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In the 1840s, guano came to be prized as an agricultural fertilizer and as a source of saltpeter for gunpowder. In 1855, the U.S. learned of rich guano deposits on islands in the Pacific Ocean. Congress passed the Guano Islands Act to take advantage of these deposits.
The act specifically allows the islands to be considered a possession of the U.S., but it also provided that the U.S. was not obliged to retain possession after the guano was exhausted. However, it did not specify what the status of the territory was after it was abandoned by private U.S. interests. The implication is that it would return to its former status as terra nullius.
This is the beginning of the concept of insular areas in U.S. territories. Up to this time, any territory acquired by the U.S. was considered to have become an integral part of the country unless changed by treaty, and to eventually have the opportunity to become a state of the Union. With insular areas, land could be held by the federal government without the prospect of it ever becoming a state in the Union.
The provision of the Act establishing U.S. criminal jurisdiction over such islands was considered and ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Jones v. United States, 137 U.S. 202 (1890).
Navassa Island was claimed in 1857 by Peter Duncan, an American sea captain, the third island to be claimed under the Guano Islands Act of 1856 because of its guano deposits. These deposits were actively mined from 1865 to 1898. Haiti protested the annexation and claimed the island, but the U.S. rejected the claim and since October 1857 it is claimed by U.S. as unincorporated territory.
In Liverpool, it is illegal for a woman to be topless except as a clerk in a tropical fish store. (why a tropical fish shop I've no idea)
For thousands of years, humans had little impact on the nitrogen cycle. The strong bond found in nitrogen gas prevented its simple conversion to other, much more useful, nitrogen compounds. People were therefore entirely dependent upon bacteria for the initial nitrogen fixation. Once fixed in the cycle, nitrogen compounds could be collected.
One of the best, and largest, sources of this fixed nitrogen was found in Chile. This outcrop was due to a vast number of sea birds which nested, and went to the bathroom, along its coasts. Over thousands of years these "natural" deposits called "Guano" accumulated and became several feet thick. A huge industry developed to supply this Chilean saltpeter to the rest of the world.
With synthetic production almost non-existent, the world was entirely dependent on the Chilean resource for fertilizers and high explosives. This was a fact which military leaders did not overlook. They realized that if war broke out, the countries which lacked (or were denied) access to the Chilean supply (like Germany) would quickly run out of munitions.
In 1913 if you were an up and coming nation, intent on feeding your people, or conquering your enemies through conquest, you needed as much Chilean saltpeter as possible. In short, the fate of the world depended upon who could get their hands on the most bird s#!t. It is therefor no coincidence that the first major naval battle of World War I occurred off the coast of Chile.