Lighthouses of Kiribati

The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced "keer-ih-bahs") includes 33 coral atolls scattered across a vast stretch of the central Pacific Ocean. It includes all or part of three groups of islands. In the west is the former British colony known as the Gilbert Islands. The Phoenix Islands are in the central part of the country, and the Line Islands lie to the east. Many of the atolls of the Phoenix and Line Islands were formerly claimed by both Britain and the U.S., and those two countries administered several of them jointly until Kiribati was granted its independence in 1979. In September of that year, in the Treaty of Tarawa, the U.S. acknowledged the sovereignty of Kiribati over 14 islands formerly claimed by the United States, including Kanton (Canton) and Enderbury Islands.

The U.S. retains ownership of five atolls and islands on the northern edge of Kiribati: Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, and Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands. Lighthouses of these islands are listed on the U.S. Minor Pacific Islands page.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume M of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 111.

Kanton Island Light
Kanton Island Light; QSL card image
courtesy of
Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society;
all rights reserved

Line Islands Lighthouse
Kiritimati (Christmas Island)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 39 m (128 ft); continuous red light. Approx. 35 m (115 ft) skeletal tower. No photo available, and the tower has not been found in Google's satellite view. Kiritimati is the principal atoll of the Line Islands. Formerly administered jointly by the U.S. and Britain as a military base, the atoll has an airport and a population of more than 5500. The light is near the northern end of the atoll. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8536; NGA 11100.
Tabuaeran (Fanning Island, Greig Memorial)
1957(?). Active(?); focal plane 9 m (30 ft); continuous white light. 9 m (30 ft) square stone monument topped by a short pole. The Admiralty list says that a light is shown "on request," presumably from the top of the pole. Beth Poltis's photo is at right, Gus Perez has a 2002 photo and a closeup of the plaque on the monument, the light is visible in Wikimedia's view of the lagoon entrance, and Google has a distant satellite view. Tabuaeran, or Fanning Island, was uninhabited when it was annexed by Great Britain in 1888. Today it has a population of about 2500 tending coconut plantations. The Greig family were planters and traders on the atoll. The British blasted a lagoon entrance on the west side of the island, and the monument is located on Weston Point on the south side of the entrance. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty M8528; NGA 11108.

Phoenix Islands Lighthouses
Enderbury Island
1938. Inactive. Approx. 9 m (30 ft) round concrete tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Wikimedia has an undated distant photo by Cameron Kepler, and a map shows the location of the lighthouse. If the Wikimedia photo is recent, then the lighthouse has been repainted; another photo (2/3 the way down the page) shows it all white. The tower is barely visible in Google's satellite view. Enderbury Island is an uninhabited coral island 63 km (40 mi) east southeast of Kanton. The island was mined for guano by Americans in the 1870s and by British in the 1880s. Like Kanton, it was settled briefly by Americans in the years leading up to World War II, but it has been uninhabited since 1942. Enderbury does not have an open lagoon. The lighthouse is on the beach on the southwest side of the island. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower status unknown.

Greig Memorial, Tabuaeran, August 2004
photo copyright Beth Poltis; used by permission
* Kanton (Canton) Island (Abariringa)
1938. Inactive. 8 m (30 ft) round rubblestone tower. In addition to the photo above, a photo of the lighthouse dedication ceremony on 27 July 1938, is available (2/3 of the way down the page). Google has a satellite view. Kanton Island, formerly spelled Canton, is one of the atolls in the Phoenix group that was claimed by both the U.S. and Britain. In 1939 the two countries agreed to joint sovereignty over the island. American settlers arrived on the previously uninhabited island in March 1938. Pan American Airways built an airfield in 1939 and used Canton as a refueling stop for trans-Pacific flights in 1940-41 and from 1946 to 1958. The U.S. space agency NASA operated a spacecraft tracking station on the atoll from 1960 to 1965, and the U.S. Air Force continued the station for tracking missile tests until 1976. The U.S. surrendered its claim to the island in 1979 in favor of newly-independent Kiribati. Shortly thereafter, the new government of Kiribati settled a small community on the atoll; the current population is about 40. The light tower appears to be in good condition. Located on the south side of the main lagoon entrance, on the west side of the atoll. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS CKB-001.

Gilbert Islands Lighthouses
* Tarawa
Date unknown. Active(?); focal plane 21.5 m (70 ft); white light, 4 s on, 16 s off. Approx. 20 m (66 ft) skeletal tower. No photo available, and the tower is not seen in Google's satellite view. Located at Buariki on the northern tip of the Tarawa atoll, which includes the capital of Kiribati. Site presumably open, tower closed. Admiralty M8508; NGA 11076.
* Betio
Date unknown. Active(?); focal plane 32 m (105 ft); white flash every 8 s. 33.5 m (110 ft) communications tower. No photo available, and the tower is not seen in Google's indistinct satellite view. Betio, the islet on the southwestern tip of the Tarawa atoll, was the scene of ferocious fighting during the Battle of Tarawa in World War II. Located at the southwestern tip of Betio. Site presumably open, tower closed. Admiralty M8512; NGA 11080.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: U.S. Minor Pacific Islands | West: Micronesia

Return to the Lighthouse Directory index | Ratings key

Posted August 28, 2005. Checked and revised August 29, 2013. Lighthouses: 6. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.