Clipperton Island Lighthouse

Clipperton Island (Île de la Passion) is an uninhabited coral atoll in the eastern Pacific Ocean, north of the Equator, some 1280 km (795 mi) southwest of Acapulco on the Mexican coast. The island is named for John Clipperton, an English pirate and privateer who was the first to map the island in the early 1700s. France annexed Clipperton in 1858, adding it to its French Polynesia colony, but the French did not occupy the island. In 1892 a U.S. company claimed the island under the Guano Islands Act and mined phosphate from guano (bird droppings) for five years. In 1897, when the Americans left, Mexico asserted sovereignty and located a small colony on the island. The Mexican settlers were marooned after 1914 when political upheavals in Mexico caused supply ships to stop coming to the island. A passing U.S. warship picked up a handful of survivors in 1917.

In 1930 the sovereignty dispute was referred to King Victor Emmanuel of Italy as arbitrator, and in 1931 he ruled in favor of France. In 1935 France reactivated the lighthouse and established a small military outpost on the atoll, although it did not attempt a permanent settlement. The outpost was withdrawn in 1938 with the approach of World War II. The U.S. Navy occupied the atoll in 1944-45. Since 1980 France has maintained an automatic weather station on the island.

In 2007 the administration of Clipperton was transferred from the government of French Polynesia to the French overseas territories ministry (Ministère de l'Outre-Mer) in Paris. The island is now a restricted wildlife preserve.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights.

General Sources
Île de la Passion, alias Clipperton
A comprehensive site on the island, written by Christian H. Jost of the Université Paul Verlaine in Metz, France. The historic photo at right comes from this site.
[Île Clipperton]
1906. Inactive 1917-1935 and since 1938. Approx. 6 m (20 ft) round cast iron lantern mounted on a round concrete base. Lantern prefabricated in France. The lighthouse was built by Mexico and refurbished by France in 1931. A National Geographic Society expedition in 2003 found that the lantern has fallen from its former perch on the highest point of the atoll. Shadows probably hide the fallen tower in Google's satellite view. Located atop a pinnacle of coral rock near the south end of the atoll. Site closed; visits to the island require the approval of the French Overseas Ministry. ARLHS CLI-001.

Clipperton Lighthouse
Clipperton Light
photo from French Archives TPM

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Return to the Lighthouse Directory index | Ratings key

Posted December 12, 2007. Checked and revised September 4, 2019. Lighthouses: 0. Site copyright 2019 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.