In [] the island was claimed by [[CA Williams & Co]] of [[New London, Connecticut]] under the [[Guano_Islands_Act|American Guano Act]]. In 1892, the island was claimed by the [[United Kingdom]] during a call by [[HMS Curacao|HMS ''Curacao'']]. Almost immediately a license was granted to Pacific entrepreneur [[John T. Arundel]] for planting [[coconut]]s. Twenty-nine islanders were settled there, and some structures with corrugated [[iron]] roofs were constructed, but a severe [[drought]] resulted in the prompt failure of this project within a year, in [].
On [[November 29]], [] the [[SS Norwich City|SS ''Norwich City'']], a large, empty British freighter with a crew of thirty-five men ran aground on the reef at the island's northwest corner during a storm. There were at least eight fatalities. The remaining crew camped near collapsed structures from the abortive Arundel project and were rescued after surviving several days on the island. The wreck of the ''Norwich City'' was a prominent landmark on the reef for seventy years, although by [] only scattered heavy debris, including the ship's massive steam engine, remained.
On [[December 1]], [] members of the [[British Pacific Islands Survey Expedition]] arrived to evaluate the island as a possible location for either [[seaplane]] landings or an airfield. On [[December 20]], more British officials arrived with twenty [[Gilbert Island|Gilbertese]] settlers in one of the last colonial expansions of the [[British Empire]]. Efforts to clear land and plant coconuts were distressed by a profound lack of [[drinking water]]. By June [] a few wells had been successfully established and there were fifty-eight Gilbertese settlers on Gardner, including sixteen women and twenty-six children. The island's early supervisor and magistrate was [[Teng Koata]] whose wife, according to local legend, had an encounter with the goddess [[Manganibuka]] on a remote part of the island. The British colonial officer, [[Gerald Gallagher]] ([]-[]), established a headquarters of the [[Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme]] in the village located on the island's western end, just south of the largest entrance to the lagoon. Wide coral-gravel streets and a parade ground were laid out, and important structures included a thatched administration house, wood-frame cooperative store and a radio shack. From [] through [] the [[United States Coast Guard]] operated a navigational [[LORAN]] station with twenty-five crewmen on the southeastern tip of Gardner, installing at least one [[quonset hut]] and some smaller structures.
The island's population reached a high of approximately 100 by the mid [[1950s]], however, by the early [[1960s]] periodic drought and an unstable freshwater lens had so thwarted the struggling [[colony]] that most residents were evacuated to the [[Solomon Islands]] by the British in [], and by [] Gardner was officially uninhabited.
In [] the UK granted self-rule to the [[Gilbert Islands]], which achieved complete independence in [] as [[Kiribati]]. That same year the U.S., after having recently surveyed the island for possible weapons testing, relinquished any claims to Gardner, which was officially renamed Nikumaroro, a name inspired by Gilbertese legends and used by the settlers during the 1940s and 1950s.
Nikumaroro is sporadically visited by [[biologist]]s attracted to its extensive marine and avian [[ecosystem]]s. Visitors often mention the island's oppressive equatorial heat, razor-sharp coral, dense foliage and extremely aggressive coconut crabs. Several species of [[shark]] and tursiops [[dolphin]]s have been observed in the surrounding waters, and some of the [[fish]] species are [[toxic]] to [[human]]s during certain seasons. The ocean beyond the reef is very deep and the only anchorage is at the west end, across the reef from the village ruins, but this is safe only with the southeast trade winds. Landing has always been difficult and is usually accomplished south of the anchorage.
The non-profit [[International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery]] made numerous expeditions to Nikumaroro during the [[1990s]]. There is documented, archaeological and anecdotal evidence (but no proof) that in July [] [[Amelia Earhart]] and [[Fred Noonan]] landed and died on Gardner after failing to find [[Howland Island]] during the final stages of their ill-fated World Flight, including indications Earhart may have survived for several months before British survey parties began arriving in 1938.
Severe storms in [] destroyed most of the remaining structures on Nikumaroro, although Gallagher's grave can still be seen in the overgrown village site.