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Midway Atoll (USA)


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Midway Atoll

Midway Atoll ( also called Midway Island and Midway Islands; Hawaiian: Pihemanu Kauihelani) is a 2.4-square-mile (6.2 km2) atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago, about one-third of the way between Honolulu, Hawaii, and Tokyo, Japan. Unique among the Hawaiian islands, Midway observes UTC-11 (also known as Samoa Time), eleven hours behind Coordinated Universal Time and one hour behind the state of Hawaiʻi. Midway Atoll is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States, and the former home of the Midway Naval Air Station (former ICAO PMDY). It is less than 140 nautical miles (259 km; 161 mi) east of the International Date Line, about 2,800 nautical miles (5,200 km; 3,200 mi) west of San Francisco, and 2,200 nautical miles (4,100 km; 2,500 mi) east of Tokyo. It consists of a ring-shaped barrier reef and several sand islets. The two significant pieces of land, Sand Island and Eastern Island, are habitat for millions of seabirds. The island sizes are shown here:

Island
acres
hectares
Sand Island
1,200
486
Eastern Island
334
135
Spit Island
15
6
Midway Atoll
1,540
623
Lagoon
14,800
6,000
According to other sources, Sand Island measures 1,250 acres (510 ha) in area and the lagoon within the fringing rim of coral reef 9,900 acres (4,000 ha). The atoll, which has a small population (approximately 60 in 2009, but no indigenous inhabitants), is designated an insular area under the authority of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, encompassing 590,991.50 acres (239,165.77 ha) of land and water (mostly water) in the surrounding area, is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The visitor program reopened in January 2008 and there are facilities for visitors. Travel to the Atoll is possible through organized tour companies or as a FWS volunteer. The tours focus on the ecology of Midway and the military history. The economy is derived solely from governmental sources and tourist fees. All food and manufactured goods are imported. The refuge and most of its surrounding area are part of the larger Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Midway, as its name suggests, lies nearly halfway between North America and Asia, and almost halfway around the world from Greenwich, England. For statistical purposes, Midway is grouped as one of the United States Minor Outlying Islands.
Midway was the focus point of the Battle of Midway, one of the most important naval battles of the Pacific Campaign in World War II, fought on June 4–6, 1942. Nearby the islands, the United States Navy defeated a Japanese attack against the Midway Islands, marking a turning point in the war in the Pacific Theater.


Geography and geology

Midway Atoll is part of a chain of volcanic islands, atolls, and seamounts extending from Hawai'i up to the tip of the Aleutian Islands and known as the Hawaii-Emperor chain. Midway was formed roughly 28 million years ago when the seabed underneath it was over the same hotspot from which the Island of Hawai'i is now being formed. In fact, Midway was once a shield volcano perhaps as large as the island of Lana'i. As the volcano piled up lava flows building the island, its weight depressed the crust and the island slowly subsided over a period of millions of years, a process known as isostatic adjustment. As the island subsided, a coral reef around the former volcanic island was able to maintain itself near sea level by growing upwards. That reef is now over 516 ft (160 m) thick (Ladd, Tracey, & Gross, 1967; in the lagoon, 1,261 feet (384 m), comprised mostly post-Miocene limestones with a layer of upper Miocene (Tertiary g) sediments and lower Miocene (Tertiary e) limestones at the bottom overlying the basalts. What remains today is a shallow water atoll about 6 miles (10 km) across. The atoll has some 20 miles (32 km) of roads, 4.8 miles (7.8 km) of pipelines, one port on Sand Island (World Port Index Nr. 56328, MIDWAY ISLAND), and one active runway (rwy 06/24, around 8,000 feet (2,400 m) long). As of 2004, Henderson Field airfield at Midway Atoll has been designated as an emergency diversion airport for aircraft flying under ETOPS rules. Although the FWS closed all airport operations on November 22, 2004, public access to the island was restored beginning March 2008.
Eastern Island Airstrip is a disused airfield in use by U.S. forces during the Battle of Midway, June 4–6, 1942. It is mostly constructed of Perforated Steel Plate sectional matting, built by the U.S. Navy Seabees.


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13. Marshall Islands – Majuro
31.Kiribati – South Tarawa 32.Micronesia – Palikir 33.New Zealand – Wellington

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Nineteenth century

The atoll was sighted on July 5, 1859, by Captain N.C. Middlebrooks, though he was most commonly known as Captain Brooks, of the sealing ship Gambia. The islands were named the "Middlebrook Islands" or the "Brook Islands". Brooks claimed Midway for the United States under the Guano Islands Act of 1856, which authorized Americans to occupy uninhabited islands temporarily to obtain guano. On 28 August 1867, Captain William Reynolds of the USS Lackawanna formally took possession of the atoll for the United States; the name changed to "Midway" some time after this. The atoll became the first Pacific islands annexed by the U.S. government, as the Unincorporated Territory of Midway Island, and administered by the United States Navy. Midway is the only island in the entire Hawaiian archipelago that was not later part of the State of Hawaii.

The first attempt at "settlement" was in 1871, when the Pacific Mail Steamship Company started a project of blasting and dredging a ship channel through the reef to the lagoon using money put up by the United States Congress. The purpose was to establish a mid-ocean coaling station avoiding the high taxes imposed at ports controlled by the Hawaiians. The project was shortly a complete failure, and the USS Saginaw evacuated the last of the channel project's work force in October 1871. The ship ran aground at Kure Atoll, stranding everyone. All were rescued with the exception of four of the five who sailed to Kauai in an open boat to seek help for them.



Early twentieth century

In 1903, workers for the Commercial Pacific Cable Company took up residence on the island as part of the effort to lay a trans-Pacific telegraph cable. These workers introduced many non-native species to the island, including the canary, cycad, Norfolk Island pine, she-oak, coconut, and various deciduous trees, along with ants, cockroaches, termites, centipedes, and countless others.
Later that year, President Theodore Roosevelt placed the atoll under the control of the United States Navy, which on 20 January 1903 opened a radio station in response to complaints from cable company workers about Japanese squatters and poachers. Between 1904 to 1908 Roosevelt stationed 21 Marines on the island to end wanton destruction of bird life and keep Midway safe as a U.S. possession, protecting the cable station.
In 1935, operations began for the China Clippers, flying boats operated by Pan American Airlines. The Clippers island-hopped from San Francisco to China, providing the fastest and most luxurious route to the Orient and bringing tourists to Midway until 1941. Only the extremely wealthy could afford a Clipper trip, which in the 1930s cost more than three times the annual salary of an average American. With Midway on the route between Honolulu and Wake Island, the seaplanes landed in the atoll and pulled up to a float offshore in the lagoon. Tourists transferred to a small powerboat that ferried them to a pier, then rode in "woody" wagons to the Pan Am Hotel or the "Gooneyville Lodge", named after the ubiquitous "Gooney birds" (albatrosses).

 

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