Last updated
Pohnpei Island.png
Map of Pohnpei
Coordinates 6°53′N158°14′E / 6.883°N 158.233°E / 6.883; 158.233 Coordinates: 6°53′N158°14′E / 6.883°N 158.233°E / 6.883; 158.233
Archipelago Senyavin Islands
Adjacent bodies of water Pacific Ocean
Area334 km2 (129 sq mi)
Highest elevation782 m (2566 ft)
Highest point Mount Nanlaud
State Pohnpei
Largest settlement Kolonia (pop. 6,074)
Population36,832 (2020)
Pohnpei in Micronesia Pohnpei in Federated States of Micronesia.svg
Pohnpei in Micronesia

Pohnpei "upon (pohn) a stone altar (pei)" (formerly known as Ponape or Ascension, Proto-Chuukic-Pohnpeic: *Fawo ni pei [1] ) is an island of the Senyavin Islands which are part of the larger Caroline Islands group. It belongs to Pohnpei State, one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Major population centers on Pohnpei include Palikir, the FSM's capital, and Kolonia, the capital of Pohnpei State. Pohnpei Island is the largest (334 km2 [129 sq mi]), with a highest point (782 m [2,566 ft]), most populous (36,832 people), and most developed single island in the FSM.


Pohnpei contains a wealth of biodiversity. It is one of the wettest places on Earth with annual recorded rainfall exceeding 7,600 millimetres (300 in) each year in certain mountainous locations. It is home to the ka tree ( Terminalia carolinensis ) found only in Pohnpei and Kosrae. [2]


Detailed map of Pohnpei, showing the borders of the five 'independent tribes' Pohnpei Island municipalities.jpg
Detailed map of Pohnpei, showing the borders of the five 'independent tribes'
Senyavin Islands (Pohnpei plus two neighboring atolls) Senyavin island (FSM).jpg
Senyavin Islands (Pohnpei plus two neighboring atolls)

The highest point of the island is Mount Nanlaud at 772 or 782 metres. Pohnpei is home to several dozen bird species including four endemic species, the Pohnpei lorikeet, the Pohnpei fantail, the Pohnpei flycatcher and the long-billed white-eye. A fifth endemic, the Pohnpei starling, is thought to have recently gone extinct.

The only land reptiles are a few species of lizard. Originally the only mammals were bats. Pigs, rats and dogs were introduced; pigs have become feral. The lagoons are rich in fish, molluscs, turtles and other marine fauna.


Kolonia Town looking down from Sokehs Ridge Koloniasokehs.jpg
Kolonia Town looking down from Sokehs Ridge
District center of Pohnpei Circa 1971 Ponape.jpg
District center of Pohnpei Circa 1971

Pohnpei belongs to the Tropical rainforest climate zone (Köppen: Af). [3] It is one of the wettest places on earth with an average annual recorded rainfall of 4,775 mm (188.0 in) in towns along the coast and about 7,600 mm (300 in) each year in certain mountainous locations. [4]

Climate data for Pohnpei
Average high °C (°F)30
Average low °C (°F)23
Average precipitation mm (inches)310
Source: Weatherbase [5]


The natives of Pohnpei, especially the 'older' generations, often refer to events in their past as having occurred, e.g., in "German times" or "before the Spaniards," which identifies the historical periods as follows: [6]

Native PeriodBefore 1825
Pre-Spanish Period1825–1886
Spanish Period1886–1899
German Period1899–1914
Japanese Period1914–1945
US Period1945–1986
Independence PeriodSince 1986

Pre-colonial history

The earliest settlers were probably Lapita culture people from the Southeast Solomon Islands or the Vanuatu archipelago. [7] Pre-colonial history is divided into three eras: Mwehin Kawa or Mwehin Aramas (Period of Building, or Period of Peopling, before c. 1100); Mwehin Sau Deleur (Period of the Lord of Deleur, c. 1100 [8] to c. 1628); [note 1] and Mwehin Nahnmwarki (Period of the Nahnmwarki, c. 1628 to c. 1885). [9] [12] Pohnpeian legend recounts that the Saudeleur rulers, the first to bring government to Pohnpei, were of foreign origin. The Saudeleur centralized form of absolute rule is characterized in Pohnpeian legend as becoming increasingly oppressive over several generations. Arbitrary and onerous demands, as well as a reputation for offending Pohnpeian deities, sowed resentment among Pohnpeians. The Saudeleur Dynasty ended with the invasion of Isokelekel, another semi-mythical foreigner, who replaced the Saudeleur rule with the more decentralized nahnmwarki system in existence today. [6] [14] [15]

Pohnpeian historic society was highly structured into five tribes, various clans and sub-clans; each tribe headed by two principal chiefs. The tribes were organized on a feudal basis. In theory, "all land belonged to the chiefs, who received regular tribute and whose rule was absolute." Punishments administered by chiefs included death and banishment. Tribal wars included looting, destruction of houses and canoes and killing of prisoners. [6] Pre-Spanish population estimates are deemed unreliable. [6]

Earliest European contacts

Pohnpei's first European visitor was Spanish navigator Álvaro de Saavedra on 14 September 1529 shortly before his death, when trying to find the way back to New Spain. [16] He charted it as San Bartolomé and called this one and the surrounding islands as Los Pintados (literally, "the painted ones" in Spanish) because the natives were frequently tattooed. It was later visited by the navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, commanding the Spanish ship San Jeronimo. [6] on 23 December 1595; his description is brief, he made no attempt to land. [17]

19th-century visitors

There is good documentation about Australian sailor John Henry Rowe, who arrived in his barque John Bull on 10 September 1825, though he did not land as his vessel was chased off by native canoes. The first lengthy description of the island and its inhabitants is presented by the Russian explorer Fyodor Litke, whose ship Senyavin gave the island group of Pohnpei, Ant and Pakin its name. From 14 to 19 January 1828, his boats attempted to land but could not due to the hostility shown by the islanders, but natives then came aboard his ship, "some trading occurred, a short vocabulary was compiled, and a map made." [6] F.H. von Kittlitz, a member of the Litke expedition made a further descriptive account, including the offshore ruins of Nan Madol, and the two reports together provided the first real knowledge of Pohnpei. [6] It is not clear who the next visitors were; however, when Capt. J.H. Eagleston of the barque Peru sighted the island on 3 January 1832 it was already on his charts as "Ascension Island;" Riesenberg writes that it is uncertain who first called it Ascension Island, but the name became established until the Spanish period. [6]

Miscreants and missionaries

From this time onward whaling and trading vessels came in increasing numbers. Very soon a "large colony of beachcombers, escaped convicts, and ship's deserters became established ashore," identified as "chiefly bad characters," according to the log of the Swedish frigate Eugenie. [6] The first missionary to arrive was Father Louis Désiré Maigret, a Roman Catholic priest. He had sailed from Honolulu on the schooner Notre Dame de Paix and began his efforts in December 1837, but he departed on 29 July 1838 for Valparaíso after seven unsuccessful months. [18] In his company were "several Mangarevans and Tahitians," some of whom remained on Pohnpei and left descendants. [6] Ten years later Maigret returned to the Hawaiian kingdom as Bishop of Honolulu. [18] A group of Protestant missionaries from New England established themselves permanently on Pohnpei in 1852. Their letters and journals contain a wealth of information about the island and are preserved at Harvard University. [6]

A drastic population decline occurred after 1854, due to a smallpox epidemic. [6]

During the American Civil War, to counteract the United States blockade of their ports, Confederate States Navy ships hunted Yankee merchant shipping. On April 1, 1865, the CSS Shenandoah surprised four United States whalers at Ascension Island (Pohnpei) and destroyed them all. The local king, Nananierikie, was delighted to receive much of the spoils from this action. [19]

Spanish rule

By 1886 the Spaniards claimed the Caroline Islands which were part of the Manila-based Spanish East Indies and began to exert political authority. They founded the city Santiago de la Ascensión in what today is Kolonia (from Spanish colonia or colony). The Spanish built several government buildings, a fort, a church and a school. Spanish Capuchin friars were also sent from Manila to Pohnpei to preach the Catholic faith. After the 1898 Spanish–American War, the German Empire purchased the Caroline island group from Spain in 1899 together with the Marianas (except Guam) and 4 years later the Marshall Islands for 17 million goldmark.

German rule and land reform

During the German administration a fundamental change in land ownership was implemented on Pohnpei and throughout the Carolines. Beginning in 1907, the feudal system, in which all land is held in fief, was gradually replaced with the issuance of individual deeds to land. The chief's economic advantages were thus reduced, and only force of tradition granted a first harvest tribute to chiefs. [6]

With land holding, taxes came due and new owners, in lieu of payment, were obliged to work 15 days per year on public projects, such as wharf construction, road building, etc. One such work for taxes engagement sparked the Sokehs Rebellion. It began as an insubordination event during road construction on Sokehs Island, then escalated into the murder of 9 persons, the subsequent apprehension and trial of 36 Sokehs rebels, the execution of 15 insurgents, and banishment for others to Babelthuap in the German Palau Islands.

The German census of 1911–12 shows 3,190 Pohnpeians, 585 Central Carolinians and 279 Melanesians. Many of the outer islands were resettled (mainly on Sokehs Island) as a consequence of destructive typhoons in their home islands.

A special census conducted in late 1947 shows a total population of 5,628, of which 4,451 were Pohnpeians, and 1,177 were natives of other Pacific islands. By 1963, the population had grown to nearly 10,000. [6]

Japanese rule

With the Treaty of Versailles, Japan as mandatory power assumed control of all German colonial possessions north of the equator, having occupied Pohnpei along with the rest of the Carolines, the Marshalls, the Marianas (except for American-owned Guam) and Kiautschou Bay during World War I. In subsequent years and during World War II the Japanese garrison strength was composed of about 2,000 men of the IJN under Captain Jun Naito and 5,984 IJA men under Lieutenant General Masao Watanabe. [20] However, Pohnpei was bypassed by the US Navy during the island-hopping amphibious campaigns of 1943–1945. [20]

The island was shelled on several occasions, including by the battleships USS Massachusetts, USS Alabama, and USS Iowa, as well as air attacks launched from USS Cowpens. After the war, Japanese nationals were repatriated to Japan by the US Navy.

United States administration, under United Nations oversight

The Federated States of Micronesia achieved independence in 1986 after being administered by the United States under UN auspices since 1947 as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.


The population of the state in 2010 was approximately 36,196. While the majority of the population consider themselves ethnic Pohnpeians, Pohnpei is more ethnically diverse than any other island in the FSM. This is largely due to more than a century of foreign colonial occupation, bringing in Spanish, German, Japanese, Chamorro, Filipino, US, Australian, other western Europeans, and it being home to the capital of the national government, which employs hundreds of people from the other three FSM States (Yap, Chuuk, Kosrae) having distinct ethnic and cultural origins. The indigenous makeup also includes the multiple regional ethnicities of the outer islands within Pohnpei State, resulting in a mix of Australasian Pacific Islanders and hence making Pohnpei Island the FSM's melting pot.


Sign for travelers at Pohnpei International Airport in official English and in Japanese. PohnpeiAirport (Japanese sign).jpg
Sign for travelers at Pohnpei International Airport in official English and in Japanese.

The Pohnpeian language (formerly called "Ponapean") and its dialects are the indigenous languages of Pohnpei. The Federated States of Micronesia government also uses Pohnpeian as an official language.

Administrative divisions

Municipality map of Pohnpei Pohnpei map.gif
Municipality map of Pohnpei

The municipalities on the island of Pohnpei are:


Pohnpei International Airport Runway and Pohnpei Seaport viewed from Sokehs Ridge Pohnpei International Airport.jpg
Pohnpei International Airport Runway and Pohnpei Seaport viewed from Sokehs Ridge

Pohnpei International Airport (IATA code PNI) is located near Kolonia, on a small island named Deketik off the northern coast of the main island.


The FSM is part of the international Olympic movement, originally the work of James Tobin, who now sits on the IOC Executive Board, sending teams to the summer games beginning in 2000 with the Sydney games and continuing every four years to the present with athletes participating in track and field, swimming and weightlifting. The most notable Pohnpeian athlete is marathon runner Elias Rodriguez who ran for the FSM at the Sydney Olympics. Rodriguez finished last in the marathon but was cheered on by tens of thousands of spectators and watched by millions of television viewers as he entered the Olympic stadium for a final lap immediately prior to the closing ceremony which was delayed to allow his finish. [21]

Pohnpei in fiction

Pohnpei (as Ponape) plays a role in several stories of the Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft and others. Its role in "Out of the Aeons", [22] by Lovecraft and Hazel Heald, was inspired by the ruins of Nan Madol (see above), which had already been used as the setting for a lost race story by Abraham Merritt, The Moon Pool , in which the islands are called Nan-Matal. [note 2] The island of Pohnpei was used in the Call of Duty Black Ops 3 map Zetsubou No Shima.

Pohnpei is a central location in South Sea Adventure (1952), the second of Willard Price's Young Adult Adventure Series books featuring Hal and Roger Hunt.[ citation needed ] [23]

Pohnpei, or "Ponape" as it is spelled, is stated as the home island of "Mike" on the popular blog Dunce Upon A Time, authored by BC Woods. [24]


Pohnpei State Department of Education operates public schools.

Public high schools: [25]

Private schools:

Pohnpei Catholic School

Post Secondary Education:

Lidorkini Museum was located in Kolonia, until its closure in 2012. [27]

Notable residents

See also


  1. The Saudeleur era lasted around 500 years. [9] Legend generally dates their downfall to the 1500s, [10] however archaeologists date Saudeleur ruins to c. 1628. [11] [12] [13]
  2. "they had set forth for the Nan-Matal, that extraordinary group of island ruins clustered along the eastern shore of Ponape in the Carolines"

Related Research Articles

Federated States of Micronesia Country in Oceania

The Federated States of Micronesia, or simply Micronesia, is an island country in Oceania. It consists of four states – from west to east, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae – that are spread across the western Pacific. Together, the states comprise around 607 islands that cover a longitudinal distance of almost 2,700 km (1,678 mi) just north of the equator. They lie northeast of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, south of Guam and the Marianas, west of Nauru and the Marshall Islands, east of Palau and the Philippines, about 2,900 km (1,802 mi) north of eastern Australia, 3,400 km (2,133 mi) southeast of Japan, and some 4,000 km (2,485 mi) southwest of the main islands of the Hawaiian Islands.

History of the Federated States of Micronesia Historical development of the Federated States of Micronesia

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Geography of the Federated States of Micronesia

Geography of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), a country located in the western Pacific Ocean, and in the Micronesia cultural and ecological sub-region of Oceania. While its total land area is very small at 702 km2 (271 sq mi), it has the 14th largest exclusive economic zone at 2,996,419 km2 (1,156,924 sq mi).

Palikir Place in Pohnpei State, F.S. Micronesia

Palikir is the capital city of the Federated States of Micronesia located in the western Pacific Ocean. A town of slightly under 5,000 residents, it is part of the larger Sokehs municipality, which had a population of 7,000 as of 2009, out of the nation's total population of 106,487. It is situated on the northwest side of Pohnpei island, a high volcanic island surrounded by a fringing coral reef. Nearby to the northeast is the island's largest settlement, the coastal town of Kolonia. It was declared the capital of Micronesia in 1989.

Caroline Islands Archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean, part of Micronesia and Palau

The Caroline Islands are a widely scattered archipelago of tiny islands in the western Pacific Ocean, to the north 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, because they were part of the Spanish East Indies and were governed from Manila in the Philippines.

Nan Madol Ruined city in Federated States of Micronesesia

Nan Madol is an archaeological site adjacent to the eastern shore of the island of Pohnpei, now part of the Madolenihmw district of Pohnpei state in the Federated States of Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean. Nan Madol was the capital of the Saudeleur Dynasty until about 1628. The city, constructed in a lagoon, consists of a series of small artificial islands linked by a network of canals. The site core with its stone walls encloses an area approximately 1.5 km long by 0.5 km wide and it contains nearly 100 artificial islets—stone and coral fill platforms—bordered by tidal canals.

Pohnpei State State in Federated States of Micronesia

Pohnpei State is one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The other states are, from east to west, Kosrae State, Chuuk State, and Yap State. The state's main island is Pohnpei.

Senyavin Islands

The Senyavin Islands belong to the Federated States of Micronesia. They consist of a larger volcanic Pohnpei Island and two small atolls Ant and Pakin.

Saudeleur dynasty

The Saudeleur Dynasty was the first organized government uniting the people of Pohnpei island, ruling from around 1100 to around 1628. The era was preceded by the Mwehin Kawa or Mwehin Aramas, and followed by Mwehin Nahnmwarki. The name Deleur was an ancient name for Pohnpei, today a state containing the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia.


Kolonia is a coastal town and the capital of Pohnpei State in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). It was also the former FSM capital before being replaced by Palikir in 1989, located nearby to the southwest in the municipality of Sokehs. It has 6,074 people.

The Federated States of Micronesia is a federation divided into four states, which are further divided into various cities and municipalities.


Nett also written as Net, is one of the administrative divisions of Pohnpei State, Federated States of Micronesia.

Defense of the Federated States of Micronesia is the responsibility of the United States, but local police matters are handled by the FSM National Police, a small federal national police force, a division of the Department of Justice.


Madolenihmw is one of the administrative divisions of the Micronesian island of Pohnpei. It is located in the central east of the island, to the east of Mount Nahna Laud and south of Mount Kapwuriso. The coast of Madolenihmw includes a large bay which contains the island of Temwen, famous for its Nan Madol ruins.

U, Pohnpei

U also written Uh, is one of the administrative divisions of Pohnpei State, Federated States of Micronesia. U bears the shortest place name in the Federated States of Micronesia, and one of the shortest in the world.


Sapwuahfik, formerly Ngatik, or the Raven Islands is a 110-square-kilometre (42 sq mi) atoll of the Federated States of Micronesia. It is a village and municipality of roughly 430 people on a land area of 1.5 square kilometres (0.58 sq mi) in the state of Pohnpei.


Sokehs is a village and municipality on the main island in the state of Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.

Isokelekel, also called Idzikolkol, was a semi-mythical hero warrior from Kosrae who conquered the Saudeleur Dynasty of Pohnpei, an island in the modern Federated States of Micronesia, sometime between the early 16th century and early 17th century. Some Kosraean variants name this hero Nanparatak, with features closer to Ulithian tales of the same archetype. He is considered the father of modern Pohnpei.

Bailey Olter High School, formerly Pohnpei Island Central School (PICS), and Pacific Islands Central School, is a senior high school in Kolonia, Pohnpei Island, Pohnpei State, Federated States of Micronesia. As of 2018 the school, operated by the Pohnpei State Department of Education, has about 1,500 students, making it the state's largest high school. Its service area includes Kolonia, Nett, Sokehs, and U.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Federated States of Micronesia

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Further reading