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England withdrew, and the islands were divided between Germany and the United States, the latter taking all the islands of the group lying east of longitude 171° west of Greenwich. This adjustment was reached by a convention between the United States, Germany, and Great Britain, concluded December 2, 1899, and proclaimed February 16, 1900.28

The natives of Samoa had no part in this convention, but certain chiefs of islands in 1900 and 1904 made cessions to the United States which were accepted by the President but not ratified by the Senate. A bill to remedy this apparent oversight was introduced in the Senate April 5, 1926, but did not become a law until February 20, 1929.29

Tutuila Island, the largest of the Samoan group belonging to the United States, has a length of 20 miles and a breadth of about 6 miles. Its extreme height is 2,141 feet, and its area (scaled from hydrographic chart 2924) is 52 square miles.

Anuu Island, about a mile from the east end of Tutuila, has a length of 1 mile, a height of 275 feet, and an area of half a square mile.

About 60 miles to the east are the three Manua Islands, the largest of which is Tau, 61,2 miles in length, 3,056 feet in extreme height, and 17 square miles in area. Olosega Island is 212 miles in length and 2,095 feet in height and covers an area of 2 square miles. Ofu Island is about 3 miles long; its highest point is 1,587 feet, and its area 3

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square miles.

Rose Island is the name given an atoll about 3 miles in diameter, partly under water at high tide, 80 miles southeast of any of the other islands of the Samoan group. Sand Islet, the smaller of the two islets of the atoll, is about an acre in extent and its highest part 5 feet above high tide. Rose Islet has an area of about 8 acres, and its highest part is 11 feet above high water. It is covered in part with a dense grove of Pisonia trees but is without fresh water and is uninhabited. This islet has the distinction of being the southernmost land under the control of the United States.29a (See pl. 8.) Its geographic position is in latitude 14° 32' S., longitude 168° 11' W.

American Samoa lies between latitude 14° and 15° S. and longitude 168o and 171° W. The estimated area is 75 square miles.

The joint resolution of March 4, 1925, placed Swains Island (p. 55) under the administrative control of American Samoa.


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Wake Island is an uninhabited atoll in latitude 19° 17' N., longitude 166° 35' E. Although it is usually referred to as a single island, there are three islands, separated by narrow and shallow channels. The largest is Wake Island, having an area of about 2 square miles; its highest point is 21 feet above sea level. The smaller islands, Wilkes and Peale, have a combined area of about three-quarters of a square mile and are 18 and 21 feet respectively above sea level. Formal possession on behalf of the United States was taken January 17, 1899,30 by the commander of the U. S. S. Bennington.31

28 Thorpe, F. N., op. cit., vol. 6, p. 3685.

20 70th Cong., 2d sess., Pub. Res. 89. See Cong. Record, Apr. 10, 1926, pp. 1952–1954, for historical description of this accession.

20a It is now (1930) believed by many that the United States has valid claims to land in the Antarctic regions.

27 Thorpe, F. N., The Federal and State Constitutions, 59th Cong., 2d sess., H. Doc. 357, vol. 6, p. 3675, 1909.


In order to insure the construction of a ship canal across the Isthmus of Panama, a strip of land 10 miles in width was ceded to the United States by the Republic of Panama by a convention concluded November 18, 1903.52 This area (see fig. 5) is described in Article

II as

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zone of land and land under water for the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation, and protection of said canal of the width of ten miles extending to the distance of five miles on each side of the center line of the route of the canal to be constructed; the said zone beginning in the Caribbean Sea three marine miles from mean low water mark and extending to and across the Isthmus of Panama into the Pacific Ocean to a distance of three marine miles from mean low water mark with the proviso that the cities of Panama and Colon and the harbors adjacent to said cities, which are included within the boundaries of the zone above described, shall not be included within this grant. The Republic of Panama further grants to the United States in perpetuity the use, occupation, and control of any other lands and waters outside of the zone above described which may be necessary and convenient for the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation, and protection of the said canal or of any auxiliary canals or other works necessary and convenient for the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation, and protection of the said enterprise.

The Republic of Panama further grants in like manner to the United States in perpetuity all islands within the limits of the zone above described and in addition thereto the group of small islands in the Bay of Panama, named Perico, Naos, Culebra, and Flamenco.

By Article XIV of the convention the United States agreed to pay to the Republic of Panama $10,000,000; also to make annual payments of $250,000 beginning nine years after the convention was ratified. Possession was taken of this tract on June 15, 1904; the boundaries of the 10-mile strip have been surveyed and have been marked at average intervals of half a mile by iron posts bearing

brass caps.

Under the clause in Article II that permitted the United States to take control of “ other lands and waters outside of the zone

30 Letter from U. S. Hydrographic Office, Dec. 21, 1925.

See Moore, J. B., op. cit., vol. 1, p. 555 ; Pacific Islands Pilot, vol. 1, p. 527, U. S. Hydrographic Office, 1916.

* Malloy, W. M., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 1349.

the United States from time to time has taken possession of areas outside of the 10-mile belt, which are officially designated “auxiliary areas.' The largest of these is a part of Gatun Lake, with its islands and its shores, up to an altitude of 100 feet above mean sea level.

A second convention was concluded September 2, 1914, which recognized the transfer of the Gatun Lake area to the United States

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and by Article III receded to the Republic of Panama an area of about 61/2 square miles adjoining the city of Panama on the northeast.38 This convention also defined the Canal Zone boundary around the city of Colon and the harbors of Colon and of Panama.

By Executive order of June 5, 1924, the United States took possession of a part of the upper Chagres River Basin, comprising an area of 22 square miles known as the Alhajuela Basin.

38 Malloy, W. M., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 15.

The estimated area of the Canal Zone (1929), including Gatun Lake to the 100-foot contour outside the original 10-mile zone, is 553.8 square miles—170.2 square miles of water and 383.6 square miles of land. The United States exercises jurisdiction over all other areas taken over for canal or military uses. These comprise small tracts in different parts of the Republic of Panama.34 In order to remove all misunderstandings ” regarding the acquisi«

" tion by the United States from the Republic of Panama of the Canal Zone, which had until November 3, 1903, been under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Colombia, the United States by treaty signed April 6, 1914, ratified in 1921, and proclaimed March 30, 1922,35 agreed to pay Colombia $25,000,000.



By a convention concluded August 4, 1916,86 Denmark ceded to the United States all territory, dominion, and sovereignty possessed, asserted, or claimed by Denmark in the West Indies, including the islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John, and Saint Croix, together with the adjacent islands and rocks.

The purchase price was $25,000,000, or nearly $300 an acre.37 By act of Congress, approved March 3, 1917,88 this cession was to become effective after the President had announced that the amount agreed upon had been paid to Denmark. The proclamation was dated March 31, 1917.89

In several acts of Congress the former Danish West Indies are referred to as the Virgin Islands, but when possession was taken of them March 31, 1917, the name given by proclamation was “ Virgin Islands of the United States of America,” to distinguish them from the Virgin Islands belonging to Great Britain. Since June, 1917, the United States Navy Department has used the abbreviated form

Virgin Islands of the United States,” 40 and that name has been adopted by the Post Office and other departments.

St. Croix, the largest island included in this cession, is 23 miles long and 6 miles in extreme width; the highest point is 1,165 feet above sea level; the area 81.93 square miles.

. St. Thomas, 12 miles long, 1 to 3 miles wide; highest point, Crown Mountain, 1,550 feet; area, 27.12 square miles.

St. John, 9 miles long, 5 miles wide; highest point, 1,277 feet; area, 19.2 square miles.

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84 Letter from the governor of the Zone, Mar. 31, 1921.
85 42 Stat. L. 2123.
26 39 Stat. L. 1706.

87 For an outline of the negotiations that led up to this purchase see 64th Cong., 2d SEBS., H. Rept. 1505, 1917.

88 39 Stat. L. 1132.
*40 Stat. L., pt. 2, p. 1649.
40 Letter from Director of Naval Intelligence Office, December 9, 1922.

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Besides these, there are nearly a hundred small islands, none as great as a square mile in extent, but having a combined area of about 5 square miles, which makes the total area of the cession 133 square miles. *1



An act of Congress approved August 18, 1856, contains the following provisions:

SECTION 5570. Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same, such island, rock, or key may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States.

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SECTION 5578. Nothing in this title contained shall be construed as obliging the United States to retain possession of the islands, rocks, or keys, after the guano shall have been removed from the same.

Before 1880 bonds were filed for about 70 islands under this act,42 but erroneous names and geographic positions were given for many of them; for some single islands several names and positions had been given. Some of the most important areas listed as guano islands are as follows:

Navassa Island, latitude 18° 24' N., longitude 75° 01' W., of volcanic origin, about 2 miles long and 1 mile wide, rising from 100 to 250 feet above the sea. A lighthouse with four attendants is on this island.

Quita Sueño Bank, latitude 14° 28' N., longitude 81° 07' W., extends for about 20 miles north and south and has patches of dry land at intervals. It was declared by presidential proclamation of February 25, 1919, to be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the

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41 U. 8. Coast and Geodetic Survey Pub. 103 (A geographic dictionary of the Virgin Islands of the United States, Washington, 1925), gives a historical sketch of the group, also name, area, and height of each island and cay. There is an excellent historical sketch of the islands in the report of the governor for 1928. Either of these publications may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., for 25 cents.

4 Lists of these islands appear in a Treasury Department circular dated Feb. 12, 1869 ; in Moore, J. B., Digest of international law, vol. 1, pp. 556–580, 1906 ; in Magoon, C. E., Report on the legal status of the territory and inhabitants of the islands acquired by the United States

considered with reference to territorial boundaries, pp. 14-17, 1900; also on General Land Office maps of the United States. Brief descriptions of the Pacific islands are given in Brigham, W. T., Index to the islands of the Pacific Ocean, Honolulu, 1900; in Pacific islands pilot: U. S. Hydrographic Office Pub. 166, 2, 1916; and in Reported dangers to navigators in the Pacific Ocean : U. S. Hydrographic Office Pubs. 41, 1871, 41a, 1879, and 41b, 1880. Stewart's Handbook of the Pacific islands, edited by Percy S. Allen (McCarron Stewart & Co. (Ltd.), 22–26 Goulburn Street, Sydney, N. S. W., Australia, 1920), besides excellent descriptions of all the principal islands, contains a bibliography. For reference to sovereignty and descriptions of other Pacific Islands, see Statesman's Year Book, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London, 1929 (indexed under heading “ Pacific Islands ”). The islands in the West Indies are described in Central America and Mexico pilots : U. S. Hydrographic Office Pub. 130, 1918, and West Indies pilot: U. S. Hydrographic Ofice Pub. 128, 1922.

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