The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
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Ocean Island (169.54E 0.86S) is a small (2.2 square miles or 5.7 km2) high (276' or 84 meter) island located just below the Equator in the central Pacific. The terrain rises gently from the narrow beach to the central plateau, which is slightly bowl-shaped. The island is heavily vegetated and has numerous caves and excavations, the latter a consequence of phosphate mining.
The British discovered the island in 1804 and annexed it in 1900. Phosphate production was 410,000 tons a year in 1941. There was no proper anchorage, but phosphate was loaded at Uma on the east side of Home Bay on the south coast of the island. As with nearby Nauru, the 650 native Banabans retained ownership of the land and received mining royalties but did not work the mines. Instead, these were worked by indentured laborers from China (900 persons) and the Gilberts (1200 persons.) There were about 140 European administrators on the island.
All but six of the Europeans had been evacuated on
February 1942 and the natives were scheduled to be relocated to Rabi
Island in Fiji (179.98W 6.50S). However, before this could take place, the Japanese occupied the island on 26 August 1942. The six Europeans were never seen again and were presumed murdered. The Japanese garrisoned the island but never build an airfield there. All but one of the remaining Gilbertese on the island, some 160 in number, were murdered two days after the Japanese surrender.
Temperatures: Jan 81, Apr 81, Jul 81, Oct 81
Rainfall: Jan 17/12, Apr 11/6.6, Jul 15/6.1, Oct 10/4.4 == 76.4" per annum
Pearce and Smith (1990)
Van Royen and Bowles (1952)
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