Ok, time for a geography lesson.
Just where am I?
Kwajalein Island is part of Kwajalein Atoll, a group of about 100 islands on a coral reef surrounding the world’s largest lagoon.
Kwajalein Atoll is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).
Circled on the Google map below (click to zoom on any of these images), the RMI is in the west central Pacific, just north of the equator and just west of the International Date Line (Kwajalein Island is at 8.5 °N, 167.5 °E).
The marker on the map is pointing to Kwajalein Atoll.
As an aside, my time zone is the first one in the world, in a manner of speaking. We’re in the UTC+12 time zone; in other words, we’re 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There’s no such thing as UTC+13, so this time zone is the first to experience a new day.
For a few time zone examples, let’s say it’s 10 pm Monday on Kwajalein…that means it’s
- 3 am Monday in Seattle (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-7)
- 5 am Monday in Dallas (Central Daylight Time, UTC-5)
- 6 am Monday in New York (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-4)
- 11 am Monday in London (British Summer Time, UTC+1)
- 8 pm Monday in Sydney (Australian Eastern Standard Time, UTC+10)
Ok, now let’s zoom in to Kwajalein Atoll. As I mentioned before, this atoll is made up of about 100 islands. A few of the more talked-about islands are circled on the following Google map.
- Kwajalein (“Kwaj” for short) – where I am. Southern-most island in the atoll. US Army base supporting missile launches. About 1,000 people live here supporting the mission work. The US has this island on loan for many years to come.
- Ebeye (pronounced EE-bye) – where most of the Marshallese in the atoll live (over 12,000 on this tiny island). When the US started using the RMI for military purposes following WWII, many of the Marshallese people were relocated to Ebeye. Ebeye is about a 15-minute ferry ride from Kwaj, and the Marshallese who work on Kwaj are required to go back to Ebeye by a certain time of night.
- Roi-Namur (“Roi” for short) – another US Army base supporting the missile launches. Used to be two islands, Roi and Namur, but the islands were joined with sand/rock from the lagoon. Only about 100 people live here, but a number of people take a short flight from Kwaj to work at Roi during the day. Lots of powerful and expensive radars are set up on Roi. Lots of old WWII bunkers here too.
- Meck – another island loaned by the US government. No one really lives on Meck, but it’s primarily used for anti-ballistic missile launches (e.g., sometimes Vandenberg AFB launches a test missile towards us and Meck launches a missile to shoot it down).
Now let’s zoom in to crescent-shaped Kwajalein Island.
First notice the Google map scale. Kwaj is one of the atoll’s three largest islands, and has an area of about 1.2 square miles (about 0.5 miles wide and 2.5 miles long).
Now look at the roads. While no personal vehicles are allowed on Kwaj, there are some company-owned vehicles on the island, so we do have more roads than you might think. Most people ride bikes around here though.
Now for where I live and work. I work at the RTS (Reagan Test Site) weather station, found on the golf course on the south side of the runway. When I step outside to make a cloud observation, I first have to look around for nearby golfers. The weather station is across the road from the ocean.
As I’ve mentioned before, I live in what’s called a BQ (Bachelor’s Quarters). My room is like a dorm room or hotel room. Anyway, I’m in the Sands BQ, which is at the intersection of 6th Street and Ocean Road (I’m across the road from the ocean, but my room sadly faces the other direction).
“Downtown” Kwaj is also circled on the map. This includes the shops, post office, dining hall, restaurants, travel agency office, salon, etc. I’ll talk more about the businesses here in another post.
Finally, here’s a Google map satellite image of Kwaj. My beautiful new home!