Johnston Atoll is a atoll in the North Pacific Ocean about 1400 km (750 nmi) west of Hawaii.
Location of Johnston Atoll.
There are four
islands located on the coral reef
platform, two natural islands, Johnston Island and Sand Island,
which have been expanded by coral dredging
as well as North Island (Akau) and East Island (Hikina), an
additional two artificial islands
formed by coral dredging.
is an unincorporated
territory of the United States, administered by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife
Service of the Department of
the Interior as part of the Pacific Remote
Islands Marine National Monument.
purposes, Johnston Atoll is grouped as one of the United States Minor
The American brig Sally
, captained by Joseph Pierpont,
grounded on a shoal near Johnston Island on September 2, 1796, but
did not name or claim the land. The island was named for Captain
Charles J. Johnston, commanding
officer of , who claimed its official discovery on December 14,
1807. Johnston Atoll was claimed by both the United States and the
Kingdom of Hawaii
in 1858. The
deposits, mined by U.S.
interests operating under the Guano
, were worked until depletion in about 1890.
The island was visited from July 10 to July 22, 1923, and a
pioneering aerial photograph was taken then.
29, 1926, by Executive
Order, President Calvin Coolidge established Johnston Atoll
as a Federal bird refuge and placed it under the control of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
On December 29, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt
transferred control of
Johnston Atoll to the U.S. Navy in order to establish an air station, and
also to the Department of the Interior to administer the bird refuge.
In 1936, the
U.S. Navy began to develop a seaplane base, an airstrip base, and
refueling facilities on the atoll. Johnston Atoll was designated as
a Naval Defensive Sea Area and Airspace Reservation on February 14,
1941. Johnston Atoll was shelled by lightly-armed Japanese
submarines once or twice during World War
The Johnston Atoll area was used during the 1950s and 1960s as an
American nuclear weapons
test site -
for both above-ground and underground nuclear tests. It was also
used for a rocket launch site for some of the first American
. Later on, it became
the site of a chemical weapons depot and the site of the Johnston Atoll
Chemical Agent Disposal System
(JACADS). All of the chemical
weapons that were once stored on Johnston Island have been
incinerated, and that process was completed some years ago.
Between 1958 and 1975, several scientific sounding rockets were
launched from Johnston Island. There were also several nuclear test
missiles that were launched from Johnston Island in 1962 during the
" series of
nuclear tests, from a launchpad at . Twelve thermonuclear
warheads were exploded in all,
one of which failed (?) and scattered plutonium
debris over the island. Afterwards, the
radioactive debris and soils were placed in a 25 acre landfill on
the island, along with residue from Agent
containers returned from Southeast Asia
after the Vietnam War
, and sarin nerve gas
from the Soviet Union and East
Growth of Johnson Island by coral dredging.
In 1963, the United States Senate ratified the Limited Test Ban Treaty
contained a provision known as "Safeguard C". Safeguard C was the
basis for maintaining Johnston Atoll as a "ready to test" above
ground nuclear testing site should atmospheric nuclear testing ever
be deemed to be necessary again. In 1993, Congress appropriated no
funds for the Johnston Atoll "Safeguard C" mission, bringing it to
a termination. Congress redefined the island's military mission as
the one of the storage and destruction of chemical weapons.
Johnston Atoll has never had any indigenous inhabitants, although
during the late part of the 20th century, there were averages of
about 300 American military personnel and 1,000 civilian contractor
men and women present at any given time.
The central means of transportation to this island was the airport,
which had a paved military runway. The islands were wired with 13
outgoing and 10 incoming commercial telephone lines, a 60-channel
submarine cable, 22 DSN circuits by satellite, an Autodin
with standard remote terminal, a digital
telephone switch, the Military Affiliated Radio
(MARS station), a UHF/VHF air-ground radio, and a link
to the Pacific
Consolidated Telecommunications Network
transmitted from the island, using the KH3 callsign
Johnston Atoll's economic activity was limited to providing
services to American military personnel and the contractors
residing temporarily on the island. All foodstuffs and manufactured
goods were imported. The base had six 2.5 megawatt electrical
generators supplied by the base's support contractor, Holmes and
Narver, using Enterprise Engine and Machinery Company DSR-36 diesel
engines. The runway was also available to commercial airlines for
emergency landings (a reasonably-common event), and for many years,
it was also a regular stop on Continental Micronesia airline's
"island hopper" service between Hawaii and the Marshall
By the end of 2003, the legal jurisdiction of this atoll was
transferred from the American military services to the United States Fish and
. All structures and facilities, including
those used in JACADS, were removed, and the runway was marked
closed.On August 22, 2006, Johnston Island was struck by Hurricane Ioke
. The eastern eye-wall passed
directly over the atoll, with winds exceeding .
On December 9, 2007, the U.S.
Coast Guard swept the runway at Johnston
Island of debris and used the
runway in the removal and rescue of an ill Taiwanese fisherman to
The fisherman was transferred from the
Taiwanese fishing vessel Sheng Yi Tsai No. 166
the Coast Guard buoy tender Kukui
on December 6, 2007.
fisherman was transported to the island, and then picked up by a
Coast Guard C-130 Hercules rescue
plane from Kodiak,
Johnston Atoll is a part of the Pacific Remote
Islands Marine National Monument
, which was proclaimed by
President George W. Bush
on January 6, 2009.
Johnston Atoll - NASA NLT Landsat 7
(Visible Color) satellite image.
The four islands compose a total land mass of 2.67 km². Due to
the atoll's tilt, much of the reef on the south-east portion has
subsided. But even though it does not have an encircling reef
crest, the reef crest on the north-west portion of the atoll does
provide for a shallow lagoon
, with depths
ranging from 3 to 10 m.
|North (Akau) Island
|East (Hikina) Island
Its climate is tropical but generally dry. North-east trade winds
are consistent and there is little seasonal temperature variation.
With elevation ranging from sea level to 5 m/17 ft at Summit Peak
, the islands contain some
low-growing vegetation on mostly flat terrain and no natural fresh
About 300 species of fish
have been recorded
from the reefs and inshore waters of the atoll. It is also visited
by Green Turtles
and Hawaiian Monk Seals
. Seabird species
recorded as breeding on the atoll include Bulwer's Petrel
, Wedge-tailed Shearwater
, Christmas Shearwater
, White-tailed Tropicbird
, Red-tailed Tropicbird
, Brown Booby
, Red-footed Booby
, Masked Booby
, Great Frigatebird
, Gray-backed Tern
, Sooty Tern
, Black Noddy
and White Tern
. It is visited by migratory shorebirds
including the Pacific Golden
, Wandering Tattler
There were no official license plates issued for use on Johnston
Atoll. US Government vehicles were issued US Government license
plates and private vehicles retained the plates from which they
were registered. According to reputable license plate collectors, a
number of "Johnston Atoll license plates" were created as
souvenirs, and have even been sold on-line to collectors, but they
were not officially issued.
- United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges
from The World Factbook
- American Polynesia and the Hawaiian Chain, E.H. Bryan,
Jr., 1941; Honolulu, Hawaii: Tongg Publishing Company p. 35.
-  Astronautix Web site, Johnston Island
- Coast Guard Successful on Risky Medevac from Johnston
Island, Coast Guard Press Release, December 10, 2007
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1995. Bird list of Johnston
Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Version
- World License Plates: License Plates of Johnston Atoll  (Accessed 25 July 2009)
- Plateshack.com: Johnston Atoll  (Accessed 25 July 2009)