Fort Worth, TX (WiredPRNews.com)—Inhospitable, dangerous and deadly are just a few ways of describing tiny Palmyra island, which once served as a US Naval Air Station during WWII and the backdrop for a famous murder mystery.
Located 1,100 miles south of Honolulu, the island actually and atoll comprised of coral reef and the top ridge of an ancient, underwater volcano. While there is little actual land, there was enough for the US Navy to build a 6,000-foot runway and a few barracks during World War II so Palmyra could be used as a refueling station for trans-Pacific flights.
An abandoned twin-engine airplane, the runway and some other structures still exist from the Island’s military past. However, if you happen to be one of the rare few who visit the island watch out for sharks swimming in the shallow lagoon, unexploded WWII bombs and poisonous vegetation. The island has no indigenous population and is now owned by the Nature Conservancy, which has a team of 10 to 20 researchers camped at various times. Legally, the Palmyra Island is an unincorporated area of the United States.
The outer reefs of the island make it a dangerous place for sea vessels to drop anchor because the sharp coral easily cuts through wooden-hulled boats. In fact, that’s how the island got its name. In 1802, an American ship, named the Palmyra, wrecked on the shallow reef of the island.
Because of the island’s location, in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), the island gets a tremendous amount of rainfall every year. It’s estimated that up to 200 inches or rain fall on the island, which sits a few degrees north of the equator and in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
In 1974, the island became the setting for a true crime book and movie, titled And the Sea Will Tell, written by Vincent Bugliosi. The book details the double murder of Mac and Eleanor Graham, a wealthy couple from San Diego who sailed their yacht to the desolate island and planned to live there for a year. However, their fate collided with a fugitive ex-con and his girlfriend, who arrived at Palmyra earlier that year from Hawaii.