About the Marshall Islands

So what, and where in the heck, are the Marshall Islands? Fair question. What I tell people is this: Go to Hawaii. Go another 2500 miles. If you get to the Philippines, you’ve gone too far. I’ve hunted for maps online, and they’re nearly impossible to find. Google Earth has images of about half of Majuro, the capital, where we were. Otherwise, I did find this map on wikipedia.


The two main population centers are Majuro and Ebeye (where Marshallese people live when they aren’t doing laundry for the U.S. missile base at Kwajelein).

A great link if you’re really interested is yokwe.com (below). I learned a lot, especially reading the blog.


The U.S. has been in a Free Association Compact with the Marshalls since WWII. Don’t ask me what a “Free Association Compact” is, but given what’s gone on there in the past 60 years (nuc testing, relocations), it think it’s been mostly all good for the U.S., and a mix of bad and SPAM for the Marshallese (do you hear that, Austin? you pretty much tamed the Pacific with your little blue can of pork parts). For more on SPAM see:


Also, online encyclopedias offer some modest information.


This, from wikipedia, sheds some light on the geography, “The atoll itself has a land area of only 3.75 sq mi (9.7 km²), but encloses a lagoon of 113.92 sq mi (295 km²).” An atoll is a group of low, narrow islands that surround a lagoon. If you look at the map above, you may note that it looks like a bunch of rings. The insides of those rings are water, the lagoons; the border areas are land. Consequently, 3.75 sq. miles of land surround 114 sq. miles of water. Most of Majuro is about a city block wide, if that, but it’s 30 miles long.

Looking to my left, I can see the ocean side, wild and dangerous.

ocean side

Looking to my right, I can see the lagoon side, calm and peaceful.

lagoon side

In a future post, I plan to write more about the U.S. nuclear testing here, and the exiled/relocated people of Bikini, Rongelap, and Enewetok. For now, though, I’m going to stay with a pictorial Majuro primer.

As one might imagine, Majuro is a place of great beauty. Here are the Dalagers with the lagoon backdrop. We’re dressed in the wonderful flowers and hats that Jendrik and family layed on us at the airport.


It’s also a place of great progress. Here, a new government meeting house is going up.

meeting house

It’s also a place you can shop. Here’s a Dollar Store (with a taxi in front – count on a special taxi post soon).


Back to School, anyone?

back to school

There are lots of little retail stores where you can buy anything from sodas and candy to hub caps and CDs.


Houses are small. Usually two or three are grouped on family land. Here are some at Maritha’s paternal grandparent’s home (where Maritha’s dad, Eddie, climbed a coconut tree and we all drank our fill of coconut milk – special post forthcoming).


Here’s one where rocks hold down the roof.


Here’s Jendrik’s house. I’d say it’s about 20×30 of cinder block on a slab. There are two bedrooms, a small bathroom, and a kitchen/living space. It’s clean, has A/C, and the only furniture I saw were beds. There’s running water, but it must be inconsistent or in short supply because rain gutters all drain into giant cisterns out back, and this water is used for laundry, among other things.


There are also churches everywhere, and schools. You can see the American educational influence on sign below.

no child

There are also places to play ball, with handy lagoon side outhouses, tide flushed daily.


Finally, there’s basically one road on Majuro, two lanes wide and 30 miles long. Taking up any more space than that would be a crime. The road is thick with a steady stream of taxis, cars, and boys in trucks.

boys in trucks

Maritha was particularly taken with the boys in trucks.

So ends my primer to the Marshall Islands in general, and Majuro.


This entry was posted in Travel. Bookmark the permalink.