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108

Sector 4. The Kiribati Islands to the Marshall Islands

may also be obtained on the edge of the shelf, in a depth of 7.3m, about 2 miles NW of the boat channel situated about 7 miles SW of the N extremity of the island.

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Caution.—The W sides of the atoll are dangerous and must

be approached with caution as the sea seldom breaks over the reef, and the discoloration of the water is not always dis- cernible.

Tarawa Atoll (1°30'N., 173°00'E.)

World Port Index No. 56450 4.39 Tarawa Atoll is located about 18 miles N of Maiana,

and consists of a chain of long narrow islets located on a right triangular shaped reef. The E and longest side and the S side have islets along their whole length. The W side of the atoll is submerged, with depths of 3.7 to 18.3m over the reef, except for about 6 miles from the N extremity of the apex, where it is above water. There are no off-lying dangers reported near Tarawa. However, vessels should give the extremities of the atoll a wide berth. The islands are partially wooded with groves of coconut trees, except for Betio and Bairiki at the S extremity of the atoll, which are covered with dense undergrowth. Mast- head navigation is necessary when navigating around the atolls. It has been reported that when in the vicinity of Tarawa and approaching land at night, a lookout at deck level normally sights land before those stationed at higher levels.

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Tarawa is the port of entry for the Republic of Kitibari and

the administrative center. The port and commercial center is at Betio Island and the government offices on Bairiki Island, 2 miles E. The harbormaster’s office is situated below the radio tower in Betio.

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Winds—Weather.—The Southeast Trade season extends

from March to November. It is characterized by more or less steady trade winds blowing from ESE and little rainfall. There is no actual doldrum period and no definite time of calms and squalls, although calms and cat’s paws do occur quite often in June and July.

The average wind force during the day is about 12 knots, but occasionally a good fresh trade will blow up to 30 knots. After sunset the wind will fall to 3 to 6 knots, freshening again in the morning about 3 hours after sunrise. Occasionally, a fresh breeze or squall will be experienced in the morning or evening. The westerly season extends from November to March, or

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more precisely, westerlies very seldom occur before the be- ginning of November or after the end of March. It is not certain that a westerly will occur in any one year during these months, but there have been exceptional cases in which westerlies have lasted throughout the entire year. In these exceptional cases, gales do not occur, winds are light, and the atmosphere is sul- try. Such an unusual year might be encountered once in every decade.

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There is some variation in the trades between the N and S

Gilberts. In the N group, consisting of Apiang, the N part of Tarawa, Marakei, Butaritari Atoll (Makin Atoll), and Little Makin, the islands come under the influence of the Northeast Trades at certain times of the year. Apparently the border line of the trades is along this belt. In the S group the trades blow ESE, while in the N group from the E to just a little SE. In the

Pub. 126

westerly season, winds in the N group will blow ENE, with an occasional NE squall.

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The westerly gales usually give 24 to 36 hours notice of their

approach. The first indication is a bank of high cirrus working up slowly from the W. This is followed by a coppery haze in the afternoon, and a swell from the W. When these phenomena are observed it is fairly definite that a westerly gale will hit the island group within 36 hours.

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The gale itself is heralded by a low bank of dark, nimbus

clouds approaching on the W horizon, usually in the form of a horseshoe. The gale comes up fairly fast, and breaks with thunder, lightning, heavy rain, and a rush of wind. The gale may attain a rate of 50 miles per hour, and in localized in- stances in excess of 60 miles per hour. A very violent gale may last only 5 or 6 hours, but usually it is 3 days before the wind subsides. The wind then starts chopping from the SW and NW. The sky breaks, the wind and swell subside, and within 24 hours normal conditions return.

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The "line island" squall, which is also encountered in these

waters, is not to be confused with the westerly gale. These squalls may occur in any season and generally strike toward sunset. Their approach is often heralded by a cloud banking up among the trade wind clouds to windward. This cloud then spreads and forms a dark horseshoe bend on the horizon. Heavy rain and a very strong gust of wind follows with a force of about 50 miles per hour at the heart of the squall. The squall may last for an hour, or perhaps an hour and a half, but it has no lasting effect, and good weather soon follows.

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The climate in the Gilbert Islands is warm to hot, and drier in

the S part of the group than in the N. Except on calm days, which are somewhat oppressive, the heat is tempered by the trade winds. The nights are cool and pleasant.

Tides—Currents.—The mean tidal rise is 1.3m, while the spring rise is 1.9m.

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The maximum tidal current observed in the entrance channel

was 1.2 knots, setting 282° on ebb tide. The maximum velocity observed on flood tide was 0.8 knots, setting 120°. The current may be slightly greater during maximum spring tides or unfav- orable weather outside. It has been reported that tidal currents in the entrance channel have been known to flow athwart the fairway.

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The SE extremity of Tarawa should be given a wide berth, as

a strong current splits off this point, one part flowing W and the other N.

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The currents along the E approach to Tarawa have a set to

the NW of about 2.5 knots. To the N and S of the atoll this set increases from 3 to 3.5 knots. On the W side it drops back to 2.5 knots and is unpredictable.

Following westerly gales the currents may reverse and flow to the E for 2 or 3 days before returning to their normal path.

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Between Tarawa and Abaiang Atoll, about 6 miles N, an E countercurrent occasionally runs, the average rate being 1 knot. It may be experienced at any time of the year. During June and July, the countercurrent is sometimes felt as far S as Nonouti. Depths—Limitations.—Vessels with a depth of 7.3m can

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enter the lagoon at any stage of the tide, while drafts of 9.1m may enter at HW. Cargo is normally worked by lighter. Betio Harbor is formed by two moles and has a depth of

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