Caroline Islands: Wikis


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Coordinates: 06°03′N 147°05′E / 6.05°N 147.083°E / 6.05; 147.083

Map of Caroline Islands
Location of Caroline Islands
Sunset at Colonia on Yap

The Caroline Islands form a large archipelago of widely scattered islands in the western Pacific Ocean, northeast 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.



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 1200 miles.

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

People and culture

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

The natives live mainly by 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 (Yalafar) and in a bad spirit (Can), yet they have hardly any religious rites. Due to extensive missionary work, Christianity is the primary religion practiced in this region of Micronesia.


It took about five stopovers by five different European ships before the name "Islas de Carolina" was used to refer to the stretch of islands located south of Guam. The name finally stuck when in 1686, a Spaniard by the name of Francisco Lazcano, named them after King Charles II of Spain who funded the expedition.

Some few Western travellers subsequently visited the islands, but an early visit of missionaries (1732) resulted in one of several murderous attacks on the newcomers; and only in 1875 did Spain, claiming the group, make some attempt to assert her rights. The Caroline Islands were subsequently placed under the Spanish East Indies, administered from the Philippines. Germany, which had occupied Yap, disputed the Spanish claim, and the matter went to the arbitration of Pope Leo XIII in 1885. He decided in favor of Spain, but gave Germany free trading rights. The Spanish did not occupy any island formally until 1886.

Then on June 1, 1899 in the German-Spanish Treaty (1899), as a consequence of the Spanish-American War of 1898, Spain sold the islands to Germany for 25,000,000 pesetas (nearly 1,000,000 pounds sterling), which administered them as Karolinen, administratively associated with German New Guinea.

Japan occupied the islands in 1914 and received a League of Nations mandate over them in 1920. During World War II, Japan had a large base at Truk Lagoon, which the Allies effectively neutralized in Operation Hailstone. After the war, the islands became trust territories of the United States, eventually gaining independence (1986 / 1994).


Colonial governors or officers

District officers (from 1889, styled Bezirksamtmann):

In the western Caroline islands (Yap and Palau [and from 1907 Saipan])

  • 29 June 1886 - 18.., Manuel de Elisa
  • before November 1897 - after November 1898, S. Cortes
  • 1899 - 1909, Arno Senfft (b. 1864 - d. 1909)
  • 1909 - ?, Rudolf Karlowa
  • 1909 - 1910, Georg Fritz
  • 1910 - 1911, Hermann Kersting
  • 1911 - 1914, Baumert

In the Eastern Caroline islands (Ponape [and from 1911 Marshall Islands])-

  • June 1886 - 1887 Capriles
  • 14 March 1887 - 1887, Isidro Posadillo (d. 1887)
  • October 1887 - January 1891, Luis Cadarso y Rey (d. 1898)
  • c.1894, Concha
  • before November 1897 - after November 1898, J. Fernandez de Cordoba
  • 12 October 1899 - August 1901, Albert Hahl (b. 1868 - d. 1945)
  • 1 September 1901 - 30 April 1907, Victor Berg (b. 1861 - d. 1907)
  • 1907 - 1908?, Girschner (acting)
  • 1908 - 1909, Georg Fritz
  • 1909 - 18 October 1910, Gustav Boeder (d. 1910)
  • 1910 - 7 October 1914, August Überhorst

Ecclesiastical history

Two Jesuits, John Anthony Cantova and Victor Walter, attempted missionary work there in 1731; the former was soon murdered, 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 is 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 finally deemed it advisable to replace the Spanish Capuchins with others of German nationality (7 November 1904) and to erect one Apostolic prefecture instead of the two separate missions (18 December 1905). The Very Reverend Father Venantius of Prechthal 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 heathens and a few Protestants. The United States Government sent, 1 July, 1905, a Jesuit from the observatory at Manila 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.

Postage stamps

During the period of German control, Germany issued postage stamps for the islands; see postage stamps and postal history of the Caroline Islands for more details.



1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CAROLINE ISLANDS, a widely-scattered archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, E. of the Philippines and N. of New Guinea, included in Micronesia, between 5° and 10° N., and 135° and 165° E., belonging to Germany. They fall into three main groups, the Western, Central and Eastern Carolines, the central being the most numerous, while the western include the Pelew group. The total land area is about 380 sq. m., and out of this, 307 sq. m. is covered by the four main islands, Ponape and Kusaie in the eastern group, Truk or Hogolu in the central, and Yap in the western. These islands are of considerable elevation (the highest point of Ponape approaches 3000 ft.), but the rest are generally low coral islets. The climate is equable and moist, but healthy; but the islands are subject to heavy storms. The total population is estimated at 36,000. The natives, who are Micronesian hybrids of finer physique than their kinsmen of the Pelew Islands, have a comparatively high mental standard, being careful agriculturists, and peculiarly clever boatbuilders and navigators. The Germans divide the whole archipelago into two administrative districts, eastern and western, having the seats of government at Ponape and Yap respectively. The principal article of export is copra. The islands were discovered (at least in part) by the Portuguese Diego da Rocha in 1527, and called by him the Sequeira Islands. In 1686 Admiral Francesco Lazeano, who made further explorations, renamed them the Carolines in honour of Charles II. of Spain. The islands were subsequently visited by a few travellers; but the natives have only in modern times been reconciled to the presence of foreigners; an early visit of missionaries (1731) resulted in one of several murderous attacks on white men which darken the history of the islands; and it was only in 1875 that Spain, claiming the group, made some attempt to assert her rights. These were contested by Germany, whose flag was hoisted on Yap, and the matter was referred to the arbitration of Pope Leo XIII. in 1885. He decided in favour of Spain, but gave Germany free trading rights; and in 1899 Germany took over the administration of the islands from Spain, paying 25,000,000 pesetas (nearly £1,000,000 sterling).

Ancient Stone Buildings

In Ponape and Kusaie, massive stone structures, similar to those which occur in several other parts of the Pacific Ocean, have long been known to exist. They have been closely explored by Herr Kubary, Mr F. J. Moss, and later Mr F. W. Christian. None of the colossal structures hitherto described appears to have been erected by the present Melanesian or Polynesian peoples, while their wide diffusion, extending as far as Easter Island, within 400 m. of the New World, points to the occupation of the Pacific lands by a prehistoric race which had made some advance in general culture. The Funafuti borings (1897) show almost beyond doubt that Polynesia is an area of comparatively recent subsidence. Hence the land connexions must have formerly been much easier and far more continuous than at present. The dolmen-builders of the New Stone Age are now known to have long occupied both Korea and Japan, from which advanced Asiatic lands they may have found little difficulty in spreading over the Polynesian world, just as in the extreme west they were able to range over Scandinavia, Great Britain and Ireland. To Neolithic man, still perhaps represented by some of the more light-coloured and more regularfeatured Polynesian groups, may therefore not unreasonably be attributed these astonishing remains, which assume so many different forms according to the nature of the locality, but seem generally so out of proportion with the present restricted areas on which they stand. With the gradual subsidence of these areas their culture would necessarily degenerate, although echoes of sublime theogonies and philosophies are still heard in the oral traditions and folklore of many Polynesian groups. In the islet of Lele, close to Kusaie, at the eastern extremity of Micronesia, the ruins present the appearance of a citadel with cyclopean ramparts built of large basaltic blocks. There are also numerous canals, and what look like artificial harbours constructed amid the shallow lagoons.

In Ponape the remains are of a somewhat similar character, but on a much larger scale, and with this difference, that while those of Lele all stand on the land, those of Ponape are built in the water. The whole island is strewn with natural basaltic prisms, some of great size; and of this material, brought by boats or rafts from a distance of 30 m. and put together without any mortar, but sustained by their own weight, are built all the massive walls and other structures on the east side of the island. The walls of the main building near the entrance of Metalanim harbour form a massive quadrangle 200 ft. on all sides, with inner courts, vault and raised platform with walls 20 to 40 ft. high and from 8 to 18 ft. thick. Some of the blocks are 25 ft. long and 8 ft. in circumference, and many of them weigh from 3 to 4 tons. There are also numerous canals from 30 to 100 ft. wide, while a large number of islets, mainly artificial, covering an area of 9 sq. m., have all been built up out of the shallow waters of the lagoon round about the entrance of the harbour, with high sea-walls composed of the same huge basaltic prisms. In some places the walls of this "Pacific Venice" are now submerged to some depth, as if the land had subsided since the construction of these extensive works. Elsewhere huge breakwaters had been constructed, the fragments of which may still be seen stretching away for a distance of from 2 to 3 m. Most observers, such as Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge and Mr Le Hunte, agree that these structures could not possibly be the work of any of the present Polynesian peoples, and attribute them to a now extinct prehistoric race, the men of the New Stone Age from the Asiatic mainland.

Stone Money

The inhabitants of Yap are noted for possessing the most extraordinary currency, if it can he so called, in the whole world. Besides the ordinary shell money, there is a sort of stone coinage, consisting of huge calcite or limestone discs or wheels from 6 in. to 12 ft. in diameter, and weighing up to nearly 5 tons. These are all quarried in the Pelew Islands, 200 m. to the south, and are now brought to Yap in European vessels. But some were in the island long before the arrival of the whites, and must consequently have been brought by native vessels or on rafts. The stones, which are rather tokens than money, do not circulate, but are piled up round about the chief's treasurehouse, and appear to be regarded as public property, although it is hard to say what particular use they can serve. They appear to be kept rather for show and ornament than for use.

See F. W. Christian, The Caroline Islands (London, 1899); G. Volkens, "Ober die Karolinen Insel Yap," in Verhandlungen Gesellschaft Erdkunde Berlin., xxviii. (1901); J. S. Kubary, Ethno- graphische Beitrdge zur Kentniss des Karolinen-Archipel (Leiden, 1889-1892); De Abrade, Historia del conflicto de las Carolinas, &c. (Madrid, 1886).

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