October 20, 2008

Readings: Johnston Island

Johnston [Island] considered valuable for its rich deposits of guano, was claimed by both the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1856. Migratory fowl stop here by the hundreds of thousands, and in 1926 the island was designated a federal bird reserve. After the Second World War it was acquired by the U.S. Air Force, and "since then," I read, "the U.S military has converted this formerly idyllic atoll into one of he most toxic places in the Pacific." It was used during the 1950s and '60s for nuclear testing, and is still maintained as a standby test site; one end of the atoll remains radioactive. It was briefly considered as a test site for biological weapons, but this was precluded by the huge population of migratory birds, which, it was realized, might easily carry lethal infections back to the mainland. In 1971, Johnston became a depot for thousands of tons of mustard and nerve gases, which are periodically incinerated, releasing dioxin and furan into the air (perhaps the reason for the cinnamon haze I had seem from above). All personell on the island are required to have their gas masks ready.

From The Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks
Quoted section from The Micronesia Handbook by David Stanley

5 comments:

Boron110 said...

Did you steal my book?

the unbeatable kid said...

if by steal you mean read, then yes.

Kid Dammit said...

You stole the information with your eyes.

the unbeatable kid said...

i'm an information pirate.

Kid Dammit said...

You stole the information with your one eye that doesn't have an eye patch over it.