Micronesia – or the Federated States of Micronesia – is a collection of more than 600 islands in the heart of the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the world’s smallest nations, with a landmass smaller than Luxemburg, but as a region, it spans more than 1,801 miles (2,900 kilometres) and crosses five time zones. Intrigued by this pint-sized country? Here’s a handful of quirky trivia and interesting facts about Micronesia that might just come in handy at your next pub quiz.
Interesting facts about Micronesia
1. It’s home to the world’s only ancient city built on a coral reef
The UNESCO-listed Nan Madol is a collection of more than 100 islets off the southeast coast of Pohnpei. Built between 1200 and 1500 CE, it’s the only ancient site built on a coral reef in the world. The basalt and coral bouldered islets are home to the remains of stone palaces, temples, tombs and residential homes dating back over 1000 years.
Experts believe these were the ceremonial centre of the Saudeleur dynasty, a thriving period in Pacific Island culture.
2. Micronesia is home to the world’s largest crabs
Mogmog is a tiny Micronesian island located 2,000 km north of Papua New Guinea. It’s home to the largest terrestrial arthropods (crabs) in the world, which have a leg span of 3ft (0.9 metres) and can crush coconuts with their pincers.
In 2010, an Australian family was shipwrecked on Mogmog when their yacht ran aground in storm in a real-life Swiss Robinson scenario. They spent six months on the island while they fixed their boat. There’s even a book about it.
3. Stone money is an extremely big deal in Micronesia
In Yap, you’ll find hundreds of huge rock disks scattered across the island. These stones, known as rai stones, are treasured by native inhabitants and serve as Yapese stone money. They have been used as a form of currency for centuries even though many of the stones are too heavy to move
Every year islands hold the Homecoming Festival or ‘Taste of Yap’, which includes a stone money ceremony, canoe building and traditional dancing.
4. It has a long history of colonisation
Micronesia was colonised by Spain in 1886 then sold the islands to Germany in 1899. Japan took control of the islands in 1914 and occupied them until 1944, when American forces seized them.
The islands were a major battleground during World War II. Between 1942 and 1943, US submarines cut off supplies between the islands and Japan and regular bombing raids began soon after. From 1947 until 1986, Micronesia was part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI), a United Nations trust territory administered by the USA.
5. Micronesia offers some of the best wreck diving in the world
Chuuk is one of the wreck diving capitals in the world. In Truk Lagoon alone there are more than 60 shipwrecks of Japanese warships destroyed by American forces in 1944. For the most part, diving around Micronesia’s wrecks is safe. However, in 2004, a World War II shipwreck — the USS Mississinewa — resurfaced and began to leak the aviation fuel that it had been transporting.
6. It’s home to the longest-running humanitarian airlift in the world
Micronesia’s annual Operation Christmas Drop has taken place every year since 1952, making it the longest-running airlift ever. Every year, the US Air Force parachutes donated gifts and humanitarian supplies to the tiny dotted islands. It takes place at the Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. Hundreds of civilian volunteers in Guam and Japan help the effort too. The flights usually take place over a week or so in early December and deliver around 40,000 pounds of supplies. Legend has it that the crew of an Air Force B-29 spotted islanders waving from the island of Kapingamarangi and, feeling festive, the crew decided to gather up a few items and drop the bundle to happy islanders.
7. Micronesia has no standing army
Micronesia is one of just 22 countries in the whole world without a standing army.
Instead, the USA provides aid and is responsible for Micronesia’s defence in return for military bases across the islands.