Divers in search of sunken ships, well-preserved artifacts, or World War II airplanes – some still intact – will find just what they’re looking for in the waters surrounding Micronesia. Old Japanese lighthouses and runways, gun emplacements, cave networks, hospitals and libraries still lie nearly hidden in the jungles.
The Federated States of Micronesia consists of four major island groups, or states (known as Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap), spread over a million square miles of the Pacific Ocean. The country—home to more than 100,000 people—consists of 607 islands, ranging from high and mountainous islands and volcanic outcroppings to low-lying coral atolls. The islands bear the distinction of having the world’s most productive tuna fishing industry. Weaving and wood carving are also exported. Agriculture provides 60% of the nation’s food supply and engages 50% of its labor.
The ancestors of the Micronesian peoples settled these islands thousands of years ago, and gradually developed a centralized empire which survived until the 16th century.
The European world sailed into the Pacific in the 1500s – first the Portuguese, then the Spanish, who established sovereignty over them and eventually sold the territory to Germany. The islands were conquered by Japan in 1914, then seized by the United States in World War II, during which the islands played a key role in naval warfare. Micronesia was administered by the U.S. under the auspices of the United Nations following the war. In 1979, the four island districts became the Federated States of Micronesia. Signing a Compact of Free Association with the U.S., Micronesia became fully independent in 1991.
Five official languages—Chuukese, Kosraean, Pohnpeian, Yapese and English—are widely spoken and understood in the islands, but thirteen others are also spoken.
Christianity has been embraced by the islands’ peoples—97% of the population. Bible translation has been underway in many of Micronesia’s languages for decades by national translators and team members from around the world. The Kapingamarangi New Testament was completed in 2000; the Ulithian, in 2003. A complete Chuukese Bible was published in 2001.