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It is an interesting fact that the area of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, if superimposed on the United States in true north-south position so as to touch the Canadian boundary a short distance west of the Lake of the Woods, would reach the Atlantic Ocean near the line between Georgia and South Carolina, cross the Mexican boundary in southwestern New Mexico, and touch the Pacific Ocean in southern California. (See fig. 4.)
The Hawaiian Government in 1851 seriously considered the transfer of sovereignty of the Hawaiian Islands to the United States, but the plan was for the time being laid aside. Annexation to the United States was authorized by the Hawaiian Constitution of 1852, “if indispensable to free it from insults and oppression of any foreign powers.” Annexation was again under consideration in 1854, and a draft of a treaty was prepared whereby the islands would be ceded to the United States, but the sudden illness and death on December 15, 1854, of King Kamehameha III, who had favored the treaty, put an end to the negotiations.16
The Republic of Hawaii was formally annexed to the United States by the voluntary action of its citizens and a joint resolution of Congress approved July 7, 1898. The transfer of sovereignty took
16 The facts above stated are taken from an address presented by Prof. W. D. Alexander before the Hawaiian Historical Society on July 2, 1897 (Hawaiian Hist. Soc. Papers No. 9).
place August 12, 1898. The area was constituted a Territory by act of April 30, 1900, effective June 14, 1900.16
The Hawaiian Islands and adjacent islets are scattered over a considerable area which extends nearly 2,000 miles in a general northwest-southeast direction and has a width of about 150 miles. (See fig. 3.) The eight inhabited islands, which lie between latitude 19° 00' and 22° 15' N., longitude 155° 00' and 162° 00' W., have a total area of 6,406 square miles and a total coast line of 957 miles, as follows:
Hawaii, greatest length 89 miles, greatest width 72 miles, area 4,016 square miles; the highest point is Mauna Kea, 13,784 feet above
Maui, about 48 miles long and 26 miles wide, area 728 square miles; highest point 10,032 feet above sea level.
Oahu, about 43 miles long and 30 miles wide, area 598 square miles; highest point slightly over 4,000 feet.
Kauai, nearly circular, about 26 miles in diameter, area 547 square miles; highest point about 5,200 feet.
Molokai, about 38 miles long and 9 miles wide, area 261 square miles; highest point 4,970 feet.
Lanai, about 18 miles long and 12 miles wide, area 139 square miles; highest point 3,400 feet.
Niihau, about 18 miles long and 3 to 6 miles wide, area 73 square miles; highest point 1,280 feet.
Kahoolawe, about 11 miles long and 6 miles wide, area 44 square miles; highest point 1,430 feet.
The larger islands outside the main group are as follows:
Nihoa or Bird Island, latitude 23° 06' N., longitude 161° 58' W., about three-quarters of a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, area 155 acres; highest point 903 feet.
Gardner Island, latitude 25° 01' N., longitude 167° 59' W., an inaccessible rock 170 feet high and about 600 feet in diameter.
Laysan Island, latitude 25° 42' N., longitude 171° 44' W., 194 miles long, 1 mile wide; 55 feet in extreme height.
Lisiansky Island, latitude 26° 00' N., longitude 173° 50' W., about 1 mile long, half a mile wide, and 44 feet high.
The Midway Islands, sometimes called Brooks Islands, two small coral islands in latitude 28° 13' N., longitude 177° 22' W., about 1,200 miles a little north of west from Honolulu, were discovered by Captain Brooks, an American shipmaster on a Hawaiian vessel, in 1859. Possession was taken on behalf of the United States on September 30, 1867, by Capt. William Reynolds, of the U. S. S. Lackawanna,
16 31 Stat. L. 141. For a summary of legislative acts relating to this transfer see Moore, J. B., A digest of international law : 56th Cong., 2d sess., H. Doc. 551, vol. 1, pp. 475–520, 1906.
who stated that the larger island was the first island ever added to the domain of the United States beyond our own [American] shores.” 17 The larger island is 134 miles long and rises 43 feet above sea level. On this island there is a cable station and lighthouse. The total area of the two islands is about 114 square miles.
Ocean (also called Cure or Kuré) Island, latitude 28° 25' N., longitude 178° 25' W., an atoll about 15 miles in circumference.
Kaula, a barren, rocky crescent-shaped island about 20 miles southwest of Niihau; about one-sixth of a square mile in area, highest point 550 feet; set aside by the Territorial Governor in December, 1924, as a site for a lighthouse.18
Two islands at some distance southwest of the main group are under the jurisdiction of Hawaii; these are
Johnstons Island, also called Cornwallis Island, latitude 16° 45' N., longitude 169° 30' W., a grass-covered lagoon island half a mile in length.
Palmyra Island, latitude 5° 52' N., longitude 162° 06' W., known also as Samarang Island, was annexed to Hawaii in 1862. It is an atoll occupying an area about 6 miles long and 112 miles wide and consists of more than 50 small coral islets ranging from less than half an acre to 46 acres in size, covered with brush and cocoanut trees.
l'ORTO RICO, GUAM, AND THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS The next important accession of territory made by the United States consists of the islands ceded by Spain by the treaty of peace concluded December 10, 1898.21 Article II of that treaty is as follows:
Spain cedes to the United States the island of Porto Rico and other islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies, and the island of Guam in the Marianas or Ladrones.
Porto Rico.--Porto Rico has an area of 3,349 square miles, an extreme length of 109 miles, a width of 39 miles, and a greatest height of 3,532 feet. The largest of the other West Indian islands referred to is Vieques; others are Culebra, Mona, and Desecheo. The total
17 40th Cong., 3d sess., S. Rept. 194, p. 12, 1869. This report contains an extended description of the islands.
18 For reference to other islands belonging to this group see Coast pilot notes on Hawaiian Islands: U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Serial 227, 1923. See also 55th Cong., 3d sess., S. Doc. 16, 1898; 52d Cong., 2d sess., S. Ex. Doc. 76, 1893; Moore, J. B., op. cit., vol. 1, p. 555.
19 Pacific islands pilot: V. S. Hydrographic Office Pub. 166, vol. 2, p. 444, 1916. Rock, J. F., Palmyra Island, with a description of its flora, Honolulu, 1916.
20 For information on the insular possessions of the United States see Noncontiguous territory; Supreme Court decisions and official opinions by the Attorney General : 59th Cong., 2d sess., S. Doc. 204, 1907 ; 61st Cong., 1st sess., S. Doc. 47, 1909; 62d Cong., 2d sess., S. Doc. 306, 1912; 63d Cong., 1st sess., S. Doc. 173, 1914, etc.
2 Malloy, W. M., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 1691,
area of the smaller islands is 86 square miles. These islands, including Porto Rico, all lie in the area between latitude 17° 42' and 18° 31' N. and longitude 65° 20' and 67° 55' W. Possession was taken by the United States October 18, 1898.
Guam.22_The island of Guam is at latitude 13° 30' N., longitude 144° 45' E. Its greatest length is 30 miles, width 4 to 8 miles, area 206 square miles (as scaled from United States Coast and Geodetic Survey chart 4202), highest point 1,334 feet.
Philippine Islands.—The main group of the Philippine Islands comprises the islands lying within the following limits, as defined in Article III of the treaty:23
A line running from west to east along or near the twentieth parallel of north latitude, and through the middle of the navigable channel of Bachi, from the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) to the one hundred and twentyseventh (127th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich; thence along the one hundred and twenty-seventh (127th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich to the parallel of four degrees and forty-five minutes (4° 45') north latitude; thence along the parallel of four degrees and forty-five minutes (4° 45') north latitude to its intersection with the meridian of longitude one hundred and nineteen degrees and thirty-five minutes (119° 35') east of Greenwich; thence along the meridian of longitude one hundred and nineteen degrees and thirty-five minutes (119° 35') east of Greenwich to the parallel of latitude seven degrees and forty minutes (7° 40') north; thence along the parallel of latitude seven degrees and forty minutes (7° 40') north to its intersection with the one hundred and sixteenth (116th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich; thence by a direct line of the intersection of the tenth (10th) degree parallel of north latitude with the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich; and thence along the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich to the point of beginning.
For these islands the sum of $20,000,000 was paid by the United States to Spain.
The limits prescribed by this treaty did not include several islands south of the main Philippine group that in 1898 also belonged to Spain. This omission was corrected by treaty concluded November 7, 1900, which, in part, reads as follows: 24
Spain relinquishes to the United States all title and claim of title, which she may have had at the time of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace of Paris, to any and all islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago, lying outside the lines described in Article III of that Treaty and particularly to the islands of Cagayan Sulú and Sibutú and their dependencies, and agrees that all such islands shall be comprehended in the cession of the Archipelago as fully as if they had been expressly included within those lines.
For these islands the United States paid Spain $100,000.
22 Searles, P. J., Guam, An outpost of the Pacific: Military Engineer, Washington, November-December, 1927, pp. 476–484.
28 Malloy, W. M., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 1691.
The treaties with Spain of 1898 and 1900 did not definitely fix the southern boundary of the Philippine Islands. Certain small islands locally known as the Turtle and Mangsee Islands, near the northeast coast of Borneo, owned by Spain, at that time were under the administrative control of the British North Borneo Co.
In a convention between the United States and Great Britain concluded January 2, 1930, a boundary line was agreed on which should include as part of the Philippine Archipelago belonging to the United States all islands to the north and east of lines between certain points for which latitudes and longitudes were given, as scaled from Coast and Geodetic Survey charts Nos. 4707 and 4720. It was agreed that if from later surveys it should appear that the charts are in error, the line should pass between Little Bakkungaan and Great Bakkungaan Islands and between the Mangsee Islands and the Mangsee Great Reef. It was agreed that the British North Borneo Co. should continue its administrative control over the Turtle and Mangsee Islands during the pleasure of the United States.
There are seven islands in the Turtle Islands group, of which Taganak (about a mile in length and 554 feet in maximum height) is the largest. There is a lighthouse on Taganak Island. The Mangsee Islands are all small.
There are said to be more than 7,000 islands in the Philippine Archipelago having areas of one-tenth of a square mile or more. Only 31 of the islands have areas greater than 100 square miles. Luzon, the largest, has an area of about 40,969 square miles, and its coast line exceeds 2,200 miles. The highest peak in the entire group is Mount Apo, on the island of Mindanao, 9,610 feet in height.25
The estimated area of the Philippine Islands is 114,400 square miles.
Las Palmas, an inhabited island about 50 miles southeast of Mindanao, having an area of less than a square mile, although well within the limits of the Philippines as fixed by the treaty of 1898, was claimed by the Netherlands. The question of sovereignty was referred to an arbitrator, whose award, dated April 4, 1928, was that “ The island of Palmas (or Miangas) forms in its entirety a part of Netherlands territory."
For several years the United States, Great Britain, and Germany exercised a joint protectorate over the Samoa Islands.27 For various reasons it was deemed best to bring this situation to an end.
* For a brief history of the Philippines and description of the principal islands see U. S. Coast Pilot, Philippine Islands, 2 vols., U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1919, 1921.
2 For reference to legislative action leading up to the acquisition of the Samoa group see Moore, J. B., op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 536–554; Malloy, W. M., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 1595.
27 Thorpe, F. N., The Federal and State Constitutions, 59th. Cong., 2d sess., H. Doc. 357, vol. 6, p. 3675, 1909.