Palmyra Atoll

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The Kingdom of Hawaii claimed the atoll in 1862, and the US included it among the Hawaiian Islands when it annexed the archipelago in 1898. The Hawaii Statehood Act of 1959 did not include Palmyra Atoll, which is now part privately owned by the Nature Conservancy and part US Government-owned and administered as a nature preserve. The lagoons and surrounding waters within the 12-nautical-mile US territorial seas were transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and were designated a National Wildlife Refuge in January 2001.



Oceania, atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, about half way between Hawaii and American Samoa

Geographic coordinates

5 52 N, 162 04 W

Map references



total: 11.9 sq km
land: 11.9 sq km
water: 0 sq km
country comparison to the world: 243

Area - comparative

about 20 times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km


14.5 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12nm
exclusive economic zone: 200nm


equatorial, hot, and very rainy


very lowlying atoll consists of an extensive reef, two shallow lagoons, and about 50 islets and bars covered with vegetation


mean elevation: 2 m
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Sand Island 10 m

Natural resources

terrestrial and aquatic wildlife

Natural hazards

an extensive surrounding reef is only penetrated by a single western channel

Environment - current issues

a few of the islets are designated Unexploded Ordnance Areas, a legacy of US Navy occupation (1934-59), and are closed to entry; invasive plants and insects compete with native biota

Geography - note

about 50 islets covered with dense vegetation, coconut trees, and balsa-like trees up to 30 meters tall

People and Society


no indigenous inhabitants (July 2014 est.)
note: variable temporary population of 4 to 20 staff and scientists of the Nature Conservancy and the US Fish and Wildlife Service


Country name

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Palmyra Atoll
etymology: named for the USS Palmyra, which was shipwrecked on the reef in 1802

Dependency status

incorporated territory of the US; privately owned but administered from Washington, DC, by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the US Department of the Interior; the Office of Insular Affairs of the US Department of the Interior continues to administer nine excluded areas comprising certain tidal and submerged lands within the 12 nm territorial sea limit or within the lagoon

Legal system

the laws of the US apply where applicable

Flag description

the flag of the US is used

Military and Security

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the US


Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 1 (2013)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

Ports and terminals

West Lagoon

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international


Flag of Palmyra Atoll

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