National Wildlife Refuge
|1,300 miles south of
Phone Number: 808-792-9560
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Continued . . . Use of Jarvis Island by whaling ship crews is speculative, but whaling vessels may have stopped there to acquire birds, eggs, and turtles. Jarvis was initially discovered and named by Captain Brown for the owner of the vesel Eliza Francis when he mapped it in 1821.
Captain Michael Baker landed in 1835 and documented rich guano deposits. Guano consists of bird droppings, which were used as fertilizer. Guano mining on Jarvis began in 1858. For the next 20 years, as many as 80 miners at a time worked there at a time. By the time it ended in 1879, about 300,000 tons had been removed, making it one of the richest deposits in the Central Pacific. Evidence of the mining remains as large basins from mining excavations and mounds of low-grade guano.
In 1913, the Amaranth, a coal ship bound for San Francisco from New South Wales, hit the southeast side of Jarvis Island. The captain and crew took to their boats and landed next mornining. The vessel broke up. With salvaged provisions and water, the crew managed to reach Samoa in the two boats 3 weeks later. A memorial cairn and plaque that commemorate the grounding are still present on the island.
Colonizing efforts began in 1935. The Panala'au colonists built a settlement on the western side of the island, with structures for water, food storage, radio equipment, and walls built in part by recycling lumber from the wreck of the Amaranth. During the colonizing era, Jarvis was visited frequently and was often the scene of busy activity.
Jarvis was evacuated at the beginning of World War II. It remained unoccupied for the remainder of the war. No attempt was made to recolonize it after the war, but from July 1957 to December 1958, a party of oceanographers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography occupied Jarvis during International Geophysical Year. A large storm in 1958 washed away practically all evidence of the guano miners and the Panala'au colonists from the Millersville landing area.
Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974. Between 1974 and 1980, the NORPAX Line Islands Monitoring Experiment included an automated weather station at Jarvis. Issues in recent years have included illegal commercial fishery harvest in the territorial seas surrounding the island.
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