John Bryden and 16 Gilbertese Teenagers
1979 brought the last major push to profit from the forests of palm trees now covering much of Palmyra. The endeavor was headed by one of the most colorful managers in the atoll's history: John Bryden, a Scotsmen who left behind youthful pursuits of professional rugby to bounce around pacific islands, becoming fluent in the languages and cultures. Hawaiian journalist Bob Krauss wrote a series of articles on the state of Palmyra at the time, and included this description:
The only white person now living on Christmas Island, John Bryden, was a rugged outdoorsman who spoke with a Scots brogue as chewy as haggis. Weary of Contemporary life in Scotland, he had moved in 1969 to Christmas Island, part of the Gilbert Islands (which included Fanning, Washington, and numerous other islands), seeking a blend of adventure and peace of mind in a less complicated society. He'd found both in his island kingdom. In 1979, he had been hired to start a coconut plantation on Palmyra, which was 300 miles to the NW of Christmas. As general manager, Bryden brought with him 16 young Gilbertese men as laborers. Along with his men, whose Micronesian dialect he spoke fluently, he spent 14 months on the atoll before determining that conditions militated strongly against a profitable commercial venture.
The group didn't last much longer than a year, and after a series of injuires during a ham expdition in 1980, and circulating rumors of plans to make Palmyra a nuclear storage site (the inspiration for the articles mentioned above), Palmyra spent most of the 1980's languishing, its owners struggling to decide what would be next for the atoll.