Earhart Light – Howland Island - Atlas Obscura

Earhart Light

Howland Island

The ruins of a lighthouse on the island Amelia Earhart never reached. 


On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart was expected to arrive for a refueling stop on a tiny remote island in the Pacific Ocean known as Howland Island. Although her radio broadcasts were heard on Howland, her plane never arrived.

The 450-acre uninhabited coral island is located in an extremely remote part of the Pacific Ocean, almost halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Mostly known to sailors as a navigational hazard, it may have once been populated by Polynesian people, but was abandoned long ago for lack of resources. It was acquired by the United States in 1856 as part of the country’s massive guano harvesting projects. Since that time it has been briefly occupied by American guano harvesting companies and British and American colonists, but has never been permanently settled.

In the mid-1930s land was cleared as a landing strip, intended to be used as a midway point in transpacific air routes. These unpaved landing strips were specially improved in anticipation of Earhart’s scheduled refueling stop on the island in 1937.

The small lighthouse was also built in 1937 but was doomed to a short life.

Sadly, history had other plans for Earhart, and she never reached the island. It is thought that she most likely crashed in the waters just north of Howland Island.

The island’s short history as a settled colony ended with heavy bombing from Japanese aircraft during WWII. The station has been inactive since 1942 - the structure is now considered a “day beacon”. The island is now a national wildlife refuge.

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