Micronesia: Day 5 – Nan Madol Ruins

Started 9:38 P.M. on 6/28/13

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Alright. Now it’s 10:49 P.M. and the pictures haven’t even started uploading, so time to switch to Chrome from Firefox. I’m an open source guy, but man, Google knows how to know things.

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Well, well, well. It’s now 11:47 P.M., and I’m not yet tired, so I will start blogging and see how far I can make it. It is kind of funny… I will undoubtedly spend more time on this blog than on the final project and paper that I am being graded on. But researching this stuff on my own and passing on my first-hand experiences to you is so much more important. I mean, gosh, what’s more fulfilling? A 4.0 or a diary of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I can share with the world? The good thing is that they are definitely related. Writing about the stuff we do keeps me on top of things.

We did a variety of activities on Thursday, but our main experience was visiting Nan Madol. Nan Madol was a city that was the capital of the Saudeleur Dynasty until 1628. Soon after, it was abandoned and now lies in ruins. It was a spectacular sight nonetheless. It wasn’t as big or grand or impressive as the Colosseum or the Sistine Chapel, but when you consider the resources that the Pohnpeians had and the remote location of the island, you really appreciate its beauty.

Seeing Nan Madol was an experience from start to finish. Before we went to see the ruins, we paid our respects to the paramount chief who resides over the district that Nan Madol resides in. He is one of five paramount chiefs on Pohnpei, so we all felt very privileged to see him. He sat on a chair by the door of a long, painted rock area similar to something you would see on an outdoor dining hall in the states. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures, as doing so would be disrespectful.

We walked up to him by entering from the far side of the floor, walking up four very steep steps to  a floor of the same material (the only difference was that it was higher than the floor below). Before we advanced more than a yard away from the door, we wiped our shoes by holding a small towel on the floor with one foot while scraping the bottom of your other foot with the towel.

After this, we would walk up to the chief, who was higher than us because there were four similar steps to a chair he sat in. We bowed to show our respect and said “Kaselehlie,” which is a standard Pohnpeian greeting. After all of us had done this, the chief talked a bit about his position and told us some history about chiefs in Pohnpei. I forget the details, so don’t quote me on this, by he may have been the owner of the land that Nan Madol is situated. Nearly all the land in Micronesia is privately owned, and of all the land to own, he picked a pretty good spot.

We also saw a Village Chief who was below the rank of a Paramount Chief. He didn’t stop to talk to us, but we stilld paid our respects to him. Village chiefs have much less power than Paramount Chiefs, but they are still chiefs. I’d have to read a lot about chiefs in Pohnpei to completely understand but that’s not something I have time for.

Speaking of which, it is now 12:15 A.M. Saturday June 29 in Pohnpei, and I’m exhausted. I’m in one of those states where I cannot type with my eyes open. I’ll pick up where I left off in the morning.

Ended 12:17 A.M.

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Started 2:54 P.M. Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wow. It’s been a while. time for me to get back to business. I’ve already done today’s blog, so once I finish this and day 6, I’ll be back up to speed.

Anyway, after seeing the village chief, we began our trip down to Nan Madol. Nan Madol was constructed on a lagoon, and as such, it is a series of small artificial islands linked by canals.

Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons: Author – Holger Behr

I don’t know the names of the specific places we went, but I can show you some pictures of where we walked through.

Walking through the first canal leading up to the Nan Madol ruins

Looking up the canal. Note the man-made wall on the right

Walking through an entrance into part of the city

Nan Madol is made of basalt that bears a striking resemblance to the columnar basalt columns in Eastern Washington. However, it is unknown if this actually is columnar basalt. The basalt walls were extremely thick… 2-3 meters in most cases. Whoever built Nan Madol put a lot of work into it, and the scientific knowledge of the culture was obviously very advanced.

But with these huge basalt walls in a remote location, how the heck was this city built? Pohnpeian legend says that Nam Madol was built by Olisihpa and Olosohpa, two twin sorcerers from the mythical Western Katau. The twins arrived in a canoe and built an altar off Temwen Island so they could worship the god of agriculture, Nahnisohn Sahpw. There, the twins used a dragon to transport the huge stones to Nan Madol. Eventually, the reign of these brothers and their descendants ended when Isokelekel, who is considered the “Father of Modern Pohnpei.” Isokekelel resided at Nan Madol, but his successors abandoned it, leaving it in ruins.

Below is a picture of a significant tomb in Nan Madol. This tomb was right in the middle of the city and probably housed a very significant person or very significant people.

Walking into the tomb

Inside the tomb

Looking outside the tomb

There were some more cool features in Nan Madol. There was this little tunnel thing below…

… and there was an entrance to a prison that did not look inviting. We had some guides, and they advised us not to try to enter the prison area for fear that we would have trouble getting out.

Nan Madol is a sacred place. It is very disrespectful to make loud noises, as it may awake the spirits that reside there. This was told to me. Unfortunately, I forgot. Me and another girl on the trip decided to climb to the top of a rock and were so exhilarated that we spontaneously made Chewbacca and chimpanzee noises, respectively. We were scolded by one of the trip leaders and then felt horrible that we had forgotten this very important rule. We apologized sincerely to the native Pohnpeians who acted as our guide, and they forgave us in a respectful manner.

Our Pohnpeian guides

Nevertheless, I had an absolutely incredible time at Nan Madol. I can’t remember if this picture was taken before or after the Chewbacca incident, but it is a picture of me standing on the edge of a cliff next to the ocean. Looking back on it now, it was an unsafe choice, but man, it was awesome.

Livin’ the life

We walked around the waters in Nan Madol before we went back and looked for marine life. We found a brittle star (which was indeed very brittle, we accidentally broke off the end of the leg extending more or less directly to the right, but it was fine).

We saw lots and lots of sea cucumbers as well, and some marine invertebrates that looked like sea cucumbers but we couldn’t recognize.

Unidentified invertebrate

Unidentified invertebrate

Sea cucumber

I’ve seen plenty of these on this trip, but there are tons of bananas that are grown on the island. Banana bunches are far bigger than I realized, and they sprout from these giant flowers that hang down from the tree.

Yum.

We saw this really massive tree on our way back, which looked straight out of Tarzan. Trees in the Pacific Northwest such as the Douglas Fir are probably taller, but these trees look more impressive because they don’t have a singular trunk… they spread out in all directions. It’s extremely cool stuff.

On our way back, we stopped at a clam farm that specialized in clams for aquariums. We saw Julian’s (our professor’s) favorite clam, the Tridacna Maxima, or Giant Clam

Tridacna Maxima

Likely Tridacna squamosa, but perhaps Tridacna squamosa

Finally, we saw some other organisms that were growing. They looked to me like they were corals. They could have been anemones… I didn’t want to touch them.

Acropora (genus) or Porites rus

It was a super busy day, but what day here hasn’t been super busy? It’s been spectacular through and through. Thanks for keeping up with my updates, I sincerely appreciate it.

Time for dinner!
Charlie

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Ended 5:56 P.M.
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