About the Refuge

Palmyra landscape

About halfway between Hawai‘i and American Samoa lies Palmyra Atoll. Palmyra consists of a circular string of about 26 islets nestled among several lagoons and encircled by 15,000 acres of shallow turquoise reefs and deep blue submerged reefs. It is the northernmost atoll in the Line Islands in the equatorial Pacific.

Palmyra's history is long and colorful. Its first recorded sighting was on June 14, 1798, by Captain Edmond Fanning, and it was officially discovered in 1802 by Captain Sawle of the American ship Palmyra. In 1859, Dr. G.P. Judd of the brig Josephine took possession of the atoll for the United States and the American Guano Company. Three years later, King Kamehameha IV claimed possession for the Kingdom of Hawaii, but in 1889, Great Britian claimed the atoll. In 1898, President McKinley annexed the Territory of Hawai‘i, specifically mentioning Palmyra, to the United States, but Palmyra was excluded from the Hawai‘i State boundaries in 1959. The Refuge was established in January 2001 by the Secretary of the Interior and includes submerged lands and associated waters out to 12 nautical miles from the atoll.

On January 6, 2009, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was established, which includes Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge within its boundaries.