January 18, 2018
The Mangrove Bay Hotel is situated at the end of a very long bay, lined with these fishing ships. They are much larger than the vessels normally seen off the coast of Oregon, appearing to be about 80 to 90 feet in length. There is also a pier on the bay where shipping containers are loaded and off loaded. Almost everything here is imported, which makes construction materials, beer, wine, vegetables, boxed and canned products very expensive. The average wage here is $2/hour, about the same as an imported Budweiser (local currency is the US Dollar). With the low wages and high cost of food and supplies, villager’s and Kolonia town people are generally fairly poor. It’s a good thing that there are fish, crab, chickens, pigs, coconuts (hundreds of varieties), bananas, Taro and breadfruit in abundance. The plant depicted below is Betel Nut a stimulant chewed by the local people. Marijuana is also a big crop here and although it’s illegal it’s used by a large number of the populace.
The island is broken up into 6 districts, each ruled by a different chief. The politics here are a very complicated with so many leaders in such a small area, but I do know that nothing can be done in a district without the local chief’s permission. This is the main reason that nothing has been done to preserve the Nan Madol site. The 2 chiefs that claim dominion over the huge site are afraid of losing control and money, so have not allowed the Smithsonian or other interested parties to help stabilize the ruins. As a result the structures are being reclaimed by the jungle and sea. Some promising news is the Nan Madol was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2016. It has also been declared an emergency site, due to it’s rapidly deteriorating condition.
Today we drove to Nan Madol, hoping to reach it during low tide, so we could access more of the area. After many wrong turns we finally pulled into the landowner’s driveway that is the start of the mile plus trail through the jungle. It was $3/each to cross his land to the trail and $3/each for our guide, Santiago. Pohnpei is one of the wettest places on earth with annual rainfall ranging from 120 at the airport to 400 inches on the leeward mountains. It was raining off and on today, which made the basalt in the trail and at the site extremely slick. Fortunately the trail was basalt mixed with coral. The coral (light colored rock in the trail) was much easier to walk on due to it’s rough surface. We had several near falls, but managed to make it with just a scratch. We reached the end of the trail and found ourselves across from the structures we had seen yesterday by boat. Nancy and I decided to wade to a sandbar and at least get a view of the ancient sea walls and another structure we had only been able to see at a distance the day before. In the photo below the tall main structure is to the left with the three sea walls to the right.
We were frustrated at not being able to access more of the site, however we found on our trail walk that the jungle was full of crumbling walls and structures that have never been mentioned in the literature. These structures are located far inland from the famous man made ocean islets with their monumental structures.