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East Island, Hawaii facts for kids

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East Island
East Island, Hawaii before and after Hurricane Walaka.jpg
Satellite images of East Island, Hawaii, before (May 2018) and after (October 2018) Hurricane Walaka
Geography
Location Pacific Ocean
Archipelago French Frigate Shoals
Adjacent bodies of water Pacific Ocean
Area 11 acres (4.5 ha)
Length 0.5 mi (0.8 km)
Width 400 ft (120 m)
Country United States
State Hawaii
Demographics
Population 0 (since 1952)

East Island is a former island, formerly about 11 acres (45,000 m2) in area, one-half mile (800 m) long and 400 feet (120 m) wide. It was the second-largest in the French Frigate Shoals, and one of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, approximately 550 miles (890 km) northwest of Honolulu. It was largely washed away in 2018 by the storm surge from Hurricane Walaka. The remaining portion of the island above sea level consists of a sandy strip approximately 150 feet (46 m) long.

The island, a sand and gravel spit that formed part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, was a habitat for Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles, both of which are endangered species. 96% of Hawaii's green sea turtles nest in the French Frigate Shoals, and over half of those were on East Island. Charles Littnan, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, described the island as "the most important single islet for [green] sea turtle nesting".

During WW2 a U.S. Coast Guard radio navigation station was built on East Island, and operated from 1944 to 1952.

In the 19th century East island was sometimes called turtle island.

Green turtle swimming over coral reefs in Kona
A green sea turtle swimming above a Hawaiian coral reef

History

Atoll research bulletin (1971) (20157463550)
A Coast Guard LORAN base on East Island (year 1945)

The island was surveyed by the Tanager Expedition of 1923 and 1924. At that time it was about 11 acres of land.

In 1932 the USS Quail anchored near East Island, when it used its seaplane to take aerial photographs of the shoals.

In 1935 a "tent city" was placed on East island to support Naval maneuvers in the region, which included exercises with ships and seaplanes.

In October 1936, the USS Wright (AV-1) came to the shoals, and established a base on East island to support a month of seaplane operations.

From November 1944 to October 1952 the U.S. Coast Guard maintained a LORAN radio navigation station on the island. In April 1946 it was badly damaged by a tsunami, and in August 1950 it had to be evacuated due to a typhoon warning. Facilities included 13 buildings including the LORAN building, which was for a radio system to that supported ships and aircraft locating themselves at long distances.

Buildings in the USCG Loran facility included:

  • Commanding Officer (CO) quarters & recreational hall
  • Two Barracks
  • Mess Hall & Galley
  • Generator Hut & Storeroom
  • 2nd Generator Hut & Machine Shop
  • Loran Hut & Radio room
  • Aerology Office
  • Boatswain's Locker
  • Distiller Shed
  • Paint Locker
  • Vehicle Shed
  • Crew's Head (Bathroom hut)

Other structures on the island included water tanks, water pump, and the antennas.

In the 1980s, it was noted as a pupping ground for monk seals.

In the late 20th century it was known as a noted breeding ground for Green sea turtles. In 1997 it was reported to have over 500 turtles nests on the island.

In 2018 most of the island above sea level was washed away by Hurricane Walaka. The storm was a Category 4 storm.

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