CLOSE

The Quick 10: 10 Uninhabited Spots in the U.S.

Maybe you've noticed... there are a lot of people in the United States. But even with a population of 304,260,083 (so says the U.S. Census Bureau's Population Clock as of 1:30 p.m.), there are still some places that have been relatively untouched. You might find a radio tower or an airstrip, but no inhabitants. Here are a few of them.

10 Uninhabited Spots in the U.S.

1. Baker Island. Baker Island is southwest of Honolulu and has been a U.S. territory since 1857. It's only about 405 acres and access is pretty much restricted to educators and scientists. Four people used to live there but were evacuated during WWII.

2. Howland Island. Howland is about halfway between the U.S. and Australia and is one of the places Amelia Earhart was supposed to land when she disappeared (some theories say that she did, in fact, land there). Howland is about 455 acres and was briefly colonized by a military school in Hawaii in 1935. Two of the four "colonists" were killed by a Japanese air attack in 1941.

3. Jarvis Island. This tiny plot of land is just under three square miles, so it makes sense that no one has tried to move in. Well, that's not exactly true. "Millersville" was essentially some guys in pup tents, but when a Japanese submarine surfaced near the island and fired on them, they evacuated. No one was hurt, though.

4. The Johnston Atoll. In 1963, Johnson Island was declared a place to conduct nuclear testing if necessary. In 1993, though, it was deemed as a place to store and destroy chemical weapons. No one really lives there, but military personnel come and go.

5. Kingman Reef. Most of Kingman Reef is underwater so it's logical that it remains uninhabited. It used to be called "Danger Reef", which I enjoy more. It's so small and so barely above water that the highest point on the reef is still wet 99 percent of the time.

6. Petrel Islands. Also known as the Bajo Nuevo Bank, the Petrel Islands were re-discovered in 1660 by pirate John Glover. They had been noted on some Dutch maps prior to that but were unclaimed. Currently, lots of lobster fishermen spend time there. It does have a lighthouse, but that's about it.

7. Serranilla Bank. The Serranilla Bank can be found on Spanish maps as old as 1510. It's a little over 200 miles northeast of Nicaragua. Who owns it is actually questionable - in 1981, the United States gave several of the Guano Islands (Islands acquired by the U.S. in 1879) to Colombia, but never specifically named Serranilla. Colombia considers it theirs, though.

8. Midway Atoll. You probably know Midway as the location of the Battle of Midway during WWII. Before that, though, it was a tourist attraction for the extremely weathly. The China Clipper, an air boat run by PanAm, was in operation from 1935 to 1941. Only rich people could afford the trip, though, because a flight on the China Clipper cost more than three times the annual salary of the average American at the time. It was a Naval Air Station for a while but was downgraded to a Naval Air Facility in 1978. It was closed in 1993 and the last personnel left in 1997. As of March, the island has been approved for ecotours and studies.

9. Navassa Island. This one is also a little questionable - although the U.S. had claimed it, some documents show that Haiti claimed the land in 1801 or earlier. It's only about two square miles and is about 90 miles south of Guantanamo Bay. When the Panama Canal opened in 1914, a lighthouse was built on Navassa and three people lived there to maintain it. When an automated beacon was installed in 1929, the lighthouse keepers moved out and the island has been uninhabited ever since.

10. Wake Atoll. The Wake Atoll is jointly operated by the U.S. Army and Air Force. Access is very restricted, as you might imagine. Pan American set up a small base there in 1935 to service flights on the U.S.-China route. On December 8, 1941, Wake Island was attacked by 27-plus Japanese bombers. Ninety-eight Americans were gunned down on orders from Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara, but the Japanese eventually surrendered. It has no indigenous inhabitants now, although as of 2006 there were about 200 contractors living there.

* * * * *
Shhh...super secret special for blog readers.

Original image
FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
arrow
Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
Original image
FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

Original image
Courtesy Murdoch University
arrow
Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
Original image
Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios