Discovered by the US early in the 19th century, the island was officially claimed by the US in 1857. Both US and British companies mined for guano until about 1890. Earhart Light, a day beacon near the middle of the west coast, was partially destroyed during World War II, but subsequently rebuilt; it is named in memory of the famed aviatrix Amelia EARHART. The island is administered by the US Department of the Interior as a National Wildlife Refuge.



Oceania, island in the North Pacific Ocean, about half way between Hawaii and Australia

Geographic coordinates

0 48 N, 176 38 W

Map references



total: 1.6 sq km
land: 1.6 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative

about three times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km


6.4 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


equatorial; scant rainfall, constant wind, burning sun


low-lying, nearly level, sandy, coral island surrounded by a narrow fringing reef; depressed central area

Natural resources

guano (deposits worked until late 1800s), terrestrial and aquatic wildlife

Natural hazards

the narrow fringing reef surrounding the island can be a maritime hazard

Environment - current issues

no natural fresh water resources

Geography - note

almost totally covered with grasses, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs; small area of trees in the center; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife

People and Society


note: American civilians evacuated in 1942 after Japanese air and naval attacks during World War II; occupied by US military during World War II but abandoned after the war; public entry is by special-use permit from US Fish and Wildlife Service only and generally restricted to scientists and educators; visited annually by US Fish and Wildlife Service


Country name

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Howland Island
etymology: named after the lookout on a whaling vessel who spotted the island in 1842

Dependency status

unincorporated territory of the US; administered from Washington, DC, by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the US Department of the Interior as part of the National Wildlife Refuge system

Legal system

the laws of the US, where applicable, apply

Flag description

the flag of the US is used





Ports and terminals

none; offshore anchorage only; note - there is one small boat landing area along the middle of the west coast

Transportation - note

Earhart Light, a day beacon near the middle of the west coast, was partially destroyed during World War II but rebuilt during the 1960s; today it is crumbling and in poor repair; named in memory of famed aviatrix Amelia EARHART


Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the US; visited annually by the US Coast Guard

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international