on Earth Today Was the Site of a Major WWII Battle
island chain consists of about 200 islands in the western
Pacific Ocean, 528 mi (650 km) southeast of the Philippines.
Only eight of the islands are permanently inhabited. They
vary geologically from the high mountainous largest island,
Babelthuap, to low, coral islands usually fringed by large
barrier reefs. Palau enjoys a warm climate all year round
with an annual mean temperature of 82° degrees F. (27°
C.). Rainfall can occur throughout the year, and the annual
average is 150 inches. The average relative humidity is 82%,
and although rain falls more frequently between July and October,
there is still much sunshine.
chain is often described as a spectacular 400 mile long strand
of pearls laid across blue sea. The chain is made of limestone
coral reefs lifted above sea level and undercut by ocean currents.
Three ocean currents converge on Palau, bringing with them
marine life four times as rich as that in the Caribbean. There
are more than 1,000 species of fish and more than 700 species
of coral. Giant clams sit on the reefs and moray eels hover
nearby as do sharks who appear to be too well fed to be interested
clustered Palau archipelago consists of the high islands of
Babeldaob, Koror, Peleliu and Angaur in the south, the low
coral atolls of Kayangel to the north east and Ngeruangel
and the limestone rock islands.. Apart from Kayangel, Ngeruangel
and Angaur all the islands are inside a single barrier reef.
Only eight islands are inhabited, and the entire population
is 17,235 with the majority living in the provisional capital
of Koror. There are an additional 2,500 foreigners. mostly
named the group Los Palos (the native name is Belau) and laid
claim to them in 1898, selling them to Germany a year later.
In 1946, Palau became one of the trust territories of the
Pacific islands under the governance of the U.S.A. In 1994,
it gained its independence and was admitted to the United
Nations as its 185th member.
group is divided into 16 states. each maintaining the traditional
clan system with English and Palauan the official languages.
Word for Peace
the capital, has views of the islands, Japanese stone lanterns
and the only Shinto Shrine outside Japan, a reminder of Japanese
occupation during the war. There is a national museum founded
in 1955 which displays island treasure. On special occasions,
you can see young Palauan women dressed in grass skirts covered
in coconut oil and turmeric perform ancient native dances
on the museum's grass.
indicate that today's Palauans are distant relatives of the
Malays of Indonesia, Melanesians of New Guinea and Polynesians.
Carbon dating of artifacts from the oldest known village sites
on the Rock Islands and the terraces on Babeldaob place civilization
here as early as 1,000 BC.
noteworthy first foreign contact took place in 1783 when the
vessel Antelope, commanded by of English Captain Henry Wilson,
was shipwrecked on a reef near Ulong, a Rock Island between
Koror and Peleliu. With the assistance of Koror's High Chief
Ibedul, Wilson and his men stayed for three months to rebuild
governance of the islands began when Pope Leo XIII asserted
Spain's rights over the Caroline Islands in 1885. Two churches
were established and maintained by two Capuchin priests and
two brothers, who introduced the Roman alphabet and helped
eliminate inter-village wars. In 1899, Spain sold the Carolines
to Germany, which began to exploit the islands' natural resources.
Germany's defeat in WWI, the islands were formally passed
to the Japanese under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. The Japanese
shifted the economy from a subsistence level to a market economy
and property ownership from the clan to individuals. In 1922,
Koror became the administrative center for all Japanese possessions
in the South Pacific. The town of Koror was a stylish metropolis
with factories, shops, public baths, restaurants and pharmacies.
a small island in Palau, was the site of some of the bloodiest
battles of World War II. Though only 5 sq miles (13 sq km)
in area, in two months there were more than 20,000 casualties,
more than the current population of the whole country. Many
of the island's residents are survivors of that campaign.
During the fighting, Peleliu's forest were burned to the ground,
but now re-growth has occurred. Six thousand Japanese defended
the island when the 1st Marine Division assaulted it on September
15, 1944, landing on the southwest corner of the island. The
American drive was halted for a month on Umurbrogol ridge
(know as the Battle of Bloody Nose Ridge). Organized Japanese
resistance ended on October 13, 1944.
Beach and Bloody Beach was the site of the initial United
States Marine landings. There is a huge blockhouse inland
of White Beach that has been renovated into the new Peleliu
Museum. Ray Barao, who works for the United States Embassy
in Palau collected soil for Gary Simpson’s Common Ground
191 at Bloody Beach on December 28, 2006.
liberation from Japanese occupation during World War II, Palau
became part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands,
administered by the USA under a mandate from the United Nations
in 1947. In 1986, the governments of Palau and the United
States agreed the terms of a Compact of Free Association,
similar to those reached with other Micronesian Trust members,
which allows for independence under a US defense umbrella.
But the Palau Compact remained unsigned, because of a crucial
clause forbidding the presence of any nuclear weapons on the
islands, including visits by ships equipped to carry them.
The US refused to sign the Compact until the clause was rescinded.
over the Compact introduced a violent aspect into Palau’s
politics – president Haruu Remeliik was assassinated
in 1985; his successor, Lazarus Salii, committed suicide in
August 1988. At the presidential election of November 1992,
Kuniwo Nakamura won a narrow victory. In October 1994, the
Compact was endorsed and Palau was admitted to the United
Nations in December 1994, then became a member of the IMF
in 1997. Nakamura served a second term between 1996 and 2000,
after which he was replaced by the current president, Tommy
Remengesau. Economic issues have dominated the political agenda
in recent years, as Palau attempts to deal with typical problems
of all Pacific islands – isolation and lack of infrastructure.
Palau has adapted to an international economy, Palauans continue
to strongly identify with traditional culture. Traditional
ceremonies, such as birth ceremonies and funeral services
are widely practiced..
noticeable aspect of Palauan culture is the people's connection
with the sea. Traditionally, it was the duty of the family
to go to sea to harvest fish and battle against enemy villages.
Men developed a close relationship with oceans, becoming knowledgeable
about the currents and the phases of the moon and the behavior
of the fish they needed to catch.
stayed on land or along the shallow reefs surrounding the
islands, providing foundations for their families. They tending
to their homes, family and fields where they grew taro.
villages are organized around 10 clans. A council of chiefs
from the 10 ranking clans govern the village, and a parallel
council of female counterparts hold a significant advisory
role in the division and control of land and money.
are highly sociable. Traditionally, history, lore and knowledge
were passed down through generations orally as there was no
written language until the late 1800's. Palauans still practice
that traditional method, and at the end of the day, groups
of natives are excitingly engaged in telling stories.
of Palau have traditionally woven household items, including
sleeping mats, baskets and the sails of the long-range outrigger
canoes. Although the women weavers still make traditional
wares, they have introduced bags, backpacks and other useful
primary form of travel around the islands has been by canoe,
building these has traditionally been an important occupation
here. There were canoes for every task and occasion, such
as the sleek war canoe or the bulkier kaeb canoe used to transport
people from island to island.
have traditionally been used here to relate stories of historical
and ceremonial events and to parody individuals and situations.
In Palauan tradition, to criticize or ridicule someone directly
was a harsh, humiliating action that could lead to recrimination.
Instead, people would chant songs that were essentially parodies
of a person or village that allowed people to enjoy the messages
while learning important lessons. Chanting is performed on
special occasions and in dance performances.
are often accompanied by dances, performed at ceremonies commemorating
events. The movements are fluid and unhurried. The Palauan
cha cha and jitterbug, adaptations of the dances brought in
by the U.S. military, are performed with characteristic careful
languages in Palau are English and Palauan. The word for “Peace”
in Palauan is “Budech.”
is said by tourists to be one of the most extraordinary diving
spots on this planet. Far to the southwest of Micronesia,
the Republic of Belau (the traditional name) consists of an
archipelago of 343 islands, spread north to south over 100
miles form the atoll of Kayangel to the island of Angaur plus
five tiny islands, known as the southwest islands.
huge caverns and an immense variety of rare and exotic marine
species are easily accessible in clear water with visibility
exceeding 200 feet. Vast numbers of large pelagic predators,
sharks, turtles, dolphins and many species of migratory fish
gather at a unique crossroads of three of the world's major
ocean currents. Land locked marine lakes, accessible from
the sea through tunnels beneath the island's steep shorelines,
are home to rare jelly fish, anemones and soft corals.