The Guano Act provided that whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same island, rock, or key, it appertains to the United States.
The guano industry gradually disappeared on Baker and Howland Islands. Both islands were regarded as barren outposts of no real value until the aviation era began in the 1930's. In 1934, the United States reasserted its claim to the islands with a few colonists landing on the islands in1936. They were removed following Japanese air and naval attacks on the island in 1942. The islands have remained unoccupied since that time.
Howland Island is related to the tragic disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred J. Noonanduring the round-the-world flight in 1937. They left New Guinea on July 2, 1937, for Howland, but were never seen again. The Amelia Earhart lighthouse was partially destroyed during World War II, but has been rebuilt in memory of the famed aviatrix.
Baker Island is located at 0 degrees, 14 minutes, north and longitude 176 degrees, 28 minutes west, approximately 1650 miles southwest of Honolulu and 36 miles southeast of Howland. It is a saucer-shaped island of coral formation about one mile long and 1500 yards wide. Its highest elevation is about 20 feet above sea level. It has sparsely scattered vegetation with no trees. On Baker Island, the vegetation consists of four kinds of grass, a few low shrubs and weedy herbs. Marine life is plentiful and varied. There are abundant seabirds nesting on Baker Island.
Both islands receive scant rainfall, constant wind, and burning sun. The islands provide important nesting and roosting habitat for about 20 species of seabirds and shorebirds numbering well over one million individuals. Reptiles and crustaceans account for most of the animal life observed on the islands. The green and hawksbill turtles forage in the shallow waters on the reef along with hundreds of species of fish, coral, and other invertebrates.
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