Baker Island is an uninhabited atoll located just north of the equator in the central Pacific Ocean about 3,100 km (1,670 nm) southwest of Honolulu. The island is almost half way between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbor is Howland Island 68 kilometres to the north.
Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge consists of the 405 acre (1.64 km²) island and a surrounding 30,500 acres (123 km²) of submerged land. The island is now a National Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an insular area under the U.S. Department of the Interior. Baker Island is an unincorporated and unorganized territory of the U.S..
Its defense is the responsibility of the United States; though uninhabited, it is visited annually by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For statistical purposes, Baker is sometimes grouped as one of the United States Minor Outlying Islands.
Baker was discovered in 1818 by Captain Elisha Folger of the Nantucket whaling ship Equator, who called the island "New Nantucket". In August 1825 Baker was resighted by Captain Obed Starbuck of the Loper, also a Nantucket whaler. The name goes back to Michael Baker, who visited the island in 1834.
The United States took possession of the island in 1857, claimed under the Guano Islands Act of 1856. The United Kingdom advanced a claim to this island subsequently, but this claim was invalid due to the more previous claims made by the United States. Its guano deposits were mined by U.S. and British companies during the second half of the 19th century. In 1935, a short-lived attempt at colonization was begun, as well as on nearby Howland Island. The settlement Meyerton had a population of four American civilians evacuated in 1942 after Japanese air and naval attacks. During World War II it was occupied by the U.S. military.
Since the war, Baker has been uninhabited. Feral cats were eradicated from the island in 1964. Public entry is by special-use permit from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only and generally restricted to scientists and educators.
Located in the North Pacific Ocean at, the island is tiny at just 1.64 km² (405 acres) and 4.8 km of coastline. The climate is equatorial, with little rainfall, constant wind, and a strong sunshine. The terrain is low-lying and sandy: a coral island surrounded by a narrow fringing reef with a depressed central area. The highest point is 8 meters above sea level.
There are no natural fresh water resources. The island is treeless, with sparse vegetation consisting of grasses, prostrate vines, low growing shrubs, and some scattered ruins. A cemetery and remnants of structures from early settlement are located near the middle of the west coast. The island is primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife.
The U.S. claims an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles (370 km) and territorial sea of 12 nautical miles (22 km).
During the 1935–1942 colonization attempt the island was most likely on Hawaii time, which was then 10.5 hours behind UTC. Being uninhabited the island's time zone is now unspecified, but it lies in waters whose nautical time zone is 12 hours behind UTC.
There are no ports or harbors, with anchorage available only offshore. There is one boat landing area along the middle of the west coast. There is an abandoned World War II runway, 1,665 meters long, which is completely covered with vegetation and unusable.
Natural hazards: The narrow fringing reef surrounding the island can be a maritime hazard and there is a day beacon near the middle of the west coast.
Similarly Named Islands
- ^ Henry Evans Maude (1968). Of islands and men: studies in Pacific history. Oxford University Press.
- ^ Edwin Horace Bryan (1941). American Polynesia: coral islands of the Central Pacific. Honolulu, Hawaii: Tongg Publishing Company.
- ^ Elgen M. Long; Marie K. Long (2000). Amelia Earhart: the mystery solved. Simon & Schuster. pp. 206. "Thursday, July 1,  … Howland Island was using the 10+30 hour time zone—the same as Hawaii standard time…."
- Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge
- Baker Island This article incorporated material from the CIA World Factbook 2000. Update as needed.
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