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World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers



Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is a protected area encompassing 140,000 square miles (360,000 km2) of ocean waters and ten islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

This remote part of the Pacific is relatively pristine and has a large number of endemic species. It is also the habitat of the threatened green sea turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

Culturally, it is important for its centrality to Hawaiian culture and its importance in the settlement of the Pacific. Significant Native Hawaiian cultural sites are found on the islands of Nihoa and Mokumanamana. There are also locations of historic shipwreck sites.

The Papahânaumokuâkea Marine National Monument was created by Presidential proclamation on June 15, 2006.

Map of Papahanaumokuakea


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Site Info

Full name: Papahânaumokuâkea

Unesco ID: 1326

Inscribed: 2010

Type: Mixed

Criteria: 3   6   8   9   10  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2010 - Inscribed 


The site has 1 locations.

  • Papahanaumokuakea


The site has 36 connections.


  • Damaged in World War II: damaged by Japanese and US forces during the Battle of Midway in June 1942 Link
  • Hit by Tsunami: The 2008 Nomination File referred to the potential for tsunami damage but concluded that "As the marine ecosystem has evolved with periodic disturbance by tsunamis and seasonally high wave energy events, its capacity to recover fully from tsunamis and other wave events would be expected." In fact the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake/Tsunami did cause significant damage as per this this early report but later ones indicate recovery as predicted -  Link



  • Pacific Ocean
  • Dependent territories: It includes the island of Midway which is an "Unorganised unincorporated territory of the US"
  • Marine sites
  • Polynesia
  • Largest area: "The vote also establishes the first mixed World Heritage Site in the nation, which covers an area of nearly 140,000 square miles" (362,600km2)
  • Seamount
  • Linear inscriptions
  • Archipelagos: (Volcanic) Includes 10 islands and atolls of the Hawaiian Archipelago
  • Deepest: Papahanaumokuakea "encompasses a multitude of habitats, ranging from 4,600 m below sea level to 275 m above sea level, including abyssal areas, seamounts and submerged banks" (AB)
  • Atoll: Papahanaumokuakea Atolls within the NP include Midway, Kure, Pearl and Hermes


  • Castaways/shipwrecked mariners: Kure -the most westerly atoll. "Many crews were stranded on Kure Atoll after being shipwrecked on the surrounding reefs and had to survive on the local seals, turtles, and birds... Because of these incidents King Kalakaua sent Colonel J. H. Boyd as his Special Commissioner to Kure. On September 20, 1886 he took possession of the island, then called Moku Papapa, for the Hawaiian government. The King ordered that a crude house be built on the island, with tanks for holding water and provisions for any other unfortunates who might be cast away there. But the provisions were stolen within a year, and the house soon fell into ruins." (Wiki)

Human Activity

  • Natural sites with indigenous human population: Native Hawaiian
  • Guano 'Mining': "In 1890, Laysan was leased by the Hawaiian Kingdom to the North Pacific Phosphate and Fertilizer Company for a period of 20 years. Guano mining and digging occurred on Laysan from 1892 to 1904. This period saw the construction of several buildings, including a lighthouse and a small railroad, which supported this trade; between 100 and 125 tons of guano could be shipped from Laysan per day" Nomin file.  Link
  • Human Sacrifice: Oral histories suggest that ceremonies involving human sacrifice had been conducted at the heiau, although there is no concrete archaeological evidence for this (Nom file))

Religion and Belief


  • Built in the 4th century: first occupation
  • Oligocene: The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were formed, approximately 7 to 30 million years ago, as shield volcanoes over the same volcanic hotspot that formed the Emperor Seamounts to the north and the Main Hawaiian Islands to the south.(Wiki)


WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process

  • No Buffer Zone: Insc 2010 without buffer zone "The nominated property has no buffer zone, as it is in an extremely remote region and its boundaries have been set at 50 nautical miles (~100km) out over open sea from each of the islands and atolls"....."IUCN considers that the boundaries of the nominated property meet the requirements set out in the Operational Guidelines"


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