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Mysterious Micronesia

True to its name, Micronesia is made up of small islands - yet it covers no small area. This last and beautiful island world, part of which belonged to Spain in the days of her glory (see map below). But Spain lost her interest in her Pacific empire and to relieve her financial difficulties following the Spanish-American War, she sold her Micronesian islands to Germany in 1899 for about $4,500,000.

The first guns of the first World War had hardly been fired in Europe when Japanese war ships sailed south and occupied this part of Micronesia. At the Peace Conference in 1919, the islands were entrusted to Japan as a mandate from the League of Nations.

The rare historical images on this site were taken in early 1936 and provide a fascinating insight into island life and culture as it existed at this time. I hope that you enjoy your visit back in time to some of the
mysterious islands of Micronesia. 

A  seventy "piece" orchestra provides the cadence for a native dance in Ponape (Pohnpei). The girls make a clicking rhythm with drumsticks on the long board which they hold on their laps. The men keep time with their hands. The attire worn by the women suggest a foreign missionary influence.

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Early map of part of Micronesia

In the midst of this Japanese mandate lies the isolated American island of Guam,
long and important cable centre and the United States Naval Station. Recently,
Guam and Wake became increasingly important as bases
on the trans-Pacific airmail route.

A growling watch dog is Uracas that guards the approach to Micronesia

Pods found on this spiny kapok tree of the Palau Islands contain a soft white
material, used extensively as substitute for cotton in stuffing mattresses, quilts and pillows 

The village "all men house" from which women are barred

In this club house, members must cook their own meals. Each man builds a fire on a little clear space in the floor.
When they eat, backs are turned as though they are not on speaking terms. These houses are constructed
without nails from old palm pillars and bamboo walls that are lashed together with coconut-husk cords.

Visitors to the elaborate massive stone structures of Nan Madol on the island of Ponape (Pohnpei). The mighty building blocks which composed the structure make the English castles seem delicate and lady-like in comparison. The quarries where these mammoth hexagons and octagons were obtained are fifteen or more miles away.

To transport the stones must have required craft very different from the present native canoe, and to raise them to their positions must have been a herculean task, even with the aid of inclined plane and unlimited manpower.

Indeed, Nan Madol was no isolated fort, nor even a walled village. It was a city, made up of about 50 fortified islets extending over eleven square miles - most of it now hidden by the advancing jungle. It seems clear that this city was built up out of the lagoon, and is not a land city that has sunk. It was constructed by a race of superior civilisation apparently very different from our present Micronesian people who live in thatched huts and make no use of the mammoth basaltic prisms in any of their buildings.

According to tradition, a dynasty of kings by the name of Chau-te-Leur reigned in the city, but was finally overthrown by a savage invader, Idzikolkol, who stamped out the old civilisation, abandoned the island metropolis, and established his brown race in the jungles of Ponape (Pohnpei), there to remain practically unchanged to this day.

Nan Madol is one of the most intriguing mysteries of Micronesia. 

These ancient columns stand on Tinian Island. Comprising square cuts monuments of coral, with flower pots on top, they may have supported floors of temples or marked the graves of a vanished race. The stones appear in parallel rows and burial remains have been found around the basis of the shafts. 

As water streamed down the tree trunk, it is diverted to the crude pottery jar,
where it is collected for drinking purposes

One of the twelve kings of Yap, this man
is allowed to wear this ornament in his hair

This Yap girl has just completed her early
morning plunge into the bathtub that is the lagoon

This photograph shows a
Palau woman preparing food on her simple stove

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This young girl looks beautiful until she smiles - her teeth being stained from constant
chewing of beetle nuts. The neck cord indicates that she is of marriageable age

A young girl practises writing in Ponape (Pohnpei).
Translated the words mean "Blessed are the poor in spirit"

An old Palau chief uses a conch-shell trumpet to
announce a council meeting. A native mattock hangs over his shoulder 

The men of Palau sing a death chant to their dead chief. Afterwards, they will carry his body to the cemetery. Formerly, he would have been buried beneath these flagstones in front of his house, but the Japanese have now ruled against the practice.

With this simple ox-powered machine, the natives of
Saipan were able to extract the oil from copra, the dried meat of the coconut

Going shopping with the Yap coin.
Notice the hair ornament indicating a person of high birth.

Click Here for More Mysterious Micronesia

 click here Jane's Micronesia Home Page                                  
click here Jane's Oceania Home Page                                       
click here Jane's Kiribati Home Page                                        
click here Micronesia Travel and Accommodation Guide         

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(E-mail: -- Rev. 31st August 2003)