Line Islands

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Line Islands
02°00.000'S, 156°30.000'W Chart icon.png
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Line Islands

The Line Islands are a group of ten atolls and two submerged coral reefs, lying in the central Pacific Ocean east of the Gilbert Islands and Phoenix Islands. The majority of the islands are a part of the Republic of Kiribati, but Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll and Jarvis Island are United States Territory.

The islands were uninhabited when discovered but the remains of ruined temples and other structures indicated that Malden island had at one time been inhabited. Artifacts have also been discovered that indicate that most of the islands were visited by polynesian seafarers and some of the others may also have had settlements at various times. Polynesian traders and settlers would have found the islands useful replenishing stations on the long voyages from the Hawaian group to and from the islands occupied by Polynesian society in the southern Pacific between about 400 AD. and 1000 AD when long-distance voyaging became less frequent.

The United States claimed most of the islands under the Guano Islands Act of 1856, however Guano was never mined or exported to any notable extent. The Islands were occupied by Captain John English and people from Manihiki in about 1860 this led to their anexation by the British in 1889 to become a part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony in 1916. When Kiribati gained independence in 1979 the Kiribati Island Council took over the administration of the Line Islands within their territory.

Submit details about the sailing/cruising in the area, etc.


  • US General Area Charts No’s:
    • 504, 505, 506, 525, 526, 541, 604, 605, 76030, 83500,
  • Line Islands
    • US 83015 - North Line Islands & Jarvis
    • US 83158 - Tabuaerean (Fanning Island)
    • US 83130 Kiritimati (Christmas Island)
    • US 83153 Kingdom Reef
    • US 83116 - Jarvis Island
  • Fr 7368 - Central Line Islands
  • GB 4654 – Southern Line Islands


The the weather in the vicinity of the Line Islands, with the exception of the area around Palmyra Atoll, is generally excellent for navigation with prevailing winds from E varying from NE November to May to SE from June to October. Average velocities are about 10 knots, with occasional gusts up to 40 knots. Gale force winds average less than 3/4 days per year.

Rainfall patterns vary greatly from year to year averaging about 200mm, with the Rainy season and occasional squalls between March and June from the N or S. North, NW, and W and the dry season from August to November. There is no fog

Palmyra Atoll has unfavorable weather due to a tropical front that hovers in the vicinity of the island this is caused by the meeting of the Northeast Trades and the Southeast Trades. It is the only island in its latitude where fresh Westerly winds occur. The Northeast Trades prevail, with an average velocity of 10 to12 knots. There are frequent squalls of short duration and occasional winds up to 22 knots, but typhoons are infrequent. Rainfall is heavy and humidity high, ranging from 2,500 to 4,500mm annually. Rain occurs almost daily; heavy squalls come up suddenly from the SW, but severe storms are rare.

Sources for weather information:

Currents & Tides


See Kiribati.


See Kiribati.


  • The Line Island group should be navigated with care, as the islands are low, flat, and surrounded by strong, variable currents. The northern section of this group lies in or near the boundary of the Equatorial Countercurrent.
  • Correspondingly, Kingman Reef experiences an Easterly set, while the sets around Palmyra Atoll are strong and variable. The rest of the group lies within the Westerly setting South Equatorial Current.
  • Within 200 miles of Kiritimati, the current has been reported to have rates of 2.5 to 3 knots.
  • In the vicinity of Malden Island and Starbuck Island, the general set is West; however, East sets have also been experienced with rates that exceed 1 knot.

Islands in the Group

Atoll/Island/Reef Island Area - km² Lagoon - km² Coordinates Status

Northern Line Islands (Fanning's Group)

Kingman Reef 0.03 60 6°24′N, 162°24′W United States unincorporated territory
Palmyra Atoll 6.56 15 5°52′N, 162°6′W United States incorporated territory
Teraina (Washington Island) 14.2 2 4°43′N, 160°24′W Kiribati Island Council
Tabuaerean (Fanning Island) 33.7 110 3°52′N, 159°22′W Kiribati Island Council
Kiritimati (Christmas Island) c.322 c.320 1°53′N, 157°24′W Kiribati Island Council

Central Line Islands

Jarvis Island 4.45 - 0°22′S, 160°03′W United States unincorporated territory
Malden Island 39.3 13 4°01′S, 154°59′W part of Kiribati
Filippo Reef - 1.5 5°30′S, 151°50′W outside (EEZ)
Starbuck Island 21 25 5°37′S, 155°56′W part of Kiribati

Southern Line Islands

Caroline Island 3.76 2.5 9°57′S, 150°13′W part of Kiribati
Vostok Island 0.24 - 10°06′S, 152°25′W part of Kiribati
Flint Island 3 - 11°26′S, 151°48′W part of Kiribati
Line Islands 514,74 538


  • Cassidy International Airport in Kiritimati (CXI IATA) is served only by Fiji Airways on its once-weekly Nadi (Fiji) – KiritimatiHonolulu (Hawaii) route.


Contact details of "Cruiser's Friends" that can be contacted for local information or assistance.


List links to discussion threads on partnering forums. (see link for requirements)



  • Sailing Directions (Enroute)- Pub 126 Pacific Islands (Seventh Editon 2005).
    Prepared and published by the NATIONAL GEOSPATIAL-INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Bethesda, Maryland

See also Kiribati.


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