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Aerial photo from 1987

Minamitorishima (南鳥島 ?) or Marcus Island is an isolated island in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, located at 24°18′N 153°58′E / 24.3°N 153.967°E / 24.3; 153.967Coordinates: 24°18′N 153°58′E / 24.3°N 153.967°E / 24.3; 153.967. The meaning of the Japanese name is "Southern Bird Island". It has an area of 1.2 square kilometres (0.5 sq mi). It is the hottest place in Japan.[1] It is the easternmost territory belonging to Japan, lying some 1,848 kilometres (1,148 mi) SE of Tokyo and 1,267 kilometres (787 mi) east of the closest Japanese island, South Iwo Jima of the Ogasawara Islands, and nearly on a straight line between Tokyo and Wake Island, which is 1,415 kilometres (879 mi) east southeast. The closest island, however, is Farallon de Pajaros of the Mariana Islands, which is 1,021 kilometres (634 mi) west south-west of Minamitori Shima. There is an airport available on the island.



The first discovery and mention of an island in this area was made by a Captain Arriola in 1694.[2] Its location was left unrecorded until further sightings in the early 19th century.

Marcus Island under attack on 31 August 1943.

The island is first mentioned in 1864, given a position by a United States survey ship in 1874, and first landed on by Kiozaemon Saito in 1879. Japan officially annexed the island July 24, 1898 [3], the U.S. claim from 1889 according to the Guano Islands Act not being officially acknowledged. Sovereignty over the island before World War I was apparently disputed as various sources from the time move the island from the American to Japanese domain without specific explanation. In 1914, William D. Boyce included Marcus Island as an obviously American island in his book, The Colonies and Dependencies of the United States.

In World War II there were over 4,000 Japanese soldiers stationed on the island, and the U.S. Navy attacked it in 1942[4] and in 1943,[5] but never attempted to capture it (the island was featured in the U.S. training/propaganda film The Fighting Lady). Though isolated the Japanese were able to resupply the island by submarine, using a channel cut through the reef on the northwest side of the island. That channel is still visible today.

The Treaty of San Francisco (1951) moved the island under American control.[6] The island was returned to Japan in 1968.

In 1964 the U.S. Coast Guard opened a LORAN-C navigation station on Marcus Island, whose mast was until 1985 one of the tallest structures in the Pacific area. In the 1980s the LORAN station was maintained by 23 "Coasties". They were based there on one-year tours with a visit to mainland Japan at the six-month point. The station was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Government of Japan on September 30, 1993.

While under U.S. administration, on Thursdays a C-130 Hercules from the 345th Tactical Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, would resupply the island on weekly missions. Often Coast Guardsmen would judge landings by raising placards with large numbers. An unusually long four hour ground time was scheduled to allow technicians who flew in to perform maintenance on the transmitter and to offload extra fuel from the C-130 to power the island's generator. It also allowed the Coasties to read and answer letters while aircrews would snorkel and collect green glass fishing buoys that wash up on the shore. It takes about 45 minutes to walk around the island. A rusted-out Japanese tankette was a reminder of the island's history.

The island is presently used for weather observation and has a radio station, but little else. Because of its isolation, it is of some interest to amateur radio hobbyists. The island is considered as a separate country for amateur radio awards.

Administratively, the island is considered part of Ogasawara village, Tokyo.

Island characteristics

It is triangular in shape, as well as low lying. It was created by coral which eventually turned into a landmass. The island is surrounded by a fringing reef which ranges from 50 metres (164 ft) to 300 metres (984 ft) in width.

The island is unusual as the closer to the coast, the higher the elevation. The central area of the island is 1 metre (3 ft) below sea level whilst the coast is about 5 metres (16 ft) to 8 metres (26 ft) above.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 36, No. 1; 2001, pp. 105–115.
  3. ^ Kuroda 1954, 87.
  4. ^ The Raids on Wake and Marcus Islands, Early Raids in the Pacific Ocean. USN Combat Narrative series. Office of Naval Intelligence, United States Navy, 1943.
  5. ^ Paramount Battles Involving Essex Class Carriers
  6. ^ Article 3 of Treaty of San Francisco: "Japan will concur in any proposal of the United States to the United Nations to place under its trusteeship system, with the United States as the sole administering authority, Nansei Shoto south of 29° north latitude (including the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands), Nanpo Shoto south of Sofu Gan (including the Bonin Islands, Rosario Island and the Volcano Islands) and Parece Vela and Marcus Island. Pending the making of such a proposal and affirmative action thereon, the United States will have the right to exercise all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants of these islands, including their territorial waters."


  • Bryan, William A.: A monograph of Marcus Island; in: Occasional Papers of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Vol. 2, No. 1; 1903
  • Kuroda, Nagahisa: Report on a trip to Marcus Island, with notes on the birds; in: Pacific Science, Vol. 8, No. 1; 1954
  • Lévesque, Rodrigue: The odyssey of Captain Arriola and his discovery of Marcus Island in 1694; in: Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 32, No. 2; 1997, pp. 229–233
  • PUB 158 JAPAN Volume 1, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Bethesda, Maryland [1]
  • Sakagami, Shoichi F.: An ecological perspective of Marcus Island, with special reference to land animals; in: Pacific Science, Vol. 15, No. 1; 1961
  • Welsch, Bernhard: The asserted discovery of Marcus Island in 1694; in: Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 36, No. 1; 2001, pp. 105–115
  • Welsch, Bernhard: Was Marcus Island discovered by Bernardo de la Torre in 1543?; in: Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 39, No. 1; 2004, pp. 109–122

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