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Midway Island map

In 1859, Captain N.C. Brooks of the Hawaiian Barque "Gambia" discovered Midway Island and named it Brooks Island. Captain William Reynolds of "USS Lackawanna" on August 28,1867, officially claimed the atoll a United States insular area. This claim was in accordance within instructions from the Secretary of the Navy, pursuant to the Guano Act of August 18, 1856.

The Navy renamed it "Midway Island" in recognition of its geographic location on the route between California and Japan. The Navy established Midway as a Naval Defense Sea Area and Airspace Reservation in 1940, which played a major role during World War II. It became part of the Pacific Airborne Early Warning System in 1957 and was designated a Naval Air station in 1968. All Federal laws and Executive Orders applicable to military or naval installations apply to Midway Atoll.

A National Wildlife Refuge was set up on Midway Island under an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior. Almost all species of birds and animals on the island are protected. It is the site of the world's largest Layson Albatross (gooneybird) colony.

Political Status

Midway Atoll is owned and administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as established by Executive Order 13022 of 1996. Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean is a United States unorganized, unincorporated insular area administered by the U.S. Navy (Executive Order 199-A on January 20, 1903). The Secretary of the Navy designated the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) to act as its administrative authority.

Midway Atoll was designated a Naval Defense Sea Area and Airspace Reserve by Executive Order 8682 on February 14, 1941. Naval Administrative control was confirmed by Executive Order 11048 dated September 4, 1962.

Midway is a coral atoll formed atop a volcanic seamount near the northwest end of the Hawaiian Archipelago.

It lies approximately 1,150 miles from Honolulu and 140 miles east of the international dateline.

The atoll consists of two larger islands, Sand and East Islands, totaling three square miles in area. Several smaller islands are enclosed within a reef approximately five miles in diameter.

Midway has a tropical climate with easterly winds prevailing at approximately 10 knots. The fragmented rainfall averages 42 inches per year.


Midway has no indigenous population; its current population is about 150 residents and up to 100 visitors

Transportation Facilities

Midway Island has two service able runways with one permanently surfaced. One small minor port is available.

For Additional Information
The Office of Hawaiian Pacific Island National Wildlife Refuges Complex Office (telephone: (808) 541-1201; facsimile: (808) 541-1216), U.S. FWS [contact: Mr. Jerry Leinecke] has administered the land and water areas of Midway Atoll as an overlay national wildlife refuge (NWR) since 1988.

In 1992 the Department of the Navy closed down the approximately 1535-acre Midway Island Navy Air Facility (NAF). The transfer also included approximately 89,000 acres of submerged lands. On February 29, 1996, FWS and the Department of the Navy signed a memorandum of understanding for the transfer of the atoll's custody and accountability. On October 31, 1996,the transfer was completed by Executive Order 130.

Pet Quarantine
All plants and animals are strictly prohibited at Midway Atoll in order to preclude introduction of alien species to the fragile island ecosystem.

Emergency Contact
Any problems should be reported to the Refuge Manager of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refugee, Rob Stallenberger at (808) 599-3914.

Currency - None.


Midway Island Information

CIA World Book Fact Sheet

National Park Service Midway page

U.S. Dept. Of the Navy Midway Islands information page

Phoenix Air flies to Midway from Hawaii..island information


U.S. Department of the Interior • Office of Insular Affairs
1849 C Street, N.W. • Washington, DC 20240
Phone: (202) 208-6816 • FAX: (202) 219-1989
Last Updated on 01/11/07