Clipperton Island

Photo: Shannon Rankin, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) (http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/mvey0761.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Shannon Rankin, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) (http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/mvey0761.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oops! It’s Tax Day, and you haven’t filed yours yet. They’re almost finished—really. You just need a little more time. But they’re such a headache, especially when you don’t see a refund in your future. If only you could hide on a deserted island where the IRS couldn’t find you.

There is a remote island in the Pacific Ocean where they probably wouldn’t look for you. Clipperton Island lies southwest of Mexico and west of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The island was named after a British pirate, claimed by France in the mid-19th century, seized by Mexico at the end of the century, and returned to France in the 1930s. Île de la Passion, as the French affectionately call it, is now visited by the French Navy, scientific researchers, film crews, fishermen, and the occasional tax evader.

Clipperton Island is a low-lying coral atoll that encloses a freshwater, but stagnant, lagoon. Your boat from Acapulco is practically beside the island before you see it. It’s home to the remains of U.S. Navy buildings and rusty machinery from World War II, an old NASA radar site, and the ruins of a Mexican lighthouse from the early 1900s. Grass and a few clusters of coconut palms are the only plants that grow on the island. Thousands of bright-orange crabs live in the sand. Terns, boobies, and frigatebirds nest here. The wrecks of the Oco and the Lily Marie, two Mexican fishing boats, are just offshore. While tuna and rare Clipperton angelfish lure fishermen to the surrounding waters.

Climb Clipperton Rock. The small, volcanic outcrop is the highest point on the island. Snorkel with playful dolphins in the warm turquoise water. Stroll around the seaweed-covered lagoon. Relax in the hot sun on the soft sand. Take a nap under a palm tree. Walk along the now-exposed reef at low tide. But ultimately decide to leave your deserted island before dusk. The crabs, as well as rats from wrecked ships, supposedly turn paradise into hell after dark. It must be your punishment for trying to skip out on Tax Day.

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