Monday, January 12, 2009

New National Monuments

After going through the trouble of tallying up all of the National Parks, National Historic Parks, Wilderness Areas, etc. that I've visited, I'd be remiss not to mention the three new National Monuments created by George W. Bush last week: Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and Rose Atoll Marine National Monument. These are essentially a bunch of big marine sanctuaries surrounding some small islands in the Pacific, which is a good thing, so, hey, there you go.

Here is a big .pdf showing the official boundaries of the new Monuments. I'm pretty sure these will, similar to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, not the National Park Service, though I'm not positive.

This seems like as good time as any to point out that while I've never been to any of these areas, I'd sure like to sometime. You know how I like learning about and categorizing all the geographic and political divisions I can, right? Well, I also think it would be pretty fascinating to visit one of these little uninhabited islands. Can you imagine that, a little speck of dry land with almost nothing on it, surrounded by miles and miles of open ocean? It's amazing to think that these places still exist in the world, but they're really out there, and some of them are owned by the U.S. We tend to shunt them off into the obscure category of "United States Minor Outlying Islands," and this designation should at least raise some awareness of their existence.
Kingman Reef

Here's a few fun facts about these places:
  1. A history of Kingman Reef basically consists of a record of the various ships that have run aground on it. For a while it was appropriately called "Danger Reef."
  2. A number of these places were acquired under the Guano Islands Act of 1856.
  3. Palmyra Atoll, despite being uninhabited and unorganized politically, is an incorporated territory of the United States, just as much a part of the Union as the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This is a weird remnant of it having been part of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and then specifically excluded from Hawaii statehood.
Now, that's not to take anything away from remote islands that are actually inhabited. It's a long-running joke with my wife that I always suggest we take a vacation in Kiribati*. How different life must be on a tiny island like that... I remember on Maui remarking how beautiful it was, but how I might go stir crazy if I lived so far away from the mainland. But the level of isolation there is really quite mild compared to the isolation of somewhere like Kiritimati.

*Kiribati, incidentally, is pronounced "Kiribahss," as its name is a Gilbertese transliteration of "Gilberts," i.e., the Gilbert Islands. Kiritimati, similarly, is "Kirismas," i.e., "Christmas Island." Here is the flag of Kiribati:Photos and the flag are all from Wikipedia.


At Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 8:35:00 AM PST, Blogger erich said...

Kiribati? What, no vacations on Pitcairn?


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