This atoll is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Above the sea level rise several smaller islands which have 6,2 km² large land area.
The atoll was an important military base for United States throughout the 20th century and here have been fought heavy battles during the World War II. But, as the Cold War ended, in 1988 the atoll was designated as National Wildlife Refuge. Here live some 60 people.
This is one of most northerly atolls in the world: only the nearby Kure Atoll is some 20 km further to the north.
Sand Island and Eastern Island serve as a nesting site for some 2 millions of seabirds – here are nesting significant populations of 19 bird species. Each of bird species have found a certain habitat and location. Here live some 450 thousand pairs of Laysan Albatroses (Phoebastria immutabilis) – major part of world population and more than 20 000 pairs of Black-footed Albatroses (Phoebastria nigripes). The local plant life has been supplemented by numerous introduced species.
Rich marine life is also under the water – including over 250 species of fish, a pod of some 250 spinner dolphins seen in the lagoon every day and several endemic species of molluscs.