Chuuk Lagoon

Coordinates: 07°24′54″N 151°44′06″E / 7.41500°N 151.73500°E / 7.41500; 151.73500
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Chuuk Lagoon
Atoll
Flag of Chuuk Lagoon
Coordinates: 07°24′54″N 151°44′06″E / 7.41500°N 151.73500°E / 7.41500; 151.73500
CountryFederated States of Micronesia Federated States of Micronesia
StateChuuk State
CapitalWeno
Government
 • GovernorAlexander R. Narruhn (since 2021)
Area
 • Total93.07 km2 (35.93 sq mi)
Elevation
443 m (1,453 ft)
Population
 (2010)
 • Total36,158
 • Density390/km2 (1,000/sq mi)
Administrative subdivision of Chuuk Lagoon
Map of Chuuk Islands
Chuuk islands

Chuuk Lagoon, previously Truk Atoll, is an atoll in the central Pacific. It lies about 1,800 kilometres (970 nautical miles) northeast of New Guinea and is part of Chuuk State within the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). A protective reef, 225 kilometres (140 mi) around, encloses a natural harbour 79 by 50 km (43 nmi × 27 nmi), with an area of 2,130 km2 (820 sq mi).[1] It has a land area of 93.07 square kilometres (35.93 square miles), with a population of 36,158 people[2] and a maximal elevation of 443 metres (1,453 ft). Weno city on Weno (formerly Moen) Island functions as both the atoll's capital and the state capital, and is the largest city in the FSM with its 13,700 people.

Chuuk Lagoon was the Empire of Japan's main naval base in the South Pacific theatre during World War II. It was the site of a major U.S. attack during Operation Hailstone in February 1944, and Operation Inmate, a small assault conducted by British and Canadian forces during June 1945.

Name[edit]

Chuuk means mountain in the Chuukese language. The lagoon was known mainly as Truk (a mispronunciation of Ruk[citation needed]), until 1990. Other names included Hogoleu, Torres, Ugulat, and Lugulus.

Geography[edit]

Chuuk Lagoon is part of the larger Caroline Islands group. The area consists of eleven major islands (corresponding to the eleven municipalities of Truk lagoon, which are Tol, Udot, Fala-Beguets, Romanum, and Eot of Faichuk group, and Weno, Fefen, Dublon, Uman, Param, and Tsis of Namoneas group) and 46 smaller ones within the lagoon, plus 41 on the fringing coral reef, and is known today as the Chuuk islands, part of the Federated States of Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean.

Main islands[edit]

This is a list of islands, villages and population following the 2010 census:

Island Capital Other Cities Area (km2) Population
Chuuk Atoll 93.07 36158
Faichuk 41.8 11305
Fanapanges Nepitiw Peniamwan, Wichuk, Seisein, Sapotiw 1.62 672
Paata Sapaata Chukufefin, Nukaf, Epin, Pokochou, Etlemar, Onas Point 4.4 1107
Polle Nepanonong Chukaram, Neton, Malaio, Unikappi, Sapou, Miari, Neirenom 9.3 1496
Ramanum Winisi Chorong, Nepor Point 0.856 865
Tol Foson Chukienu, Wichukuno, Wonip, Nechocho, Munien, Faro, Winifei, Foupo, Foup 10.3 4579
Udot Fanomo Tunuk, Wonip, Ounechen, Monowe, Chukisenuk, Mwanitiw, Penia 4.5 1680
Onei Nambo Onnap, Fanato, Nepos, Peniata, Sapitiw, Anakun, Tolokas, Ras 10 638
Northern Namoneas Weno Neiwe, Mwan, Nepukos, Iras, Mechitiw, Tunuk, Peniesene, Penia, Wichap 20.76 14620
Fono Fanip Mesor 0.342 388
Piis Nukan Sapatiw 0.32 360
Weno Weno Neiwe, Mwan, Nepukos, Iras, Mechitiw, Tunuk, Peniesene, Penia, Wichap 19.1 13854
Southern Namoneas 30.42 10233
Fefan Messa Sapota, Aun, Sapore, Upwein, Fason, Wininis, Pieis, Ununo, Fongen, Onongoch, Feini, Mwen, Saporanong, Manukun, Meseiku, Kukuwu, Sopuo 12.15 3471
Tonowas Nemuanon Pwene, Chun, Nechap, Tonof, Pata, wonpiepi, Meseran, Fankachau, Sapou, Roro, Penior, Nukanap, Penienuk, Saponong, Supun, Nukan 8.94 3294
Uman Island Nepononong Sapou, Nepon, Sapotiw, Sapota, Nesarau, Sanuk, Mochon, Nukan, Manukun 3.86 2540

Climate[edit]

Climate data for Chuuk Islands
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 30
(86)
30
(86)
30
(86)
31
(87)
31
(87)
31
(87)
31
(87)
31
(87)
31
(87)
31
(87)
31
(87)
30
(86)
31
(87)
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 25
(77)
25
(77)
25
(77)
25
(77)
25
(77)
24
(76)
24
(76)
24
(75)
24
(76)
24
(76)
24
(76)
25
(77)
24
(76)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 230
(8.9)
170
(6.7)
220
(8.8)
310
(12.3)
360
(14.3)
300
(12)
350
(13.7)
350
(13.9)
320
(12.6)
350
(13.6)
290
(11.3)
310
(12.1)
3,560
(140.3)
Source: Weatherbase [3]

History[edit]

Native Micronesian of Japanese Truk Island, circa 1930s.
Native Micronesian teaching assistant (left) and constables (middle and right) of Japanese Truk Island, circa 1930. Truk became a possession of the Empire of Japan under a mandate from the League of Nations following Germany's defeat in World War I.[4]

Prehistory[edit]

It is not known when the islands of Chuuk were first settled, but archaeological evidence indicates that islands of Feefen and Wééné had human settlements in the first and second century BC. Later evidence indicates that widespread human settlements appeared in Chuuk during the 14th century AD.[5]

Colonialism[edit]

The first recorded sighting by Europeans was made by Spanish navigator Álvaro de Saavedra on board the ship Florida during August or September 1528.[6] They were later visited by Spaniard Alonso de Arellano on 15 January 1565 on board of galleon patache San Lucas.[7]

As part of the Caroline Islands, Truk was claimed by the Spanish Empire, which made an effort to control the islands in the late 19th century. Chuuk Lagoon was inhabited by several tribes that engaged in intermittent warfare, as well as a small population of foreign traders and missionaries. Spanish control over the islands was nominal. The Spaniards stopped to raise a flag over Chuuk in 1886 and returned in 1895 as part of an attempt to assert control and negotiate peace between warring Chuukese tribes. No permanent Spanish settlement was established, and tribal violence continued until the German colonial era.[8] The Caroline Islands were sold to the German Empire in 1899, after Spain withdrew from the Pacific in the aftermath of the Spanish–American War.

During the First World War, The Japanese Navy was tasked with pursuing and destroying the German East Asia Squadron[9] and protection of the shipping lanes for Allied commerce in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.[10] During the course of this operation, the Japanese Navy seized the German possessions in the Marianas, Carolines, Marshall Islands and Palau groups by October 1914.[11] Chuuk then became a possession of the Empire of Japan under the South Seas Mandate following Germany's defeat.[12][11][13][14]

World War II[edit]

Japanese battleships Yamato and Musashi in anchorage off Truk Islands in 1943
Japanese shipping under attack in Truk Lagoon during Operation Hailstone on 17 February 1944

Naval Base Truk in the Truk Lagoon was the Empire of Japan's main base in the South Pacific theatre of World War II. Truk was a heavily fortified base for Japanese operations against Allied forces in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, serving as the forward anchorage for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). Truk Lagoon was considered the most formidable of all Japanese strongholds in the Pacific. On the various islands, the Japanese Civil Engineering Department and Naval Construction Department had built roads, trenches, bunkers and caves. Five airstrips, seaplane bases, a torpedo boat station, submarine repair shops, a communications center and a radar station were constructed during the war. Protecting these various facilities were coastal defense guns and mortar emplacements.

Because of its heavy fortifications, both natural and manmade, the base at Truk was known to Allied forces as "the Gibraltar of the Pacific".[15][16] Some have described Truk as Japan's equivalent of the Americans' Pearl Harbor.[16]

A significant portion of the Japanese fleet was based at Truk, with its administrative center on Tonoas (south of Weno). At anchor in the lagoon were battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, tankers, cargo ships, tugboats, gunboats, minesweepers, landing craft, and submarines. In particular, Yamato and Musashi were stationed at Truk for months around 1943, unable to participate in battle. The Japanese garrison consisted of 27,856 IJN men, under the command of Vice Admiral Masami Kobayashi, then Vice Admiral Chuichi Hara, and 16,737 Imperial Japanese Army men, under the command of Major General Kanenobu Ishuin.[17]

In 1944, Truk's capacity as a naval base was destroyed through naval air attack in Operation Hailstone. Forewarned by intelligence a week before the US raid, the Japanese had withdrawn their larger warships (heavy cruisers and aircraft carriers) to Palau. Once the American forces captured the Marshall Islands, they used them as a base from which to launch an early morning attack on 17 February 1944 against Truk Lagoon. Operation Hailstone lasted for three days, as American carrier-based planes sank 12 smaller Japanese warships (light cruisers, destroyers, and auxiliaries) and 32 merchant ships, while destroying 275 aircraft, mainly on the ground. The consequences of the attack made "Truk lagoon the biggest graveyard of ships in the world".[18][19]

The attacks for the most part ended Truk as a major threat to Allied operations in the central Pacific. The Japanese garrison on Eniwetok was denied any realistic hope of reinforcement and support during the invasion that began on 18 February, greatly assisting U.S. forces in their conquest of that island. Truk was isolated by Allied forces, as they continued their advance towards Japan by invading other Pacific islands, such as Guam, Saipan, Palau, and Iwo Jima. Truk was attacked again from 12 to 16 June 1945 by part of the British Pacific Fleet during Operation Inmate. Cut off, the Japanese forces on Truk and other central Pacific islands ran low on food and faced starvation before Japan surrendered in August 1945.[20]

Economy and infrastructure[edit]

Chuuk International Airport

Most of the roads and transportation systems are poor or in disrepair; an extensive infrastructural redevelopment plan began, consisting of a five-phase project to completely reconstruct the existing sewer, water and storm drainage systems as well as pour concrete roadways in the majority of the villages of Weno.

Chuuk International Airport (IATA airport code TKK) is on the administrative island of Moen. It is served by United Airlines.

The government operates a radio station. Interisland communication is often accomplished using citizens' band radio. Telephone services are limited on Chuuk, though a cellular network is established within some islands of the lagoon and in the near future on the outer islands. High speed Internet access via ADSL has been made available on a monthly subscription basis on the Island of Moen from May 2010.

Tourism, especially scuba diving among the many wrecks of Truk Lagoon, is the island's main industry. Copra (dried coconut meat) is the only cash crop, and output is relatively insignificant. Most of the inhabitants of outlying islands engage in subsistence activity only.

Recreational diving[edit]

A view of Moen
Chuuk Atoll

In 1969, William A. Brown and French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and his team explored Truk Lagoon. Following Cousteau's 1971 television documentary about the lagoon and its ghostly remains, the atoll became a scuba diving lure, drawing wreck diving enthusiasts from around the world to see its numerous, virtually intact sunken ships. The shipwrecks and remains are sometimes referred to as the "Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon". Scattered mainly around the Dublon (Tonowas), Eten, Fefan and Uman islands within the Truk group, several shipwrecks lie in crystal clear waters less than fifteen metres (50 ft) below the surface. In waters devoid of normal ocean currents, divers can easily swim across decks littered with gas masks and depth charges, and below decks can be found evidence of human remains. In the massive ships' holds are the remnants of fighter aircraft, tanks, bulldozers, railroad cars, motorcycles, torpedoes, mines, bombs, boxes of munitions, radios, plus thousands of other weapons, spare parts, and other artifacts. Of special interest is the wreck of the submarine I-169 Shinohara which was lost when diving to avoid the bombing. The submarine had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

The coral encrusted wrecks attract a diverse array of marine life, including manta rays, turtles, sharks and corals. In 2007, 266 species of reef fish were recorded by an Earthwatch team, and in 2006 the rare coral Acropora pichoni was identified.[21]

On 12 April 2011, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program Foreign Correspondent screened a report on Chuuk Lagoon likening the effect of the impending massive release of tens of thousands of tonnes of oil from the rusting Japanese warships into the coral reef to that of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.[22] However, given the poor state of the Japanese war effort in 1944, many of the ships may have had relatively small amounts of fuel in their bunkers. Environmental protection organizations are surveying the wrecks while also consulting with Japanese researchers to try to determine how much oil is likely to be in the hulls, particularly in three sunken oil tankers.[23][24] The ships are classified as a Japanese war grave, requiring Japanese government involvement in the eventual clean-up.

Shipwreck gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 1989 Census p. 1
  2. ^ 2010 Census p ii
  3. ^ "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Chuuk Islands, Federated States of Micronesia". Weatherbase. 2011. Archived from the original on 2020-10-27. Retrieved 2012-06-09. Retrieved on November 24, 2011.
  4. ^ "League of Nations chronology" (PDF). United Nations. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-04-04. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  5. ^ Goodenough, Ward Hunt (1 January 2002). Under Heaven's Brow: Pre-Christian Religious Tradition in Chuuk. American Philosophical Society. pp. 17–18. ISBN 978-0-87169-246-7.
  6. ^ Coello, Francisco (1885). "Conflicto hispano-alemán". Boletín de Sociedad Geográfica de Madrid. Madrid. 19: 234, 266. Archived from the original on 2020-08-19. Retrieved 2015-11-27.
  7. ^ Coello, Francisco (1885). "Conflicto hispano-alemán". Boletín de Sociedad Geográfica de Madrid. Madrid. 19: 241, 242, 289. Archived from the original on 2020-08-19. Retrieved 2015-11-27.
  8. ^ Hezel, Francis X. (1995). Strangers in Their Own Land: A Century of Colonial Rule in the Caroline and Marshall Islands. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-8248-2804-2.
  9. ^ Dan E. Bailey (2001). WWII Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon. Archived from the original on 2020-04-01. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  10. ^ Stephenson, Charles (2017). The Siege of Tsingtau: The German-Japanese War 1914. Pen and Sword. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-1-52670-295-1.
  11. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane 1962, p. 348.
  12. ^ Mizokami, Kyle (27 July 2014). "Japan's baptism of fire: World War I put country on a collision course with West". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on 31 July 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  13. ^ Myers & Peattie 1984, p. 200.
  14. ^ "League of Nations chronology" (PDF). United Nations. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-04-04. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  15. ^ Costello, John (1982). The Pacific War, 1941–1945. New York: Quill. ISBN 978-0-688-01620-3.
  16. ^ a b "Truk Lagoon and the Lost Japanese Ghost Fleet – The Adventure Couple". Live-adventurously.com. 2012-03-08. Archived from the original on 2016-08-09. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
  17. ^ Takizawa, Akira; Alsleben, Allan (1999–2000). "Japanese garrisons on the by-passed Pacific Islands 1944–1945". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942. Archived from the original on 2016-01-06.
  18. ^ Video: Castle Films Yanks Smash Truk (1944). Castle Films. 1944. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  19. ^ Trumbull, Robert (April 30, 1972). "The 'Graveyard' Lure of Truk Lagoon". New York Times. Archived from the original on February 17, 2022. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  20. ^ Stewart, 1986
  21. ^ Scientists Find Oil Leak Threatening Chuuk Lagoon Archived 2019-06-12 at the Wayback Machine Newswise, Retrieved on August 28, 2008.
  22. ^ "Chuuk Islands – The Blue and the Black – Foreign Correspondent". ABC. 2011-05-20. Archived from the original on 2016-03-11. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
  23. ^ "Paradise island threatened by wrecked WWII oil tanker – environment – 02 September 2008". New Scientist. 2008-09-02. Archived from the original on 2014-08-13. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
  24. ^ "Rainforest Conservation | Volunteer For Animals | Earthwatch News". Earthwatch.org. Archived from the original on 2019-10-18. Retrieved 2013-11-21.

References[edit]

External links[edit]