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

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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.

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June 5, 2008 - 10:42am
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