Ebeye Island

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Native name:
Ebeye Island.jpg
LocationKwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands
Coordinates8°46′49″N 167°44′14″E / 8.78028°N 167.73722°E / 8.78028; 167.73722Coordinates: 8°46′49″N 167°44′14″E / 8.78028°N 167.73722°E / 8.78028; 167.73722
Adjacent bodies of waterNorthern Pacific Ocean
Area0.36 km2 (0.14 sq mi)

Ebeye (/ˈb/ EE-by; Marshallese: Epjā, [ɛ̯ɛbʲ(ɛ)zʲææ̯];[1] locally, Ibae, [i̯i͡ɯbˠɑɑ̯ɛ̯ɛɛ̯], after the English pronunciation[2])[3][4][5][6] is the most populous island of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, as well as the center for Marshallese culture in the Ralik Chain of the archipelago. Settled on 80 acres (32 hectares) of land, it has a population of more than 15,000.[citation needed] Over 50% of the population is estimated to be under the age of 18.



When Christian missionaries first arrived in the Marshall Islands, they introduced Latin script writing and orthographized the Marshallese language. Originally, Ebeye was written Ebeje by Europeans (Epjā in modern orthography, pronounced [ɛ̯ɛbʲ(ɛ)zʲææ̯]), which (according to elders of the atoll) means "making something out of nothing." However, the colonial German administration mispronounced the J as if it were German language [j], and foreign observers recorded the resulting pronunciation as Ebeye. During the Japanese period, though, the island's pronunciation in katakana, Ebize (エビゼ) [ebize], re-approximated Marshallese. After World War II, the Americans took possession of the regional mandate from Japan and mispronounced the island's name as /ˈb/ EE-by from its spelling. Because most of the modern Marshallese residents of Ebeye don't have family roots on the island, the American pronunciation has stuck, and is the usual name for Ebeye among the island's current population. This pronunciation has even been adapted to Marshallese orthography, so that there are now two synonymous Marshallese names for the island – officially and historically Epjā, and locally Ibae.

World War II[edit]

Ebeye island being shelled on 30 January 1944
Ebeye Island seaplane base in 1945

The Imperial Japanese Navy constructed a seaplane base on Ebeye in the early 1940s. Following the Battle of Kwajalein from 31 January to 3 February 1944, Ebeye was occupied by US forces. On 7 March the 107th Naval Construction Battalion was sent to Ebeye to redevelop the seaplane base. The Seabees repaired the existing 1,600-by-30-foot (487.7 by 9.1 m) pier, adding a 50-by-240-foot (15 by 73 m) ell extension, and also repaired a 250-foot (76 m) Japanese H-shaped pier. The Seabees assembled a pontoon wharf and pontoon barges for transporting damaged carrier aircraft to repair units ashore. Further installations on Ebeye consisted of housing in floored tents and Quonset huts, a 150-bed dispensary, four magazines, 24,000 square feet (2,200 m2) of covered storage, and a 4,000-US-barrel (480,000 l; 130,000 US gal; 100,000 imp gal) aviation-gasoline tank farm.[7]

Relocation from the Mid-Atoll Corridor[edit]

Before the early 1950s, a large number of present-day residents of Ebeye lived on small islands throughout Kwajalein Atoll. When Kwajalein island started to be used as a support base for the nuclear tests conducted at Bikini Atoll and Enewetak Atoll, Marshallese residents of Kwajalein were relocated by U.S. authorities to a small, planned community constructed on Ebeye, which was largely unpopulated and had served as a Japanese seaplane base before the Pacific War.[citation needed]

With the advent of the Nike-Zeus anti-ballistic missile testing program of the 1960s, the U.S. military decided for safety and security reasons to evacuate a vast sector of the atoll to create a zone where unarmed guided missiles could be targeted from the continental United States. For this reason, whole communities of Kwajalein Atoll Marshallese residents were relocated from the "Mid-Atoll Corridor" to Ebeye and were provided with housing and the incentive of work at the base on Kwajalein test site. These promises were not entirely upheld, nor were these families thoroughly compensated. Not only were they removed from their land and access to abundant marine resources, but most "Mid-Atoll" people did not have land rights to Ebeye, leaving them without much of a say in their future. Currently, these people are allowed to return to their islands during range downtime but cannot build homes or maintain their land adequately, as they are subject to removal on a nearly monthly basis by authorities.[citation needed]

Subsequent population growth by migration from outlying rural atolls and islands throughout the Marshalls created a housing shortage and problems with resources throughout the following decades. Original Ebeye inhabitants with land rights were not compensated adequately[clarification needed] for the tenants who came to live on their land. This created tensions that polarized migrants from other atolls and "landowners" or original "Kwajalein people" (Ri-Kuwajleen, [rˠɯ͡u-ɡʷuu̯ɒ͡æzʲ(æ)lʲɛːnʲ]). The tensions persist today and are part of the basis for many Kwajalein Atoll landowners' disputes about the Land Use Agreement between the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands Government in Majuro.[citation needed]


Ebeye is the most populous island of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, as well as the center for Marshallese culture in the Ralik Chain of the archipelago. It comprises 80 acres (32 ha).

It is the sixth most densely populated island in the world.[8]



Ebeye has a population of more than 15,000.[8] In 2008, the population was 12,000.[9] In 1968, the population was 3,000.[10]

Refuge from nuclear fallout[edit]

Some of the residents of Ebeye are refugees or descendants of refugees from the effects of the 15-megaton Castle Bravo nuclear test at Bikini Atoll on 1 March 1954. The detonation unexpectedly rained nuclear fallout and two inches (50 mm) of radioactive snow on nearby Rongelap Atoll, which had not been evacuated as had Bikini. The 1954 American authorities then evacuated Rongelap and were returned in 1957 with extensive medical surveillance. In 1985, Greenpeace evacuated the inhabitants of Rongelap to Mejato (island in Kwajalein atoll). Ebeye was the final destination for many of them.[11]


Infant mortality on Ebeye is 3.0% as of 2006.[9] There have been recurrent outbreaks of cholera, dengue fever, and tuberculosis. In 1963 there was a polio outbreak, and in 1978 a measles outbreak. In 2009, the Ebeye Community Health Center was awarded a grant as part of the United States Stimulus for monitoring influenza (e.g., H1N1).[12]


The Marshall Islands subsists primarily upon foreign aid and lease payments from the United States for the military use of Kwajalein Atoll. The United States provides $1.5 billion annually in aid under the Compact of Free Association, which expires in 2024. Apart from this, handicrafts are produced and there is a small fishery.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Marshallese-English Dictionary - Place Name Index". trussel2.com. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Marshallese-English Dictionary". trussel2.com. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  3. ^ http://www.wcl.american.edu/hrbrief/13/2vine.pdf
  4. ^ "Page Not Found" (PDF). cuny.edu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  5. ^ "Empire's Footprint: Expulsion and the United States Military Base on Diego ... - Google Books". google.ca. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Island of Shame". google.ca. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  7. ^ Building the Navy's Bases in World War II History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946. US Government Printing Office. 1947. p. 324.
  8. ^ a b "Top ten most crowded islands in the world - Gadling". Gadling. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Marshall Islands". Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  10. ^ "Where is Kwajalein". Global Associates Welcomes YOU to Kwajalein Marshall Islands. Kwajalein, Marshall Islands. 1968. p. 11.
  11. ^ Woodward, Colin (7 December 1999). "Generations of Fallout From Nuclear Tests". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  12. ^ H8BCS11973, DHHS. "Grants - AWARD SUMMARY". Recovery.gov.

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