Monday, 17 April 2017

CAROLINE ISLANDS: Islands Worth Visiting

The Caroline Islands or The Carolines are a widely scattered archipelago of tiny islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, to the north of New Guinea.

Politically they are divided between the Federated States of Micronesia in the eastern part of the group, and Palau at the extreme western end. Historically, this area was also called Nuevas Filipinas or New Philippines as they were part of the Spanish East Indies and governed from Manila in the Philippines.

Caroline Island or Caroline Atoll also known as Millennium Island and Beccisa Island, is the easternmost of the uninhabited coral atolls which comprise the southern Line Islands in the central Pacific Ocean.

The atoll is currently designated as a wildlife sanctuary. In 2014 the Kiribati government established a 12-nautical-mile fishing exclusion zone around each of the southern Line Islands,Caroline commonly called Millennium.

The atoll is best known for its role in the millennium celebrations. A 1995 realignment of the International Date Line made Caroline Island one of the first points of land on Earth to reach January 1, 2000 on the calendar.

The Carolines span a distance of approximately 3540 kilometers (2200 miles), from Tobi, Palau at the westernmost point to Kosrae at the easternmost.

The group consists of about 500 small coral islands, east of the Philippines, in the Pacific Ocean; the distance from Manila to Yap, one of the larger islands of the group, is 1,200 miles (1,900 km).

Most of the islands comprise low, flat coral atolls, but some rise high above sea level.

The native inhabitants speak a variety of Micronesian languages including Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Carolinian, Yapese, and Kosraean, as well as the Western Malayo-Polynesian language Palauan and Chamorro. Other significant populations include Filipinos and Japanese.

The natives live mainly on horticulture and fishing, also supplementing their diet with many different varieties of bananas and taro, either of the swamp or purple varieties. On some islands housing continues to be built with local materials including coconut thatch. The language spoken in commerce is English, but there are several indigenous languages.

They traditionally believe in a Supreme Being or Yalafar and in a bad spirit or Can, yet they have hardly any religious rites. Due to extensive missionary work, Christianity is the primary religion practiced in this region of Micronesia.

Master Micronesian Navigator Mau Piailug was from the Carolinian island of Satawal. He learned the traditional navigation techniques of the Weriyeng school. These techniques had been preserved while similar techniques had been forgotten elsewhere partly due to the remoteness of the Carolinian Islands.

In the 1970s Mau shared his knowledge with the Polynesian Voyaging Society which led to a revival of traditional Polynesian navigation and a new anthropological understanding of the history of Polynesian and Micronesian peoples.

In 1985 a study was made on the origin of the sidereal compass used in the Caroline Islands.

Different islands and island groups in the Carolines passed down unique and variant oral legends recounting the origins and early histories of their peoples. On Pohnpei, for example, pre-colonial history is divided into three eras: Mwehin Kawa or Mwehin Aramas, Period of Building, or Period of Peopling, before ca. 1100; Mwehin Sau Deleur (Period of the Lord of Deleur, ca. 1100 to ca. 1628);and Mwehin Nahnmwarki (Period of the Nahnmwarki, ca. 1628 to ca. 1885).

Pohnpeian legend recounts that the Saudeleur rulers, the first to bring government to Pohnpei, were of foreign origin. The Saudeleur centralized form of absolute rule is characterized in Pohnpeian legend as becoming increasingly oppressive over several generations.

Arbitrary and onerous demands, as well as a reputation for offending Pohnpeian deities, sowed resentment among Pohnpeians. The Saudeleur Dynasty ended with the invasion of Isokelekel, another semi-mythical foreigner, who replaced the Saudeleur rule with the more decentralized nahnmwarki system in existence today.

Two Jesuits, Juan Antonio Cantova also known as John Anthony Cantova and Victor Walter, attempted missionary work there in 1731; the former was soon murdered and the latter obliged to flee. Two other Jesuits were killed later. In 1767 the Jesuits were suppressed in the Spanish dominions, and during the next 120 years there has been no trace of a missionary.

The controversy between Germany and Spain concerning the possession of the Carolines having been settled by Pope Leo XIII in favour of Spain, the king directed Spanish Capuchins to the islands, 15 March 1886, and the Propaganda Fide officially established that mission, 15 May 1886, dividing it into two sections, named West and East Carolines respectively.

Until then the islands had belonged ecclesiastically to the Vicariate Apostolic of Micronesia. The Spanish Capuchins had a catechism and prayer book printed in the Ponape dialect, and Father Anthony of Valentia wrote a small grammar and dictionary of the Yap dialect in 1890.

When the Spanish Fathers had laid the foundations of the mission, these islands passed by purchase into the hands of Germany in 1899. Spain had contributed more than $5000 a year towards the mission; Germany granted no support. Spain had compelled the aborigines to send their children to school; Germany gave full liberty in this regard, and the people consequently began to neglect school as well as church.

The mission thereby suffered greatly, and the Propaganda Fide finally deemed it advisable to replace the Spanish Capuchins with others of German nationality and to erect one Apostolic prefecture instead of the two separate missions. The Very Reverend Father Venantius of Prechtal, Germany was appointed first prefect Apostolic.

In 1906 twelve fathers and twelve brothers were working in thirteen stations, and several Sisters of St. Francis left Luxembourg to take charge of the ten schools, in which were 262 children. Ninety adult converts were the "harvest" of that year, and the Catholic population is given as 1900 among 11,600 unconverted natives and a few Protestants.

The United States Government sent, 1 July 1905, a Jesuit from the Manila Observatory to erect a meteorological station on the island of Yap, of which station the Capuchin Father Callistus was appointed director. The origin of the East-Asiatic typhoons had been traced to these regions, and twice a day observations are made, and notice is frequently given to Manila by cable.

During the period of German control, Germany issued postage stamps for the islands.

Despite more than three centuries of occasional human impact on Caroline, it is considered to be one of very few remaining near-pristine tropical islands,and has been rated as one of the most unspoiled Pacific atolls.Its relatively undisturbed state has led to Caroline being considered for designation as a World Heritage Site and as a Biosphere Reserve.

Ecological surveys documenting the island's flora and fauna have been made intermittently through the later 20th century: Caroline was visited in 1965 by the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program, in 1974 by the Line Island Expedition, and in 1988 and 1991 by the United Nations Environment Programme Wildlife Conservation Unit.

Caroline Island is heavily vegetated, and most islets possess three ringed zones of vegetation: an outermost herb mat, typically composed mainly of Heliotropium anomalum; an inward zone of shrub, primarily Heliotropium foertherianum; and a central forested region, typically dominated by groves of Pisonia grandis trees.

Coconut palms have also been introduced and exist in substantial quantities on the larger islets. This pattern of vegetation is consistent across the larger islets, with smaller islets lacking the central forest and the smallest vegetated solely by low herbs.Other common plants include Suriana maritima and Morinda citrifolia.

Caroline Island is an important breeding site for a number of species of seabirds, most notably the sooty tern Onychoprion fuscata, numbering around 500,000 a colony of sooty terns dominates the eastern islets and the great frigatebird Fregata minor, numbering over 10,000.

Caroline Island and its neighbor, Flint Island, also host some of the world's largest populations of the coconut crab.Other native animals include the Tridacna clam, which is abundant in the central lagoon, hermit crabs, and multiple species of lizards.

The endangered green turtle,Chelonia mydas nests on the beaches of Caroline Island, but there have been reports of poaching by recent homesteaders.The bristle-thighed curlew or Numenius tahitiensis, a migrant visitor from Alaska, is also classified as vulnerable.

Around twenty non-native species of flora have been introduced to Caroline Island via human contact. Among these are the vine Ipomoea violacea, which has begun to proliferate. Domestic cats and dogs introduced alongside a small homestead have driven the seabird population away from the islet of Monu Ata-Ata.

Caroline Island is believed to have originated from a volcanic hotspot which eroded and then became home to a coral reef which grew above the ocean surface. Although these geological processes are poorly understood, the orientation of the Line Islands roughly north-south, suggests that they were formed more than 40 million years ago, before the Pacific Plate changed its direction of travel. The same hotspot more recently gave rise to the Tuamotu Archipelago.

There is evidence of settlement by Polynesian peoples on the largest islets from before European contact.Graves and template platforms were uncovered by early expeditions to the island, and a large marae exists on the west side of Nake Islet. To date, these artifacts have not been surveyed by archaeologists.

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