Palmyra Atoll

Palmyra Atoll was our last stop enroute to Hawaii from the Marquesas. The Atoll lies about 6 degrees north of the equator and is out of the cyclone belt so it is a logical place to wait for a weather window for the final sprint north.


During WW II and up to 1959, Palmyra was occupied by the US Navy as an airbase. In the above photo, you can see the blasted and dredged entrance channel to the inner lagoon running down and to the left in the photo. The channel was used by both ships and sea planes. While it appears easy to see in the photo, it is most difficult in real life and a mistake would be extremely costly as the water is ankle deep on both sides of the channel and the channel is barely wide enough for a boat. Currents sweep across the channel making it more difficult.

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Those small bouys are the only markers.

Permission to come to Palmyra is difficult to obtain. It is run by the Nature Conservancy and the US Government as a wild life refuge and is an incorporated territory of the US (the only incorporated territory of the US in existence). Before landing, a permit must be obtained and the process requires that any visiting vessel go thru a certified de rat inspection and bottom cleaning at its last port of call before coming to Palmyra. We managed after considerable effort to obtain a permit and we were actually the first visiting yacht to arrive in Palymra in several years. Now Palmyra is primarily run as a research station with no permanent residents and a small rotating staff along with a few scientists.

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Here we are being greeted by some of the staff and subsequently followed them on a safe path thru the shallow lagoon to the anchorage.

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Palmyra does have an old crushed coral air strip and once every month or so, a benefactor flies supplies, staff and scientists in and out on his Gulfstream from Hawaii.

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Some flights didn’t end so well as this old Lockheed Electra will attest to.

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Palmyra does have a number of amenities. This is the Yacht Club.

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And some of the treasures retrieved from around the island.

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Recreational facilities.

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The Yacht Club Bar (every yacht club has to have one)

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The old swimming hole.

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Mark Fritzer displaying his athletic prowess at said swimming hole.

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In addition to various research projects, one of the main scientific endeavors is to develop techniques to restore Pacific Atolls like Palmyra to their original state. This begins, strange;u enough, with eliminating cocoanut palms which are not indigenous and are extremely invasive. This is a long term goal and only a few area have been cleared as there are virtually millions of coconut palms. The second, which has been accomplished is to eliminate rodents – again an introduced species.

The result is a proliferation of bird life – which has both its good and bad sides.

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It is hard to imagine just what a mess these fellows could make in a short period of time.

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A walk around parts of the atoll revealed some of the old fortifications from WW II.

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Along with other critters like this coconut crab.

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This nursery for blacktop sharks on the north side of the atoll.

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This eel eating another eel.

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And large Manta Rays.

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And lots of nice scenery.

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I’ll close with a nice Palmyra sunset and a thank you to the folks on Palmyra.

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5 Responses to Palmyra Atoll

  1. Cedric Rhoads says:

    Great post, as usual. Much appreciated. There was at least one other yacht that visited Palmyra in the last few years: MV Dirona.

    • myironlady says:

      Hi Cedric

      Not sure if it is the same Dirona but we ran into a Nordhavn 40 to 50 something in the Societies – owner and wife – believe he works for Amazon.


      • myironlady says:

        Hi Cedric

        Just checked out the link and it is the same M/V Dirona that we bumped in to a number of times in the Societies.


      • Cedric Rhoads says:

        Hi Pete. Yep, same couple. James and Jennifer. Quite the intrepid explorers on their Nordy 52. Check out their blog; it goes all the way back to their Bayliner days in an around the PacNW. They’ve written a book you may be interested in given you’re heading to those parts; it covers some pretty unique gunkholes in southern BC, especially ones with tricky cuts and shallows (no boats on the other side of said passage). Definitely worth the look

      • myironlady says:

        Thanks Cedric – took a look at their blog and will look into the book. Liked some of the features on their blog – the Google earth image with their track line and photos superimposed over it in particular. Think I can figure out how to import the track line and I suspect Panorimio would add the pics. Knowing he is a techie, his solution is probably more elegant but I think my idea will work. Would be a nice add to the blog. No guarantees but will give it a go as I have time.

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