The French Frigate Shoals (Hawaiian: Kānemilohaʻi) is the largest atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Its name commemorates French explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse, who nearly lost two frigates when attempting to navigate the shoals. It consists of a 20-mile (32 km) long crescent-shaped reef, twelve sandbars, and the 120-foot (37 m) high La Perouse Pinnacle, the only remnant of its volcanic origins. The total land area of the islets is 61.508 acres (24.891 ha). Total coral reef area of the shoals is over 232,000 acres (94,000 ha). Tern Island, with an area of 26.014 acres (10.527 ha), has a landing strip and permanent habitations for a small number of people. It is maintained as a field station in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The French Frigate Shoals are about 487 nautical miles (902 km; 560 mi) northwest of Honolulu.
Although there is no evidence of extensive human activity or presence in the area, the earliest human visitors to the French Frigate Shoals probably came from the main Hawaiian Islands, which were settled by Polynesians between 1100 and 1300 AD.
The Hawaiian island chain lay outside the routes followed by early European explorers, and it was not until La Pérouse's near-disastrous discovery that the shoals were known to the outside world. La Pérouse, aboard the frigate Boussole, was sailing westward from Monterey en route to Macau. During the night of 6 November 1786, sailors sighted breakers directly in their path, about a thousand feet ahead. Both the Boussole and her companion vessel, the frigate Astrolabe, were immediately brought about, passing within a few hundred feet of the breakers. At daybreak, the ships returned and mapped the southeastern half of the atoll, as well as finding the rock that would later be named after La Pérouse. La Pérouse named the shoals Basse des Frégates Françaises, the "Shoal of the French Frigates".
During the late 19th century, American and European companies became interested in the possibility of mining guano in the Hawaiian Islands. U.S. Navy Lieutenant John M. Brooke, sailing on the naval schooner USS Fenimore Cooper, formally took possession of French Frigate Shoals for the United States on 14 January 1859, in accordance with the Guano Islands Act. In 1894, French Frigate Shoals, Kure Atoll, Midway Atoll, and Pearl and Hermes Reef were leased for 25 years by the Republic of Hawaii to the North Pacific Phosphate and Fertilizer Company; however, guano and phosphate deposits at French Frigate Shoals were found to be impractical to mine. The Republic did not formally claim possession of the shoals until 13 July 1895.
French Frigate Shoals was included among the islands acquired by the United States on 7 July 1898, when Hawaii became a United States territory. In 1909 it was made a part of the Hawaiian Islands Bird Reservation.
In March 1942, Imperial Japanese Navy planners took advantage of the shoal's isolation to use its protected waters as an anchorage and refueling point for the long-range flying boats employed in their Operation K. In the aftermath of that attack, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Chester W. Nimitz ordered a permanent United States Navy presence at the shoals.
After the Battle of Midway, the United States Navy built a naval air station on Tern Island, enlarging the island sufficiently to support a 3,300-foot (1,000 m) landing strip; Tern Island now has a land area of 26.014 acres (10.527 ha). The station's main function was as an emergency landing site for planes flying between Hawaii and Midway Atoll. French Frigate Shoals Airport comprises what remains of the original seawall, coral and gravel runway, and buildings.
The United States Coast Guard operated a LORAN navigation station on East Island until 1952, and Tern Island until 1979. At any one time, 15 to 20 military personnel were billeted to French Frigate Shoals. The LORAN station was staffed with USCG enlisted specialists such as Radioman, Electronic Technician, Fireman, Boatswain's Mates, other military occupational ratings. The commanding officer was typically a Lieutenant Junior Grade officer, the executive officer a chief petty officer enlisted rank. The Coast Guard designated the French Frigate Shoals billet as "isolated duty." Because of the billet's remoteness, a duty term was limited to one year. In December 1969 a tsunami devastated the islands, forcing the crew on Tern Island to evacuate the station, which was destroyed. The station was off air from December 1 to 6.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service continues to maintain a permanent field station there. In 2000, the atoll became part of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, which was incorporated into the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument in 2006. In 2009 the islands were evacuated during the approach of Hurricane Neki by landing a USCG C-130 on Tern's coral airstrip.
La Perouse Pinnacle, a rock outcrop in the center of the atoll, is the oldest and most remote volcanic rock in the Hawaiian chain. It stands 120 feet (37 m) tall and is surrounded by coral reefs. Because of its shape, the pinnacle is often mistaken for a ship from a distance.
Whale-Skate Island is a submerged island in the French Frigate Shoals. These islands suffered considerably from erosion starting in the 1960s, and by the late 1990s, Whale-Skate Island was completely washed over.
The reef system at French Frigate Shoals supports 41 species of stony corals, including several species that are not found in the main Hawaiian Island chain. More than 600 species of marine invertebrates, many of which are endemic, are found there as well.
More than 150 species of algae live among the reefs. Especially diverse algal communities are found immediately adjacent to La Perouse Pinnacle. This has led to speculation that an influx of additional nutrients – in the form of guano – is responsible for the diversity and productivity of algae in this environment. The reef waters support large numbers of fish. The masked angelfish (Genicanthus personatus), endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, is relatively common there. Most of Hawaii's green sea turtles travel to the shoals to nest. The small islets of French Frigate Shoals provide refuge to the largest surviving population of Hawaiian monk seals, the second most endangered pinniped in the world.
The islands are also an important seabird colony. Eighteen species of seabird, the black-footed albatross, Laysan albatross, Bonin petrel, Bulwer's petrel, wedge-tailed shearwater, Christmas shearwater, Tristram's storm-petrel, red-tailed tropicbird, masked booby, red-footed booby, brown booby, great frigatebird, spectacled tern, sooty tern, blue-gray noddy, brown noddy, black noddy and white tern nest on the islands, most of them (16) on Tern Island. Two species, the blue-gray noddy and the brown booby, nest only on La Perouse Pinnacle. The island also is the wintering ground for several species of shorebird.
A three-week research mission in October 2006 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) led to the discovery of 100 species never seen in the area before, including many that are totally new to science. The French Frigate Shoals project is part of the Census of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the International Census of Marine Life.
This table lists the islands of the French Frigate Shoals:
|Skate Island 1)||1007||12808||
|Whale Island 1)||1007||19212||
|Little Gin Island||1003||19448||
|Near Island 2)||-||400|
|Bare Island 3)||-||400||
|East Island 4)||1005||35853||
|Mullet Island 5)||1006||2462||
|Round Island 5)||1006||3078||
|La Perouse Pinnacle||1011||3677||
1) Whale-Skate Island, currently a double island, is also listed in the census documents together as a block, with an area of 32,020 m². The shares of the islands are estimated (40 and 60 percent).
2) 1971 it was reported that Near Island, although recorded on maps, would be submerged at high tide.
5) Round and Mullet Islands in census documents found together as a block 1006, together with an area of 5540 m2. The shares are valued according to a report from 1971 (0.4 and 0.5 acres).
Chenopodium oahuense is a species of flowering plant in the amaranth family known by the common names aweoweo, alaweo, alaweo huna, aheahea, ahea, ahewahewa, and kahaihai. It is endemic to Hawaii, where it occurs on all of the larger islands except for Kahoolawe. It is also found on Lisianski Island, Laysan, the French Frigate Shoals, Necker Island, and Nihoa.This species is a shrub that can reach 5 to 20 meters in height. The fleshy, lightly hairy leaf blades have three lobes. The inflorescence is a panicle of small flowers.This plant can be used for Hawaiian ecosystem restoration and erosion control. Sooty terns and red-footed boobies use this plant as nesting material. The Hawaiian people used the wood of this plant to make shark hooks, and the cooked leaves were eaten like spinach.Crocidosema leprarum
Crocidosema leprarum is a moth of the family Tortricidae. It was first described by Lord Walsingham in 1907. It is endemic to the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Molokai, Nihoa, Necker, French Frigate Shoals and Laysan.
The larvae probably feed on Abutilon and Sida species.Dryotribus mimeticus
Dryotribus mimeticus is a species of beetle in the family Curculionidae. It is endemic to the United States, with the species also being recorded on Scorpion Reef a remote island chain in Mexico. The species also occurred in Florida, it has been suggested in Biologia Centrali-Americana that it was actually introduced to Hawaii from the Florida population.
The species was said to have occurred in drift logs on Laysan Island, French Frigate Shoals, Johnston Island and Wake Island. Despite being considered extinct since 1986, 2 specimen of D. mimeticus were found and collected in the Dominican Republic in 1997; 11 years after the species was said to be extinct. In 2002 another specimen of the species was collected in Montserrat.East Island, Hawaii
East Island was an island, formerly about 11-acre (4.5 ha)s in area, half a 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 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".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.Erechthias kerri
Erechthias kerri is a moth of the family Tineidae. It was first described by Otto Swezey in 1926. It is found in the Pacific region, including the French Frigate Shoals, Lisianski, Laysan, the Pearl and Hermes Reef, Johnston Island and Hawaii.French Frigate Shoals Airport
French Frigate Shoals Airport (ICAO: PHHF, FAA LID: HFS) is a private use airport on Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals, a coral atoll, in Hawaii, United States. It is owned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, as part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
Although many U.S. airports use the same three-letter location identifier for the FAA and IATA, this airport is assigned HFS by the FAA but has no designation from the IATA (which assigned HFS to Hagfors Airport in Hagfors, Sweden).Gardner Pinnacles
The Gardner Pinnacles (Hawaiian: Pūhāhonu) are two barren rock outcrops surrounded by a reef and located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands at 24°59′56″N 167°59′58″W.
It is 511 nautical miles (946 km; 588 mi) northwest of Honolulu and 108 miles (94 nmi; 174 km) from French Frigate Shoals. The total area of the two small islets—remnants of an ancient volcano—is 5.939 acres (24,030 m2). The highest peak is 170 feet (52 meters). The surrounding reef has an area in excess of 600,000 acres (2,400 km2; 940 sq mi).
Gardner Pinnacles was first discovered on June 2, 1820, by the American whaler Maro commanded by Captain Joseph Allen.
The Gardner Pinnacles are home to some species of fish not found anywhere else in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and have more species of coral than two rocky neighbors to the south, Necker Island and Nihoa. Numerous insects live on the island, and a researcher claims to have found two new species of spiders here.
Since this is part of a wildlife refuge, Gardner Pinnacles is off limits to even the military, although they made an unauthorized landing in 1961 or 1962 and blew off the tip of the outcrop to create an emergency helicopter landing spot for the Hawaiian HIRAN project, an effort to determine location of area islands with great precision for navigational purposes. To this day the tip has not been replaced, and debris from the blast can be found scattered throughout the island. In the Hawaiian Archipelago, adjacent islands/reefs are French Frigate Shoals to the southeast, and Maro Reef to the northwest.Hawaiian blackhead triplefin
The Hawaiian blackhead triplefin (Enneapterygius atriceps), also known as the Hawaiian triplefin in Hawaii, is a species of triplefin blenny in the genus Enneapterygius. It is a tropical blenny found in coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean, from the Hawaiian Islands, French Frigate Shoals, Laysan Island, and Midway Atoll. Blennies in this species swim at a depth range of 1–23 metres, and inhabit dead coral and rock.
It was originally described by O.P. Jenkins in 1903, as a species of Tripterygion, but was reassigned to Enneapterygius by R. Fricke in 1997.Hurricane Neki
Hurricane Neki was the final tropical cyclone of the 2009 Pacific hurricane season. It developed on October 18 as an unusually large disturbance from a trough south of Hawaii. Moving northwestward, it slowly organized at first due to its large size. After reaching hurricane status on October 21, Neki intensified at a much faster rate and peaked with winds of 125 mph (205 km/h). It later turned to the north and north-northeast and weakened due to hostile conditions. While passing through the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Neki was downgraded to a tropical storm after the center became exposed from the deepest convection. It caused little impact in the island chain. After stalling and executing a small loop, Neki resumed its northward track and dissipated on October 27.Hurricane Walaka
Hurricane Walaka ( ua-la-ka; Hawaiian: ʻwalaka meaning "ruler of the army") was one of the most intense hurricanes on record for the Central Pacific Basin. By minimum pressure, Walaka is the second-strongest tropical cyclone in central Pacific, alongside Hurricane Gilma in 1994, and is only surpassed by Hurricane Ioke in 2006. The nineteenth named storm, twelfth hurricane, eighth major hurricane, and second Category 5 hurricane of the 2018 Pacific hurricane season, Walaka originated from an area of low pressure that formed over a thousand miles south-southeast of Hawaii on September 25. The National Hurricane Center tracked the disturbance for another day or so before it moved into the Central Pacific Basin. The Central Pacific Hurricane Center monitored the disturbance from that time until September 29, when the system organized into Tropical Storm Walaka. Walaka gradually strengthened, becoming a hurricane on October 1. Walaka then began to rapidly intensify, reaching Category 5 intensity by early on October 2. An eyewall replacement cycle caused some weakening of the hurricane, though it remained a powerful storm for the next day or so. Afterward, less favorable conditions caused a steady weakening of the hurricane, and Walaka became extratropical on October 6, well to the north of the Hawaiian Islands. The storm's remnants then accelerated northeastward, before dissipating on October 9.
Although the hurricane did not impact any major landmasses, it passed very close to the unpopulated Johnston Atoll as a strong Category 4 hurricane, where a hurricane warning was issued in advance of the storm. Four scientists there intended to ride out the storm on the island, but were then evacuated before the storm hit. Walaka then neared the far Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but weakened considerably as it did so. East Island in the French Frigate Shoals suffered a direct hit and was completely destroyed.Kerr's noctuid moth
Kerr's noctuid moth (Agrotis kerri) was a species of moth in the family Noctuidae. It is now extinct.
This moth was endemic to the French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The larvae have been recorded on Boerhaavia tetrandra and Poriulaca oleracea. The caterpillar had a length of about 50 mm when full-grown. It resembled the caterpillar of Agrotis crinigera except that the head was paler and almost entirely pale yellowish testaceous with a slender black line along the paraclypeal suture, where A. crinigera has quite a wide blackish mark. The cervical shield is also paler than that of A. crinigera.La Perouse Pinnacle
La Perouse Pinnacle is a volcanic pinnacle located in the French Frigate Shoals about midway in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It is the oldest and most remote volcanic rock in the Hawaiian chain. La Perouse Pinnacle stands 120 ft (37 m) tall. It is surrounded by coral reefs and a shorter, rocky islet about 5–10 feet (1.5–3 meters) tall. Because of its distinct shape, the pinnacle can be mistaken for a ship from a distance.
The rock is named for Comte de La Pérouse, who came across the shoals in 1786.List of species of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
This is a list of the species that inhabit the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Except for researchers and volunteers living on Midway Atoll, Kure Atoll, and Tern Island, the leeward islands are uninhabited by people but home to at least 7000 species ranging from marine mammals, fish, sea turtles, birds and invertebrates. Many of these species are rare or endangered and at least 25% are endemic to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This list identifies which islands the species lives on, and whether the species is endemic to the NWHI.Nihoa finch
The Nihoa finch (Telespiza ultima) is one of the two endemic bird species of the tiny Hawaiian island Nihoa, the other being the Nihoa millerbird. When it was classified in 1917, scientists thought that it would be the last endemic species named. This was later found untrue. The island's population is 1000–3000 birds. The Nihoa finch was added to the Endangered Species List by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on March 11, 1967. An attempt to protect the species against extinction was made by starting a colony on French Frigate Shoals, another leeward island. This would ensure its continued existence in the event that the Nihoa population was wiped out. This attempt, however, failed. Nihoa is part of a group of islands that make up the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge which provides protected land for the Nihoa finch to roam on.Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands or the Leeward Islands are the small islands and atolls in the Hawaiian island chain located northwest (in some cases, far to the northwest) of the islands of Kauai and Niihau. Politically, they are all part of Honolulu County in the U.S. state of Hawaii, except Midway Atoll, which is a territory distinct from Hawaii and grouped as one of the United States Minor Outlying Islands. The United States Census Bureau defines this area, except Midway, as Census Tract 114.98 of Honolulu County. Its total land area is 3.1075 square miles (8.048 km2). All the islands except Nihoa are north of the Tropic of Cancer, making them the only islands in Hawaii that lie outside the tropics.
The Northwestern or Leeward Hawaiian Islands include:
Nihoa (Moku Manu) at 23°03′38″N 161°55′19″W
Necker (Mokumanamana) at 23°34′N 164°42′W
French Frigate Shoals (Kānemilohaʻi) at 23°52.134′N 166°17.16′W
Gardner Pinnacles (Pūhāhonu) at 25°01′N 167°59′W
Maro Reef (Nalukākala) at 25.415°N 170.590°W / 25.415; -170.590
Laysan (Kauō) at 25.7675°N 171.7334°W / 25.7675; -171.7334
Lisianski (Papaāpoho) at 26.064031°N 173.965802°W / 26.064031; -173.965802
Pearl and Hermes Atoll (Holoikauaua) at 27.927687°N 175.737991°W / 27.927687; -175.737991
Midway (Pihemanu) at 28°12′N 177°21′W - not part of the State of Hawaii
Kure (Mokupāpapa) at 28°25′N 178°20′WOperation K
Operation K (K作戦, Kē-Sakusen) was a Japanese naval operation in World War II, intended as a reconnaissance of Pearl Harbor and disruption of repair and salvage operations following the surprise attack on 7 December 1941. It culminated on 4 March 1942, with an unsuccessful attack carried out by two Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boats. This was the longest distance ever undertaken by a two-plane bombing mission, and one of the longest bombing sorties ever planned without fighter escort.Sooty tern
The sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) is a seabird in the family Laridae. It is a bird of the tropical oceans, breeding on islands throughout the equatorial zone.Tern Island (Hawaii)
Tern Island is a tiny coral island located in the French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, at 23.870°N 166.284°W / 23.870; -166.284, approximately 490 miles (790 kilometres) west north west of Oahu. It has a land area of 105,276 m2 (26.014 acres). The island provides a breeding habitat to 18 species of seabirds, threatened Hawaiian green sea turtles, and endangered Hawaiian monk seals. It is maintained as a field station in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.Two Brothers (ship)
Two Brothers was a Nantucket whaleship that sank on the night of February 11, 1823, off the French Frigate Shoals. The ship's captain was George Pollard, Jr., former captain of the famous whaleship Essex. The wreck was discovered in 2008 (announced on February 11, 2011) by a team of marine archaeologists working on an expedition for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
French Frigate Shoals