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Native name:
Alamagan island.jpg
US Geological Survey photo of Alamagan
Mariana Islands - Alamagan.PNG
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates17°36′2″N 145°50′0″E / 17.60056°N 145.83333°E / 17.60056; 145.83333
ArchipelagoNorthern Mariana Islands
Area13 km2 (5.0 sq mi)
Length4.8 km (2.98 mi)
Width4 km (2.5 mi)
Highest elevation744 m (2,441 ft)
Highest pointBandeera Peak
United States
CommonwealthNorthern Mariana Islands
Population0 (2010)

Alamagan is an island in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean, 30 nautical miles (56 km) north of Guguan, 250 nautical miles (463 km) north of Saipan, and 60 nautical miles (111 km) south of Pagan. It is currently uninhabited.


Alamagan is roughly elliptical in shape, with a length of 4.8 kilometers (3.0 mi), width of 4 km (2.5 mi), and area of 13 km2 (5.0 sq mi).[1] The entire island is the summit of a stratovolcano which rises over 4,000 meters (13,120 ft) from the ocean floor, to an altitude of 744 m (2,441 ft) above sea level at Bandeera Peak, at the northwestern edge. The volcano is topped by a caldera, 700–900 meters in diameter and about 370 m (1,210 ft) deep. There are three smaller cones to the north, northwest and south of the main crater. The volcano has not erupted in historical times, but by radiocarbon dating, eruptions occurred in 540 AD and 870 AD, with a potential dating error of around 100 years. These eruptions involved pyroclastic flows and had a VEI of 4. Any claims of historical eruptions are inaccurate, though uncertain eruptions have occurred as late as 1887.[2] Within the main crater and on the western slopes are a number of active fumaroles.

The island has extremely steep slopes on its eastern side which are prone to landslides. The western slope has deep canyons as the result of erosion. The shoreline is dominated by steep cliffs of up to 100 m (330 ft) on the eastern shore.

Vegetation on the island's west side includes swordgrass (Miscanthus floridulus). The southeast side is a steep slope of bare lava. Coconut palms (Cocos nucifera), grow on the gradual slopes. There are deep valleys with caves, and there are fresh water springs on the northern part of the west coast.

The endangered nightingale reed warbler (Acrocephalus luscinia) is found only on Alamagan and Saipan.


Alamagan was once settled by the Chamorros, who left behind archaeological evidence including stone columns (called latte stones) and ceramics.[3] From a European perspective, Alamagan was discovered in 1669 by the Spanish missionary Diego Luis de San Vitores, who named it Concepción (Immaculate Conception in Spanish). It is likely that it was previously visited in 1522 by the Spanish sailor Gonzalo de Vigo, a deserter from the Magellan expedition in 1521 and the first European castaway in the history of the Pacific.[4] In 1695, Alamagan's natives were forcibly removed to Saipan, and three years later to Guam.

Following the sale of the Northern Marianas by Spain to the German Empire in 1899, Alamagan was administered as part of German New Guinea. During this time, a private firm, the Pagan Society, owned by a German and a Japanese partner, developed more coconut plantations. However, severe typhoons in September 1905, September 1907 and December 1913 destroyed the plantations and bankrupted the company.[5]

During World War I, Alamagan came under the control of the Empire of Japan and was administered as the South Pacific Mandate. Following World War II, it came under the control of the United States and was administered as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Since 1978, it has been part of the Northern Islands Municipality of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The island was inhabited, and continued to be used for the production of copra, with the main settlements of Song Song in the south and Patida camp in the northwest. However, by 1962 the population had dropped so much that the elementary school was closed for lack of students.[6] Due to increased volcanic activity, the islanders were evacuated in December 1998 when an eruption was feared. At the 2000 census, only six people were living on Alamagan. In September 2009, Typhoon Choi-wan passed directly over Alamagan, destroying many of the island's trees and forcing the evacuation of the remaining residents to Saipan.[7][8] As of the 2010 United States Census, the island is uninhabited.[1]


As of 1980 the population of Alamagan was 36.[9]

See also[edit]


  • Russell E. Brainard et al.: Coral reef ecosystem monitoring report of the Mariana Archipelago: 2003–2007. (=PIFSC Special Publication, SP-12-01) NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center 2012 (Kapitel Alamagan (englisch, PDF, 12,2 MB)).
  • Richard B. Moore, Frank A. Trusdell: Geologic map of Alamagan Volcano, northern Mariana Islands. United States Geological Survey 1993 (Download).

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Brainard, Coral reef ecosystem monitoring report Archived 2010-12-23 at the Wayback Machine, S. 1
  2. ^
  3. ^ Dirk HR Speenemann: Combining Curiosity with Political Skill: The Antiquarian Interests and Cultural Politics of Georg Fritz. In: Micronesian journal of the humanities and social sciences, 2006(5), S. 495–504, hier S. 498.
  4. ^ Coello, Francisco "Conflicto hispano-alemán" Boletín de Sociedad Geográfica de Madrid, t.XIX. 2º semestre 1885, Madrid, p.233,301.
  5. ^ Gerd Hardach: König Kopra. Die Marianen unter deutscher Herrschaft 1899–1914. Steiner, Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 3515057625, S. 23f, 32, 46.
  6. ^ Trust Territory Archives Photograph Collection photographs at the University of Hawaii Image Archive.
  7. ^ Ferdie de la Torre (September 19, 2009). "All residents of Alamagan, Agrihan facing evacuation". Saipan Tribune. Archived from the original on September 19, 2009. Retrieved September 19, 2009.
  8. ^ Staff Writer (September 18, 2009). "Sablan: Navy helping CNMI in typhoon recovery". Pacific Daily News. Archived from the original on September 19, 2009. Retrieved September 19, 2009.
  9. ^ Northern Mariana Islands Coastal Resources Management: Environmental Impact Statement. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1980. p. 37.