Volume 12 Number 2/3
October, 1996
earhart logoearhart logoParadise Lost

In late September, Gerald Gallagher, promoted to Acting Officer In Charge of the Phoenix Island Settlement Scheme, moves his headquarters from Sydney Island to Gardner. Gallagher, known to the Gilbertese as “Karaka” and to his fellow officers as “Irish,” is the island’s first and only resident European magistrate.

In December, Gallagher reports “severe and almost continuous north-westerly gales” which cause considerable damage to the village and alter the course of the southern lagoon passage.


In May, Gallagher goes to Fiji (headquarters of the British Western Pacific High Commission) on leave.

On June 20 at least four PBY flying boats of U.S. Navy Patrol Squadron 22 visit the island as part of a “Reconnaissance of Pacific Islands of the Phoenix Islands.” Nine aerial photographs are taken and at least one of the aircraft lands in the lagoon and calls at the village which is reported to be “inhabited by 30 natives presided over by a native magistrate and policed by a member of the Gilbert Ellice Islands Colony Constabulary.”

On September 24 Gallagher returns from Fiji aboard the S.S. Viti but has become seriously ill enroute. He dies three days later on September 27 and is buried in the center of the Government Station area of the settlement. No replacement officer is appointed. Teng Koata retires and returns to Tarawa. His position as head man is taken by Teng Iokina

1942 On November 30 Colonial Service Officer D.C.I. Wernham visits the island and finds the coconut plantings healthy, with one tree approaching bearing age. The island is outside the active war zone and no contact with Japanese forces is known to have occurred.
1943 On April 23 District Officer R. M. Major visits the island and finds the trees healthy and the population “not discontented.”

On November 17 the District Officer returns aboard a U.S. Coast Guard flying boat (PBY 189) with a survey party to select a site for the construction of a Loran navigation station. The island’s southeastern tip is chosen. The island’s population at this time is officially listed as 57.


On July 24 U.S. Coast Guard Construction Detachment D (Unit 211) arrive aboard USCG Balsam to begin construction of the Loran facility.

On August 17-18 a British officer, Lt. Col. Huggins, finds that little progress has been made by the colony since Gallagher’s death.

On September 29 the Gardner Loran goes on the air. The station is staffed by 25 men as USCG Unit 92. The commanding officer, Ensign Charles Sopko, restricts his men to the immediate area around the station and limits their contact with the colonists to prevent “fraternization.”

Sometime in late 1944 or early 1945, PBY pilot Lt. (jg) John Mims sees the Gilbertese settlers using an aircraft control cable as a heavy-duty fishing line leader. Asked about its origin, one of the Gilbertese replies that, “When our people first arrived a few years ago there was an airplane here.”

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