[pohn-pey, pon-]
Pohnpei, state and island (1991 est. pop. 52,000), 129 sq mi (334 sq km), W Pacific, in the E Caroline Islands. It is one of four states comprising the Federated States of Micronesia. A volcanic island, Pohnpei is a flat dome of black basaltic rock, rising to 2,595 ft (791 m), with a rim of fertile coastal land. The national capital, Palikir, is in NW Pohnpei. Copra, dried bonito, and handicrafts are the chief products. Ruins of ancient stone walls, dikes, and basaltic columns dot the island. Pohnpei was formerly called Ponape and Ascension Island.

Pohnpei "upon (pohn) a stone altar (pei)" (formerly known as Ponape) is the name of one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and among the Senyavin Islands (part of the larger Caroline Islands group). Palikir, the FSM's capital, is located on Pohnpei. Pohnpei International Airport (IATA code PNI) is located near Kolonia, on a small island off the northern coast of the main island.

Pohnpei island is the largest, highest, most populated, and most developed single island in the FSM. The islanders of Pohnpei have a reputation as being the most welcoming of outsiders among residents of the island group, and the island contains a wealth of biodiversity.

Pohnpei is one of the wettest places on earth with annual recorded rainfall exceeding each year in certain mountainous locations.

Ethnographer Martha Ward's most recent work on the Pohnpeians and their culture is the 1989 text Nest in the Wind. A second edition discusses modern Pohnpeian culture and the changes that occurred on Pohnpei in the 30 years between Ward's visits.


The Federated States of Micronesia is an independent, sovereign nation made up of Pohnpei and three other states; Chuuk, Kosrae, and Yap. Together, the FSM comprises approximately 607 small islands in the Western Pacific spread over almost from east to west just above the equator some southwest of Hawaii and about north of eastern Australia, above Papua New Guinea.

On the globe, Pohnpei can be found due north of Australia's East coast slightly above the equator.

While the FSM's total land area is quite small and amounts to approximately , it occupies more than one million square miles of the Pacific Ocean. It ranges from Kosrae farthest to the east, then to Pohnpei, Chuuk, and finally to Yap farthest to the west. Each of the four States is centered around one or more main high islands, and all but Kosrae include numerous outlying atolls.

At over , Pohnpei's tallest peaks are lush and verdant towering above a gentle talus slope at lower elevations around its circumference.

The FSM was formerly a part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI), but formed its own constitutional government on May 10, 1979. Other neighboring island entities, and also members of the TTPI, formulated their own constitutional governments and became the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and the Republic of Palau (ROP). The FSM is an independent, sovereign nation with a seat in the United Nations. The population of Pohnpei is approximately 34,000. Pohnpei is more ethnically diverse than any other island in the FSM. This is largely due to it being home to the capitol of the national government, which employs hundreds of people from the other FSM States having distinct ethnic and cultural origins. The indigenous makeup also includes people from the outer islands within the State, which comprise multiple regional ethnicities.

The majority of the population consider themselves ethnic Pohnpeian but from more than a century of foreign occupation Pohnpei is truly the FSM's melting pot, a veritable hodge-podge mix of Austral-Asian Pacific Islanders and Japanese, German, Spanish, Chamorro, Pilipino, American, Australian and other Western European people.


Pohnpei is home to several 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 offshore city of Nan Madol was built here, which was the capital of the Saudeleur dynasty until about AD 1500.

Pohnpei was first sighted by Europeans in 1828 by the Russian navigator Fyodor Litke. From the mid 1800s to early 1900s, whalers, missionaries, the Spanish and Germans came to/took over the island. The Sokehs Rebellion started on October 18, 1910. The island was a Japanese territory in World War II, Japan having acquired Pohnpei along with the rest of the Carolines, the Marshalls, and the Marianas (less American-owned Guam) as war reparations from Germany. However, the island was one of those bypassed by the US Navy during the island-hopping amphibious campaigns of 1943-1945. The military facilities were shelled on several occasions, including by the battleships USS Massachusetts (BB-59) and Iowa (BB-61), as well as being attacked by the aircraft of Cowpens (CVL-25). In 1945, when the Japanese lost the war, all Japanese citizens were forced off the island. Many of their Pohnpeian families remained.

The Federated States of Micronesia achieved independence in 1986.

With its spectacular and relatively unspoiled coral reefs, Pohnpei has long had a following among deep-sea fishermen and SCUBA enthusiasts. But it was not until recently that Pohnpei was thrust into the international surfing limelight.

Pohnpei is host to Palikir Pass, a reef pass often referred to by the surf industry as "P-Pass". Located in Sokehs Municipality and situated in the Northwest quadrant of the island's protective barrier reef, it was long known as an underground destination among surfing purists. Pohnpei was first mentioned by name in a 1986 edition of "Surfer" magazine and was later featured in the magazine's "Surf Report" publication from February 1998.

Palikir Pass was the site of the Innaugural Hobgood Challenge [IHC] surfing competition in 2007. The IHC was the first ever professional surfing competition in Pohnpei or the FSM. It was sanctioned by the Association of Surfing Professionals [ASP] as a junior men's event but they declined to acknowledge the location.

It has long since been a tucked away tropical haven under indirect U.S. control.

Nearby islands

Government and Politics


  • Kapingamarangi (far southwest atoll)
  • Kitti (main island, southwest - includes Ant/Ahnd Atoll)
  • Kolonia (main island, north)
  • Madolenihmw (main island, east)
  • Mokil (near east atoll)
  • Nett (main island, north/center, formerly including state capital Kolonia on the north coast)
  • Ngatik (near southwest atoll)
  • Nukuoro (southwest atoll)
  • Oroluk (west atoll, includes Minto Reef)
  • Pingelap (far east atoll)
  • Sokehs (main island, northwest - includes Pakin Atoll)
  • U (main island, northeast)
  • Sapwalap (main island, west, just north of Nan Madol)


Pohnpei in fiction

Pohnpei plays a central role in the fictional Cthulhu Mythos, in which it is only about ten days journey by fast ship from the fictional island of R'lyeh, the place where the fictional character Cthulhu currently resides. Several stories by H. P. Lovecraft, August Derleth and others use this island as a setting or contain references to it.

Pohnpei's role in the Mythos 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-Tauach. Some people believe Nan Madol to be connected to the lost continent of Lemuria.

Pohnpei and the ruins of Nan Madol also play a central role in author James Rollins' book, Deep Fathom.


  • The Island of the Colour-blind, Oliver Sacks, Publisher: Pan Macmillan (June 6, 1997), paperback, ISBN 0-330-35234-2.
  • "Upon a Stone Altar:A History of the Island of Pohnpei to 1890", David Hanlon, Publisher: University of Hawaii Press (May, 1988), paperpack, ISBN 978-0-8248-1124-2
  • "Pohnpei, an Island Argosy", Gene Ashby, Publisher: Rainy Day Pr West; Revised edition (June 1987), paperback, ISBN 978-0931742149
  • "Nest in the Wind: Adventures in anthropology on a tropical island", Martha C Ward, Publisher: Waveland Press Inc. (1989), paperback, ISBN 0-88133-405-7

See also

Nan Madol


External links

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