uninhabited French island in the eastern Pacific Ocean, 1,800 miles (2,900 km) west of Panama and 1,300 miles (2,090 km) southwest of Mexico. It is a roughly circular coral atoll (2 square miles [5 square km]), barely 10 feet (3 m) high in most places but with a promontory 70 feet (21 m) high surmounted by a ruined 19th-century lighthouse. Vegetation consists of low scrub, patches of wild tobacco, and a few coconut groves. Named after the English mutineer and pirate John Clipperton, who made the island his lair in 1705, it was listed as a U.S. island under the Guano Act (1856) but had already been annexed by France in 1855. Seized by Mexican forces, it was garrisoned from 1897 to 1917. With the opening of the Panama Canal, Clipperton Island attained new importance. In 1930 King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy arbitrated the conflicting claims in favour of France. It was administered from French Polynesia until 2007, when France assumed direct administration of the dependency, placing it under the authority of the Minister of Overseas France.
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