Pis Islands, Ponape district


Pis is a small motu on the northern side of the Truk barrier reef and typical of the low coral islands of the Carolines. The low coral sand island, never more than about 4 or 5 feet above sea level, possesses about 150 acres of dry land. The approximately 140 people who live on this island have been under much less outside influence than those who live on the near-by high islands within the Truk lagoon. Their houses show much less outside influence. Most of the houses have thatched roofs, breadfruit tree frames, and pandanus mat sides. Traditional outrigger canoes are still used to a much greater extent than on the high islands.

Breadfruit, coconuts, pandanus, and fish form the core of the diet of these people, although some taro, arrowroot, and other foods are raised. Nearly every plant or tree that is not essential to the lives of the people has been eliminated, with the result that the island presents a parklike appearance.

The population of the island is concentrated along the southern shore. The center of the village is a community house and a trading store. Houses and boathouses are scattered on either side of these along a narrow coral road that runs around the island near the shoreline. One of the boathouses is used as a school house.

Some income is secured from the sale of copra and native handicraft. People in the States can order especially beautifully woven pandantis mats and goods from a mail-order catalog.


The Ponape district consists of the Caroline Islands east of 154° east longitude. The district contains the high islands of Ponape and Kusaie and a number of small low islands. The natives are basically Micronesian, although Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro represent a Polynesian intrusion.


Ponape (6° 53′ north latitude, 158° 14′ east longitude) is a volcanic dome similar in origin to Truk, but less advanced in subsidence. It is about 14 miles from north to south and 16 miles from east to west. The island is surrounded by about 25 small islands of both coral and volcanic origin. The whole complex is surrounded by a barrier reef that encloses a narrow lagoon. The total land area has been estimated at 129 square miles. Ponape and the near-by atolls of Ant and Pakin are sometimes called the Senyavin Group.

The interior of Ponape consists of a series of sharply eroded peaks and deep valleys. Three peaks that are located near the center of the island rise to more than 2500 feet. Faulting has produced steep cliffs in the columnar basalt. A cliff on Jokaj Island rises 900 feet from sea level. The principal flat areas are found along the coasts and up some of the river valleys.

The town of Ponape or Colony was the center of a Japanese population of about 8000. Most of the Japanese were engaged in local industries and the production of the chief exports of Ponape: bauxite, copra, ivory nuts, manioc starch, and dried bonito. The coastal plains and an interior plateau made Ponape one of the most promising lands for commercial agriculture under the Japanese.

No comments: