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WAKE, MIDWAY, AND JOHNSTON ISLANDS
Wake Island is an atoll about 2,000 miles west of Honolulu. Its position is lat 19°17' N., long 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, whose area is about 2 square miles; its highest point is 21 feet above sea level. The smaller islands are Wilkes and Peale. Formal possession was taken on behalf of the United States by the Commander of the U.S.S. Bennington on January 17, 1899. (Moore, 1906, p. 555.) It was captured by the Japanese in the early part of World War II. U.S. personnel at the time consisted of a detachment of Marines and a construction crew.
Wake Island has no indigenous population. It is administered by the Department of the Air Force.
The Midway Islands, two small coral islands in lat 28°13' N., long 177°22' W., about 1,200 miles a little north of west from Honolulu, were discovered by Captain Brooks, an American shipmaster on an 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, who stated that the larger island was "the first island ever added to the domain of the United States beyond our own (American] shores." 51 The larger island is 194 miles long and rises 43 feet above sea level. This island has an airfield, a cable station, and a lighthouse. The total area of the two islands is about 2 square miles. The Midway Islands have been considered part of the Hawaiian Islands, but they are not included in the State of Hawaii.
The Midway Islands are chiefly identified with the Battle of Midway, one of the decisive naval engagements of World War II.
Johnston Atoll, lat 16°45' N., long 169°30' W., is a grass-covered lagoon island half a mile in length; its area is 185 acres. Nearby Sand Island, 134 acres, is uninhabited. These two and several other islands compose Johnston Atoll.
a 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 addiion thereto the group of small islands in the Bay of Panama, named Perico, Naos, Culebra, and Flamenco.
Article III of the convention provides: "The Republic of Panama grants to the United States all the rights, power, and authority within the zone which the United States would possess and exercise if it were sovereign of the Territory within which said lands and waters are located to the entire exclusion of the exercise by the Republic of Panama of any such sovereign rights, powers, or authority.” The United States recognizes that titular sovereignty over the Canal Zone remains in the Government of Panama.
By Article XIV of the convention the United States agreed to pay to the Republic of Panama $10 million and to make annual payments of $250,000 beginning 9 years after the convention was ratified. By the treaty of 1955, annual payments were increased to 1,930,000 Balboas. The devaluation of the dollar in 1972 resulted in an increase in the dollar value of the payments to $2,095,401. The 1973 devaluation brought the annual payments to $2,328,200 as of February 1974 (U.S. Congress, 1973).
Possession was taken of this tract on June 15, 1904; the boundaries of the 10-mile strip have been surveyed
51 U.S. 40th Cong., 1869, 3d sess., S. Rept. 194, p. 12. This report contains an extended description of the islands.
ADDITIONS TO THE TERRITORY OF
THE UNITED STATES
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" the United States from time to time has taken possession of areas outside of the 10mile 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 and by Article III receded to the Republic of Panama an area of about 6%2 square miles adjoining the city of Panama on the northeast. (U.S. Cong., 1923, v. 3, p. 2771-2773.)
This convention also defined the Canal Zone boundary around the city of Colon and the harbors of Colon and of Panama. The treaty of 1955 further changed the boundaries around the city of Colon by returning certain small areas to Panama and provided for the return of Paitilla Point, near the city of Panama, to Panamanian sovereignty.
By Executive order of June 5, 1924, the United States took possession of an area known as the Alhajuela Basin, which comprises 22 square miles of the upper Chagres River basin.
The area of the Canal Zone, including Gatun Lake to the 100-foot contour outside the original 10-mile zone, is 647 square miles—275 square miles of water and 372 square miles of land. (Source, Canal Zone Government 1974).
In order "to remove all misunderstandings" regarding the acquisition of the Canal Zone by the United States from the Republic of Panama, 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, agreed to pay Colombia $25 million (42 Stat. L. 2123).
BOUNDARIES OF THE
Before 1880 bonds were filed for about 70 islands under this act, 52 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, lat 18°24' N., long 75°01' W.; of The purchase price was $25 million, or nearly $300
volcanic origin; about 2 miles long and I mile wide; an acre (U.S. Cong., 1917). By act of Congress, approved rises from 100 to 250 feet above the sea. A lighthouse, March 3, 1917, this cession was to become effective which operates automatically, is at the latitude and after the President had announced that the amount longitude given. agreed upon had been paid to Denmark. The proclama
Quita Sueno Bank, lat 14°27.8' N., long 81°07' W., tion was dated March 31, 1917. (39 Stat. L. 1132; 40 Stat.
extends for about 20 miles north and south and has L., pt. 2, p. 1649.)
patches of dry land at intervals. It was declared by In several acts of Congress the former Danish West presidential proclamation of February 25, 1919, to be Indies are referred to as the Virgin Islands, but when under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, possession was taken of them March 31, 1917, the name and "the north or other suitable portion" was reserved given by proclamation was "Virgin Islands of the
for a lighthouse. The lighthouse, which works autoUnited States of America," to distinguish them from the matically, is at the latitude and longitude given. Virgin Islands belonging to Great Britain. Since June
Roncador Cay, lat 13°34.4' N., long 80°05.2' W., rises 1917 the U.S. Navy Department has used the abbre
about 12 feet above the water. It is about a quarter viated form "Virgin Islands of the United States," and
of a mile long and is at the north end of a series of that name has been adopted by the Post Office and
small cays. By presidential proclamation of June 5, other departments.
1919, it was declared to be under the exclusive jurisSt. Croix, the largest island included in this cession,
diction of the United States and was reserved as a is 23 miles long and 6 miles in extreme width; the high
site for a lighthouse. The lighthouse (position above) est point is 1,165 feet above sea level; the area is 81.93 works automatically. square miles.
Serrana Bank, lat 14°17' N., long 80°24' W., comSt. Thomas, 12 miles long, 1 to 3 miles wide; highest prises three low islands, the largest of which, the point, Crown Mountain, 1,550 feet; area, 27.12 square southwest cay, is about half a mile long and has an miles.
extreme height of about 30 feet. This cay was declared St. John, 9 miles long, 5 miles wide; highest point, by presidential proclamation of February 25, 1919, to 1,277 feet; area, 19.2 square miles.
be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States Besides these three, there are nearly a hundred
and was reserved for a lighthouse, which is in the posismall islands, none as great as a square mile in extent,
tion above given. but having a combined area of about 5 square miles, The Colombian Government, prior to 1928, disputed which makes the total area of the cession 133 square the claims of the United States to Serrana and Quita miles.
Sueno Banks and the Roncador Cay, but an agreement dated April 10, 1928, between the Secretary of State
and the Colombian minister in Washington, maintained GUANO ISLANDS
the status quo, the United States using the islands for An act of Congress approved August 18, 1856, con
maintenance of aids to navigation and Colombia hav
ing fishing rights in the adjacent waters. Sovereignty tains the following provisions:
of these islands is a matter under discussion with SECTION 5570. Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers
Columbia at present (1975), and a final decision awaits a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other government, and not occupied by
action by the U.S. Senate. 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
52 Lists of these islands appear in a circular dated Feb. 12, 1869, in
Moore (1906, v. 1, p. 556-580), in Magoon (1900, p. 14–17), and on General to the United States.
Land Office maps of the United States. Brief descriptions of the Pacific islands are given in Brigham (1900) and U.S. Hydrographic Office (1871,
1879, 1880, and 1916). Stewart's Handbook of the Pacific islands (Allen, SECTION 5578. Nothing in this title contained shall be con- 1920), besides excellent descriptions of all the principal islands, contains strued as obliging the United States to retain possession of the
a bibliography. For reference to sovereignty and descriptions of other
Pacific islands, see Statesman's Year Book (1929), indexed under heading islands, rocks, or keys, after the guano shall have been removed
"Pacific Islands"'). The islands in the West Indies are described in reports from the same.
of U.S Hydrographic Office (1949, 1951, and 1952).
A treaty with Honduras, ratified September 1, 1972
41 (23UST2630; TIAS7453), recognized Honduran sovereignty over the Swan Islands. The United States had
INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES
BEYOND ITS BORDERS claimed sovereignty over these islands since 1863. The approximate position of these islands is lat 17°25' N., long 83°55' W.
Swains Island, also called Gente Hermosa and Quiros, lat 11°03' S., long 171°05' W., is about 4 miles 1989, at which time it can be extended if both parties in circumference and 10 to 15 feet high; its area, in- agree. Administration by the United States is under cluding a central lagoon of one-third square mile, is the Department of the Interior, which is represented by 11/3 square miles. It was discovered by Quiros in 1606 the senior Federal Aviation Agency employee at the and named by him La Peregrina, but the position then air station. given for it was so much in error as to lead an Ameri- There are some 25 islands in the Pacific over which can whaling captain named Swain to assume the the United States' claim to sovereignty is disputed by right of discovery upon landing there. It was examined Great Britain or New Zealand. All except the four in in 1840 by the United States exploring expedition under the Ellice group (Funafuti, Nukufetau, Nukulailai, and Wilkes and renamed Swains Island. In 1856 and for Nurakita), Hull in the Phoenix group, and Fakaofu in many years thereafter it was occupied by an American the Union group, appear on the lists of guano islands. family named Jennings, engaged in raising coconuts (For further discussion on guano islands, see HackAn official communication regarding this island from worth, 1940, p. 502.) the British Government, dated January 30, 1918, stated that it was understood "that the island in question is
INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES United States territory."
BEYOND ITS BORDERS A joint resolution of Congress, approved March 4, 1925 (43 Stat. L. 1357), asserted sovereignty of the
ANTARCTICA United States over this island and made it a part of
Interest of the United States in the Antarctic was American Samoa. (See p. 38.)
stimulated in the early 19th century by Yankee sealers, The ownership of some of the guano islands is un
who, about 1820, sighted and went ashore on a land certain. Several of them have been claimed by Great
they believed to be a continent. The existence of this Britain, without formal protest by the United States,
continent was first proved during the years 1839–40 by except that in the case of Christmas Island (lat l°57'
an official Navy expedition under Lt. Charles Wilkes, N., long 157°28' W.) the Secretary of State, in a letter
USN (fig. 12). dated April 30, 1888, said that the United States re
In the last decade of the 19th century, purely mariserved all questions that might grow out of the occu
time exploration was supplemented by expeditions that pation. The United States took possession of Howland, Baker,
landed on the continent and sought to push inland.
This phase of Antarctic activity reached its climax when and Jarvis Islands in the central part of the Pacific
Captain Amundsen of Norway reached the South Ocean under the provisions of the Guano Act. How
Pole December 14, 1911, followed by Captain Scott land and Baker are about 2,000 miles southwest of
of England a few weeks later. Honolulu (lat 0°30' N., long 176°30' W.) and Jarvis is about 1,500 miles south of Honolulu (lat 0°24' S., long
Exploration by the United States in the south polar 160°00' W.). The islands are uninhabited. In 1936 by
regions was revived by the Byrd expeditions in 1928Executive Order they were placed under the control
30 and 1933–35. From his base at Little America on the of the Secretary of the Interior. At his request the
Ross Ice Shelf, Admiral Byrd made the first flight over
the South Pole November 29, 1929, and large areas Coast Guard has been asked to visit the islands periodically and submit reports and photographs.
previously unknown were explored by aerial and
) Canton and Enderbury Islands are claimed by both ground reconnaissance (Byrd, 1930). the United States and Great Britain. They are about
In 1935, another American, Lincoln Ellsworth, first 1,660 nautical miles southwest of Honolulu at lat 2°46'
crossed the continent by air. S. and long 171°43' W. Canton Island is used as a Although the first two Byrd expeditions were prilanding station by trans-Pacific airlines. Enderbury is marily privately financed, some governmental assistuninhabited. The population of Canton Island includes ance was received in the loan of equipment and both British and United States citizens. An exchange personnel. In 1939 the Government created the U.S. of notes in 1939 provided for the joint administration Antarctic Service, supported by a congressional apof the islands by both governments to continue until propriation of $340,000, approved June 30, 1939 (53