Clipperton Island is a ring-shaped coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean about 800 miles south of Baja California. It is named after John Clipperton, an English pirate, who found the island in 1705. The island was originally discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. It is thought that John Clipperton used the island for a base and that he hid some of his acquisitions there.
The ring-shaped island is about 4 miles in diameter and encloses a fresh water lagoon. Most of Clippeton Island is only a few feet above sea level. The exception is Clipperton Rock, which is about 70 feet high. The island is home to thousands of seabirds and millions of crabs.
In 1708 a couple of French ships found the island and claimed it for France. In the mid 1800s an American guano mining company made arrangements to mine guano, a fertilizer made from bird dung. In 1857 the French reclaimed the island but it remained virtually uninhabited until the Mexican government built a settlement there. They too were interested in the guano.
In 1906 the Brittish returned and the Pacific Island Company was established and arrangements made with Mexico to mine guano. They built a lighthouse and by 1914 there were about 100 people living there. They got food and supplies via ship from Aculpoco, Mexico about 750 miles ENE. When the Mexican Civil War started the settlers were shut off. Most of them died. Only three were still alive and rescued in 1917.
In the early 20th century, Mexico and France were in contention over who owned Clipperton Island. The French decided to drag the Vatican into it but in 1930 they passed the responsibility of the decision over to the King of Italy, Vikor Emanuel II. He waited about a year and gave it to the French and they have had it ever since. They rebuilt the lighthouse and set up a military post but after a few years it was abandoned once again.
In 1944 FDR had an airfield and seaplane base built. He felt that the island was a key asset to winning WWII. The French were upset when they found out but it was abandoned after the war. In 1998 NASA built a $2 million tracking facility but that was abandoned in less than a year. Since the 1950s, ham radio operators have gone to the island on occasion for rare DXing to other "hams". The French Navy patrols it from time to time too.
Bernie McClenney. "Clipperton Island" QST March 2000: page 81.
Clipperton Island Pictures and History (www.qsl.net/clipperton2000/history.html)