Wake Island is an island in the western Pacific Ocean that is an unorganized, unincorporated US territory. However, Wake Island is also claimed by the Marshall Islands. The island, which is a coral atoll and sometimes referred to as Wake Atoll, is located in the northeastern part of the region of Micronesia, approximately 1,501 miles from Guam, 2,298 miles from Honolulu, 1,991 miles from Tokyo, and 898 miles from Majuro. However, the closest inhabited island is Utirik Atoll, which is 592 miles away in the Marshall Islands. The island was claimed by the United States on January 17, 1899, and has an area of approximately 5.35 square miles. Most activity on the island is linked to Wake Island Airfield, which is used by the United States Air Force as a refueling stop or for emergency landings. With a length of about 9,800 feet, the airfield is the longest strategic runway in the Pacific region.
Geography and Climate
The closest uninhabited island to Wake Island is Bokak Atoll, which is 348 miles away in the Marshall Islands. This location places the atoll in the UTC+12 time zone, which is nearly one day ahead of all 50 US states. Despite being called an island, it is more accurately described as an atoll that consists of three islets: Wake Islet (553.22 ha), Wilkes Islet (79.90 ha), and Peale Islet (103.94 ha). In addition to the three islets, Wake Island also includes a central lagoon that is surrounded by a reef. Located in the tropics, Wake Atoll experiences winter periodic temperate storms and sea surface temperatures are warm throughout the year. Typhoons also pass over Wake Island from time to time, including Super Typhoon Ioke, a category 5 tycoon that occurred on August 28, 2006.
The United States Air Force assumed governing responsibility of Wake Island on June 24, 1972. Under the Wake Island Code, the Secretary of the Air Force has delegated leadership of the island to the General Counsel of the Air Force. The role of the general counsel is to provide legal, judicial, and civil authority. In addition, counsel can select judges for the Wake Island Court of Appeals and the Wake Island Court. The counsel also delegates other roles, such as the appointment of peace officers and the Commander of Wake Island. Other roles delegated to the Commander include imposing quarantines, carrying out inspections, issuing permits and registrations.
Transportation and Access
Wake Island serves as a refueling stop for the US Air Force, as well as an emergency landing zone for commercial aircraft. The airfield is capable of handling the refueling of more than 30 types of aircraft, including the C-130 and C-5, and is used by an average of 800 aircraft each year.
In addition to its airfield, Wake Island has a harbor located between Wake Islet and Wilkes Islet. However, the harbor is too narrow and shallow to handle sea-going vessels. A two-lane primary road network also extends the length of the atoll, which is generally suitable for light-duty vehicles traveling at low speeds.