We went ashore to Cooper Island the day after arriving in Palmyra for a tour of the camp and to walk the trails. The camp has several “pets”, including a tame Booby, a dog and a cat. Eric Pholman of the Nature Conservancy (left in the photo below) said the animals were grandfathered in when the conservancy purchased Palmyra in 2000. Boaters often picked up pets in the South Pacific and left them in Palmyra as they couldn’t bring them into Hawaii back when the quarantine rules were much stricter. Holding the Booby is Aaron, Chief of Marine Operations at Palmyra.
The Palmyra Yacht Club (building 31 on the map) walls are filled with inscriptions, drawings and poems from past visitors to the island.
The Nature Conservancy keeps the camp and its trails in excellent condition, with whimsical touches throughout. That’s a line of old flip-flops along the generator building wall (21 on the map).
We walked east towards the runway. Not far along is a swimming hole with a float and rope swings (45-47 on the map). This is one of the more minor of the modifactions the US military made to the atoll when they took it over during World War II. Palmyra is slowly reclaiming itself, but this is a long process. For those who have read And The Sea Will Tell, this is where the Sea Wind moored, and the building Jennifer is standing in (44 on the map) is Mac’s old workshop. The picture of us standing in front of the Palmyra sign is near the trailhead to the swimming hole (43 on the map).
Next was the Palmyra airport departure gate, with signs showing distance and direction to various locations. At the far side of the runway was a plane wreck. The plane, carrying a group of Ham radio operatores, had crashed and been pushed off the runway. With no way off the island, the Coast Guard had to rescue them.
We walked along the runway to the northeast corner of Cooper island (map). Fifty-foot Pandanus trees lined the strip. Their fruit resembles a pineapple and has sections that look like giant corn large kernels.
A new coconut tree forming. Coconut trees are not native to Palmyra–they were introduced for a copra plantation–and crowd out the native plants.
From the north end of the runway, we picked up the trail west along the north shore of Cooper Island. We had to be careful where we stepped–the path was full of hermit crabs and the occasional land crab.
Along the way, we found plenty of evidence of the old military base. Coming across that manhole cover on the trail made us feel a bit like we were in an episode of the TV series Lost. We were half-expecting to see Dharma Initiative logos soon.
We stopped for a beer along North Beach, the only real beach on the atoll. A small patio was setup there as well and, judging by the sign, a barbecue pit.
Eric had invited us for cocktails and dinner at the camp. We had an excellent time. A group of guests were on-site from Calgary–I think we tipped the balance to making the island’s population 50% Canadian.