Welcome to Marshall Islands!

The Marshall Islands are a sprawling chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the Philippines. In the northwest, Bikini Atoll’s largely undisturbed waters, used as a ship graveyard after World War II, are now a popular wreck dive site. Near Majuro Atoll, which holds the islands’ capital and largest settlement, the coral reef at Kalalin Pass teems with marine life.

History of Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands were settled initially around the beginning of the Christian era by Micronesians who may have been influenced by early Polynesian (Lapita) culture. Radiocarbon dates from earth-oven charcoal samples that were excavated in Laura village on Majuro yielded dates of about 30 BCE and 50 CE. The early Marshall Islanders were skilled navigators and made long canoe voyages among the atolls.

Sighted in 1529 by the Spanish navigator Álvaro Saavedra, the Marshalls lacked the wealth to encourage exploitation or mapping. The British captain Samuel Wallis chanced upon Rongerik and Rongelap atolls while sailing from Tahiti to Tinian. The British naval captains John Marshall and Thomas Gilbert partially explored the Marshalls in 1788, but much of the mapping was done by Russian expeditions under Adam Johann Krusenstern (1803) and Otto von Kotzebue (1815 and 1823). U.S. whalers frequented the islands from the 1820s, and U.S. and Hawaiian Protestant missionaries began efforts to convert the islanders in the 1850s. Germany established a coaling station on Jaluit Atoll by treaty with island chiefs and in 1886, by agreement with Great Britain, established a protectorate over the Marshalls. Japan seized the islands in 1914 and later (after 1919) administered them as a League of Nations mandate. Occupied by the United States in World War II, following heavy fighting at Kwajalein and Enewetak, the Marshall Islands were made part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under jurisdiction of the United States in 1947.

After their populations were removed to other atolls, Bikini and Enewetak served as an official testing ground for U.S. nuclear bombs (1946–58). The tests stopped in 1958 and cleanup efforts began in the late 1960s. During the trial resettlement of the Bikinians, however, their atoll was found to be too contaminated for permanent habitation, and by the late 1970s the people had to be evacuated once again. The Enewetak people were returned to their homeland, and a program to monitor Bikini was put in place.

After voting to separate from the other entities of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, in 1978, the Marshall Islands drew up a constitution that voters approved in 1979. It formed the republic and brought internal self-government. In 1982 the government signed the Compact of Free Association with the United States. This agreement, approved by the voters in 1983, requires that the United States remain responsible for defense and external security and that it provide financial assistance for the republic. The compact entitles the United States to use the missile testing range on Kwajalein Atoll, and provides for the republic to become fully independent and to alter its status with the United States at any time, subject to approval of the residents through plebiscites. In 1983 the islanders reopened negotiations on the compact’s provision regarding compensation for the people of the four atolls affected by the U.S. nuclear tests. The United States agreed to set up a separate fund for the people of the four atolls and established an open-ended fund to cover personal injury claims among the islanders; it also agreed to set up a joint U.S.-Marshallese claims tribunal. A further agreement set up a fund to improve living conditions on Ebeye island, where all Micronesians working on the Kwajalein missile range and base resided. The Trust Territory was dissolved in 1990 with the approval of the UN Security Council, and on September 17, 1991, the Marshall Islands became a member of the UN.

People of Marshall Islands

The native people of the Marshalls, the Marshallese, are Micronesians. The most populous atolls are Majuro and Kwajalein, which offers employment at the U.S. missile testing range; together they have almost three-fourths of the country’s total population. The rest of the population lives in traditional villages on the outer islands away from the two urban centres.

American missionaries arrived in the Marshalls in the 1850s, introducing Christianity to the population. Today the Marshallese are predominantly Christian. The Marshallese and English languages are spoken, but only a minority are fluent in the latter.

Land of Marshall Islands

None of the 29 low-lying coral atolls and the five coral islands in the Marshall group rises to more than 20 feet (six metres) above high tide. The islands are coral caps set on the rims of submerged volcanoes rising from the ocean floor. The island units of the Marshalls are scattered over about 180,000 square miles of the Pacific. The largest atoll in the group and in the world is Kwajalein, which has a land area of only six square miles but surrounds a 655-square-mile lagoon. The Marshall Islands’ nearest neighbours are Wake Island (north), Kiribati and Nauru (south), and the Federated States of Micronesia (west).

The climate is tropical, with a mean annual temperature for the entire group of 82 °F (28 °C). Annual precipitation varies from 20 to 30 inches (500 to 800 mm) in the north to 160 inches in the southern atolls. The wettest months are October and November. Several of the northern atolls are uninhabited owing to insufficient rainfall. Most of the Marshall Islands are true atolls, consisting of an irregular, oval-shaped coral reef surrounding a lagoon; the islets lie along the coral reef. The islands and islets of the Ratak chain tend to be more heavily wooded than those of the Ralik. Coconut and pandanus palms and breadfruit trees are the principal vegetation. Soils are generally sandy and low in fertility.

Travels to Marshall Islands - Turquoise water and a story to tell

In the Western Pacific there is an archipelago, which had a visit from far away in 1788. The British explorer John Marshall went ashore. He mapped the islands and later they were named after him. A trip to the Marshall Islands offers salty sea breezes, bright sun, diving opportunities and white sandy beaches with swaying palm trees.

The Pacific islands are divided into three groups; Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. The Marshall Islands belong to the last group – which lies north of the Equator and west of the Date Line – comprised of two long rows of coral islands (atolls). The inhabitants have specialized in fishing for generations, so catching your own dinner fresh from the sea is no problem. Fish is also an important export product along with coconuts.

Adventure tours of Marshall Islands

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