Jarvis Island, previously known as Bunker’s Shoal or Bunker Island, is a 1.75 square mile coral reef situated in the South Pacific Ocean. It is one of the Equatorial Islands that is classified as one of the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands for statistical purposes. Jarvis Island is situated halfway between the Cook and Hawaii Islands. Jarvis Island is one of the unorganized, unincorporated American territories that are administered by the U.S. Interior Department. Unlike most of the coral atolls claimed by the United States, the lagoon on this island is completely dry.
Geography of Jarvis Island
Even though there are some offshore anchorage places marked on the maps, the island has no harbors or ports, and the swift currents are peril. There is a boat-landing region on the southwestern corner of the island and another situated at the center of the western coastline close to the day beacon. The island has a dried lagoon which had deep guano deposits that were mined during the 19th century. Jarvis Island experiences a tropical desert climate with constant wind and daytime temperatures, but the nights are cold.
The highest peak on the island is about 23 feet tall, and it is the thirty-sixth most isolated mountain on earth because of its distance from bigger landmasses. The island has scant rainfall. The sparse low-growing shrubs, prostrate vines, and bunch grass are mainly a foraging, roosting, and nesting habitat for marine wildlife, shorebirds, and seabirds.
Jarvis Island was first seen by Europeans on a British ship known as Eliza Francis on August 21, 1821. The vessel was owned by William, Thomas, and Edward Jarvis. The United States claimed the island on March 1857 and officially annexed it on February 27, 1858. The Americans mined guano on the island for twenty years before abandoning it in 1879. The United Kingdom annexed Jarvis on June 3, 1889, but did not carry any further exploitation, but mining of the guano deposits continued until the late stages of the 1800s. The United States reclaimed Jarvis as an unorganized, unincorporated territory in 1935. The U.S. Interior Department administered the island from May 13, 1936, to June 27, 1974. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service have administered over the island since June 27, 1974, as Jarvis-Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Flora and Fauna
Jarvis Island supports over 14 species of breeding seabirds. Jarvis is home to one of the biggest sooty tern colony in the world. Lepidodactylus ligubris, commonly known as mourning gecko, was discovered in a cat’s stomach in 1986 on the island. There are over 252 fish species on the island and many strawberry hermit crabs. The island has over nine algae species including 2 brown algae species and 4 green algae species.
The island is vegetated by shrubs, herbaceous plants, and grasses that can survive a long period of drought. The depauperate flora in the island is made up of 6 native species including Portulaca lutea, Boerhavia tetrandra, Lepturus repens, Sesuvium portulacastrum, Tribulus cistoides, and Eragrostis whitneyi. Other plants found on the island include Sida fallax and Abutifolium indicum.