The World Factbook (1990)/Howland Island

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Howland Island
(territory of the US)

 See regional map X


Total area: 1.6 km²; land area: 1.6 km²

Comparative area: about 2.7 times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries: none

Coastline: 6.4 km

Maritime claims:

Contiguous zone: 12 nm
Continental shelf: 200 m
Extended economic zone: 200 nm
Territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: equatorial; scant rainfall, constant wind, burning sun

Terrain: low-lying, nearly level, sandy, coral island surrounded by a narrow fringing reef; depressed central area

Natural resources: guano (deposits worked until late 1800s)

Land use: 0% arable land; 0% permanent crops; 0% meadows and pastures; 5% forest and woodland; 95% other

Environment: almost totally covered with grasses, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs; small area of trees in the center; lacks fresh water; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife; feral cats

Note: remote location 2,575 km southwest of Honolulu in the North Pacific Ocean, just north of the Equator, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia


Population: uninhabited

Note: 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


Long-form name: none

Type: 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


Overview: no economic activity


Airports: airstrip constructed in 1937 for scheduled refueling stop on the round-the-world flight of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan—they left Lae, New Guinea, for Howland Island, but were never seen again; the airstrip is no longer serviceable

Ports: none; offshore anchorage only, one boat landing area along the middle of the west coast

Note: Earhart Light is a day beacon near the middle of the west coast that was partially destroyed during World War II, but has since been rebuilt in memory of famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart

Defense Forces

Note: defense is the responsibility of the US; visited annually by the US Coast Guard