Henderson Island World Heritage Site
Île d'Henderson, United Kingdom
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Henderson Island is an uninhabited raised coral atoll in the south Pacific Ocean, annexed to the Pitcairn Islands colony in 1902. Measuring 9.6 kilometres (6.0 mi) long and 5.1 kilometres (3.2 mi) wide, Henderson Island has an area of 37.3 square kilometres (14.4 sq mi) and is located 193 kilometres (120 mi) northeast of Pitcairn Island at 24°22′01″S 128°18′57″W / 24.36694°S 128.31583°W / -24.36694; -128.31583. Henderson Island was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1988. The island itself is too small and steep for agriculture and has little fresh water. The raised coral platform has 15 metres (49 ft) coastal cliffs (mostly undercut) with three beaches on the northern side. It has a maximum elevation of 33 metres (108 ft).
Although Henderson is virtually uninhabitable, archaeological evidence suggests that it was inhabited by a small Polynesian permanent colony between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. The reasons for the group's disappearance are unknown, but are probably related to the similar disappearance of the Polynesians on Pitcairn Island, on whom the Hendersonians would have depended for many of the basics of life. The Pitcairn Polynesians may in turn have disappeared because of the decline of nearby Mangareva; thus, Henderson was at the end of a chain of small, dependent colonies of Mangareva.
On January 29, 1606, Henderson island was discovered by Portuguese sailor Pedro Fernandes de Queiros, who named it San João Baptista. On January 17, 1819 the island was re-discovered by British Capt. Henderson of the British East India Company ship Hercules, and named Henderson Island. On March 2, 1819, Captain Henry King, sailing aboard the Elizabeth, landed on the island to find the king's colors already flying. His crew scratched the name of their ship into a tree, and for some years the island's name was Elizabeth or Henderson, interchangeably.
The crew of the sunken whaleship Essex landed briefly on the island, staying from December 20th to 27th, 1820. Three of the crew — Thomas Chappel, Seth Weeks and William Wright — stayed and survived until their subsequent rescue on April 9, 1821 while their companions sailed on for South America in three whaleboats.
In 1957 a twenty seven year old American, Robert Tomarchin, lived the life of a castaway on the island for approximately two months, accompanied by a pet chimpanzee, apparently as a publicity stunt, until he was rescued by people from Pitcairn in two longboats.
In the early 1980s, American businessman Arthur M. Ratliff expressed interest in establishing a small settlement with an airstrip, cattle ranch, and mansion on the island. The Pitcairn Island Council approved his plans in April 1981 but the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office overrode the decision and vetoed the proposed development, after environmentalist groups had lobbied to protect the natural ecology and environment of the island which was listed as a World Heritage site in 1988.
Since the introduction of aluminium-hulled long-boats in the 20th century, Pitcairners have made regular trips to Henderson to harvest the wood of miro and tou trees. Usually they only venture to Henderson once per year, but may make up to three trips if the weather is favorable. Pitcairners carve the wood into curios, from which they derive much of their income.
Henderson Island is a raised coral atoll, that with Pitcairn, Ducie and Oeno Islands, forms the Pitcairn Island Group, a South Pacific Dependent Territory of the United Kingdom. The nearest major landmass is more than 5,000 kilometers away. This coral limestone island sits atop a conical (presumed volcanic) mound, rising from a depth of roughly 3500 metres. Its surface is mostly reef-rubble and dissected limestone; an extremely rugged mixture of steep, jagged pinnacles and shallow sink holes, and the island is encircled by steep, undercut limestone cliffs on all but the north side. There are three main beaches, on the north-west, north, and north-east sides, and the north and north-west sides are fringed by reefs. The depression at the island's centre is thought to be a raised lagoon. There is only one known fresh water spring. The surrounding ocean rises about one metre at spring tide.
Apart from five species found bordering the beaches, including coconut palms, the vegetation is undisturbed. Henderson Island is covered by 5–10 m tall tangled scrub forest, more thinly covered in the central depression. It has 51 native species of flowering plants, ten of which are unique to the island (endemic). Dominant tree species include coconut, Pandanus tectorius, Thespesia populnea, Tournefortia argentea, Cordia subcordata, Guettarda speciosa, Pisonia grandis, Geniostoma hendersonense, Nesoluma st.-johnianum, Hernandia stokesii, Myrsine hosakae, and Celtis sp.
The island is home to four endemic land bird species — the Henderson Fruit Dove, Stephen's Lorikeet, Henderson Reed-warbler and the flightless Henderson Crake. Of the fifteen non-endemic seabird species found, nine or more are believed to breed on the island. The invertebrate species are largely unknown but a third of the known snails and insects are endemic.
Land bird populations appear to be relatively stable but there is high risk of introduction to the island of predators, disease vectors and diseases by unauthorized landings of yachts. Introduction of the black rat or domestic cat would be likely to cause almost immediate extinction of the ground dwelling Henderson Crake and possibly other species. The endemic birds may have no immunity to the fatal avian pox which is transmitted by biting flies such as hippoboscidae.
Coordinates: 24°21′S 128°19′W / 24.35°S 128.317°W / -24.35; -128.317
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