briefly on the island.  Today, the island is a wildlife refuge and there is an unmanned navigational beacon on the island.  The island receives only about 25 inches of rain per year.  The watertable has been polluted from the wind leaching the guano into the water sources.

Phil Nelson, 29 January 2000

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