Kanton atoll basically lies on the equator and is located approximately halfway between Fiji and Hawaii and is part of the Phoenix Islands in the Republic of Kiribati. During World War II, Kanton served as a military base during which an airstrip was built. The base remained functional throughout the war and was eventually abandoned in 1976 with it last being used as a missile tracking station. Kiribati gained independence from Britain in 1979 and the island transferred to the domain of Kiribati.
Since 2008, Kanton and the rest of the Phoenix Islands have been placed under the Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA), which is the world’s largest marine protected area.
Kanton is currently the only inhabited island in the Phoenix Island group. Today the population is reported to consist of only 24 islanders, 14 adults and 10 children.
While the airstrip is still functional, the last commercial flights went there in the 1960’s, making travel to this place difficult. Very difficult. Either one has to charter a private plane or get there by boat. Additionally, being a marine protected area, gaining access is a whole different story, so there are certainly immense logistical challenges involved. The last fly fishing expedition went there in 1994 when a group from Frontiers International chartered a private plane from Kiritimati. Their trip report was published in ‘Bonefishing’ (by Randall Kaufmann), and gives the feeling of great things to come.
The logistics and infrastructure on Kanton are virtually nil and the story is pretty much the same throughout the entire Republic of Kiribati so having said that Luke Wyrsta of Rock Expeditions has been working on gaining access to this long lost atoll for the better part of ten years now. He has succeeded in making the impossible, possible. There will be a small group of us setting sail from Apia, Samoa on the 6th of July to be some of the few people to fish on Kanton in many years past.
Luke has gathered various intel from research expeditions and by the sounds of it there is going to be a hell of a time waiting for us!
I would also like to personally thank those of you who have supported me on this trip with advice and/or support. In particular, a big thanks to Guy Ferguson and Leonard Flemming.
The pressure is on. Time to go and see what’s out there! May the fishing and travel gods be with us!
EDIT: I would also like to give a big thanks to Jimmy Eagleton for tying up some awesome crustacean patterns for me!