The Marshall Islands or Republic of the Marshall Islands is a Pacific state in Micronesia. It is bounded on the west and southwest by the territorial waters of the Federated States of Micronesia, on the south by the territorial waters of Kiribati, and in other parts by the neutral waters of the Pacific. Total land area is 181.3 km²; area occupied by lagoons is 11,673 km². The capital is Majuro.
The Marshall Islands are a cluster of atolls (29) and islands (5) located in the Pacific Ocean, slightly north of the equator, divided into two groups (chains): Ratak and Ralik.
Both chains are about 250 km apart, stretching from northwest to southeast for about 1,200 km. The most important islands are the Kwajalein and Majuro atolls. Kwajalein, the largest island of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is also the atoll with the largest lagoon in the world. Although its land area is only 16.32 km² (or 6.3 square miles), the lagoon is 2,174 km² (or 839.3 square miles). The highest point of the country, which reaches only 10 m, is located at Likiep Atoll.
The Marshall Islands are home to 80 plant species, of which one is endemic to the archipelago. Only on several uninhabited islands of the archipelago forests are preserved, in which vegetation typical for atolls grows. On the rest of the islands, the island ecosystems were significantly changed under the human impact: the majority of the local flora was destroyed and instead of the indigenous plants, plantations of coconut palm (covers about 60% of the archipelago), breadfruit and bananas were planted.
The most important representatives of the local fauna are turtles and sea birds. On many of the northern islands, Bikar, Bokak, and Bikini, green turtles lay eggs, but the previously widespread bissa sea turtle has become rare in local waters. Many of the Marshall Islands are large bird bazaars where seabirds nest (106 bird species in all). The coastal waters of the islands are very rich in fish (about 250 species) and corals (about 146 species).
There are no nature reserves or protected areas in the country.
Climate in the Marshall Islands
A distinctive feature of the climate of the Marshall Islands is the change in climatic conditions from north to south, including an increase in precipitation in this direction. The northern islands of the country have a tropical, semi-arid climate. For example, on the northernmost atoll, Bokaka, it is almost semi-arid. Precipitation in the Marshall Islands increases as one moves southward and reaches its maximum on Ebon Atoll, the southernmost island of the country located in the equatorial belt.
Another important climatic feature of the local climate is the location of the Marshall Islands in the zone of northeasterly trade winds. Winds blowing from the northeast prevail on the islands for most of the year. They are characterized by high humidity. Almost all islands (except the northernmost) experience frequent downpours.
Tropical storms and hurricanes, or typhoons, are typical, though rare, with heavy rainfall, strong winds that break trees and destroy houses, and high waves that threaten to wash away low-lying islands. Droughts occur. The most common cause of climatic disasters is El Niño.
The monthly rainfall in the Marshall Islands is about 300 to 380 mm. The northern islands receive 1,000 to 1,750 mm of rainfall annually, while the southern islands receive 3,000 to 4,300 mm. On the northern islands, the heaviest rains occur from September to November, while the southern islands receive rain all year round.
The temperature regime in the archipelago throughout the year remains constant. The difference between the coldest and warmest months is 1 – 2 °C. The lowest night temperatures are usually 2 to 4 degrees higher than the lowest daytime temperature. The average annual temperature is 27.8 °C.
The population of the Marshall Islands is about 58,413 (2018).
The average life expectancy for men is 65.7 years and 69.4 years for women.
The majority of the population is Marshallese. This Micronesian people are divided into two ethnographic groups: the Railik and the Rahtak (pronounced somewhat differently in geography: Ralik and Ratak, as the country’s two island chains are called).
The percentage of foreigners living in the country is only 2.3%: the lowest after the Northern Mariana Islands among Pacific nations. The largest non-Marshallese ethnic group is the Kosrae of the Kusaie in the Caroline Islands. The Marshall Islands are also home to a small group of Americans and Filipinos.
The official languages are English and Marshallese (a Micronesian language).
The religion of the Marshall Islands is Christianity as it was introduced to the archipelago by missionaries in the 19th century.
The monetary unit in the Marshall Islands is the U.S. dollar ($, US$, USD) which equals 100 cents.
Bills in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 are in circulation, along with coins: penny (1 cent), nickel (5 cents), dime (10 cents), quarter (25 cents), half-dollar (50 cents) and $1.
Banks are located in almost all the main tourist areas, and their hours of operation vary greatly in each case. You can exchange currency at bank offices and specialized exchange offices.
Credit cards are quite limited in use, although most central bank offices conduct all kinds of operations with them. Traveler’s checks can be cashed at banks in Majuro and Kwajalein.
Phone code: 692
How to call
To call from Russia to the Marshall Islands, you need to dial: 8 – dial tone – 10 – 696 – caller’s number.
To call from the Marshall Islands to Russia you need to dial: 011 – 7 – city code – telephone number.
What can you bring from the Marshall Islands: a variety of mats, traditional clothing and bags of leaves of pandanus, coconut palm and hibiscus.
On Kili, natives of Bikini Atoll weave beautiful handbags and purses for women, and Likiep is known for its fans.
Bargaining is not customary in the Marshall Islands.
Normal trading hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1:30 to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., but many private stores have their own schedule. Almost all the stores are closed on Sundays, so basic necessities should be bought in advance.
Sea and beaches
Like the rest of the islands, the beaches of the resorts are private and access to them is, in principle, restricted, although an arrangement can easily be made with the hotel for a quite nominal fee if desired. The same permission – for a fee or a simple verbal agreement – may be required for the use of communal beaches, paths, seashores and so on, so these points are best clarified locally with the hotel staff or the islanders themselves.
Alcohol consumption is prohibited on some islands. Alcoholic beverages are not sold on Sundays, except in hotels, and then only to their guests and visitors. It is also forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages in the open, no matter the day of the week.
All tap water in the country is obtained by desalination of seawater and the collection of precipitation, so within the settlements is practically safe for drinking. But it is still recommended that bottled water be used for drinking.
Despite the U.S. administration’s statement that the islands are safe from radiation, you should avoid spending too much time near Bikini and Kwajalein Atolls.
The best time to visit the Marshall Islands is from May to October, when temperatures are mostly constant and seawater is most calm.
How to get to the Marshall Islands
There are no direct flights between Russia and the Marshall Islands.
The Marshall Islands are connected by direct flights to Guam and Honolulu (Hawaii, USA), there are also air links to the Caroline Islands (Chuuk Islands).
Majuro International Airport (MAJ) is located on the atoll of the same name. Flights from Honolulu and Guam are operated by Continental Airlines . Approximate flight times to Majuro are 8:50 from Guam, 5:10 from Honolulu, and 6:25 from Chuuk Islands.
The Marshall Islands is a state in the western Pacific Ocean, in Micronesia. Area – 181 km², population – 55 thousand people. The capital is Majuro, located on the island of the same name. The Marshall Islands were discovered in 1529. In the XVII-XIX centuries belonged to Spain. In 1919 they were captured by Japan, and during World War II – the United States. Actual independence the republic received only in 1986.
The territory consists of several hundred small coral islands, atolls and reefs. The largest – the island of Kwajalein. The climate on the islands – tropical, trade winds, in the south – subequatorial, rainfall reaches 2000-4000 mm. Evergreen tropical forests and bushes are widespread. The economy of the country is based on agriculture and fishery. They grow up a coconut palm, a bread tree, cassava, tropical fruits.
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Video: Marshall Islands
The Micronesian state of the Marshall Islands is a cluster of atolls and islands located in the Pacific Ocean just north of the equator. The capital, Majuro, is 3,438 km west of Honolulu in the United States, 3,701 km southeast of Tokyo in Japan and 3,241 km southeast of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. The closest archipelagos are the Caroline Islands, belonging to the Federated States of Micronesia and located southwest of the Marshall Islands, and the Gilbert Islands, lying southeast and belonging to the Republic of Kiribati.
The land area of the Marshall Islands is only 181 km², while the lagoon area is 11,673 km². The country spreads over 29 atolls and 5 outlying islands, which are divided into two groups: 18 islands in the Ralik (Marshallese for “sunset”) chain and 16 islands in the Ratak (or Radak; Marshallese for “sunrise”) chain. The two chains are about 250 kilometers apart, stretching from northwest to southeast for about 1,200 kilometers. The most important islands are the Kwajalein and Majuro atolls. Kwajalein, the largest island of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is also the atoll with the largest lagoon in the world. Although its land area is only 16.32 km² (or 6.3 square miles), the lagoon is 2,174 km² (or 839.3 square miles). All of the islands are low-lying, and the atolls consist of a large number of motu, with a total of over 1,100 in the country. The highest point of the country, which reaches only 10 m, is located on the Likiep Atoll.
The northernmost island of the Republic of the Marshall Islands is Bokak (or Taongi) in the Ratak chain: it is 280 km north-west of the country’s disputed Wake Atoll, now under US administration. The southernmost island of the Marshall Islands is Ebon Atoll, the westernmost is Ugelang (both in the Ralik chain), and the easternmost is Knox in the Ratak chain.
Twenty-nine of the thirty-four islands of the Republic of the Marshall Islands are atolls (the remaining islands are raised atolls). According to Charles Darwin’s theory, atolls were formed by the sinking of volcanic islands, at the surface of which corals gradually grew. A fringing reef was formed, later a barrier reef, which was gradually built up by coral. The result was an atoll land. Coral and algae growth was most active in the areas of the reef facing the ocean, and as a result these outer edges of the reef kept up with the subsidence of the volcanic island. On the contrary the inner areas of the island were submerged. Subsequently shallow lagoons were formed in these places.
The surface of the reefs gradually accumulated sand, which was formed by the waves and currents, especially during high tides. In the tidal zone, on the other hand, the shore rock, an outer sloping layer of stones, was formed. As a result, land plants had a support on which they could grow. On the island, vegetation was formed that was resistant to the high salt content in the soil, and its roots bound different sedimentary rocks and prevented water and wind erosion. This is how sand islands, or motu, atolls were formed.
A raised atoll is a raised volcanic island formed by the uplift of a coral platform, or makatea, which surrounds the volcanic plateau at the center of the island.
There are no minerals that could be mined on an industrial scale on the surface or in the subsurface of the Marshall Islands. However, preliminary studies have found phosphorites on some islands and deposits of iron-manganese nodules as well as cobalt within the country’s territorial waters. However, no development is underway at this time.
A distinctive feature of the regional climate of the Marshall Islands is the change in climatic conditions from north to south, including an increase in precipitation in this direction. The northern islands of the country have a tropical, semi-arid climate. For example, on the northernmost atoll of the Marshall Islands, Bokaka, it is almost semi-arid, although the amount of rainfall there is close to that of the western prairies of the United States. This is due to several factors: porous soils, salt mists, and salty groundwater. Precipitation in the Marshall Islands increases as you move southward and reaches its maximum on Ebon Atoll, the southernmost island in the country, which is located in the equatorial belt.
Another important climatic feature of the local climate is the location of the Marshall Islands in the northeast trade winds. Winds blowing from the northeast dominate the islands for most of the year. They are highly saturated with moisture. All but the northernmost islands often experience heavy downpours.
Tropical storms and hurricanes, or typhoons, are common but infrequent, with heavy rainfall, high winds that break trees and destroy homes, and high waves that threaten to wash away low-lying islets. Droughts occur. The El Niño current is the most common cause of climatic disasters.
The monthly rainfall in the Marshall Islands is about 300-380 mm. The northern islands of the country receive from 1000 to 1750 mm of rainfall annually, while the southern islands receive 3000 to 4300 mm. On the northern islands, the heaviest rains occur from September to November, while on the southern islands they fall all year round.
The temperature regime in the archipelago throughout the year remains constant. The difference between the coldest and warmest month is 1-2°C. The lowest night temperatures are usually 2-4 degrees higher than the lowest daytime temperature. The average annual temperature in the Marshall Islands is 27.8°C.
The soils of the Marshall Islands are highly alkaline, of coral origin (mostly white or pink coral sand), very poor. They are usually porous, which makes them very poor at retaining moisture. Also, local soils contain very little organic and mineral matter, with the exception of calcium.
Permanent bodies of fresh water are very rare in the Marshall Islands. Flowing water is completely absent on the islands; small streams of water are formed only after heavy rains. Groundwater is found on almost all atolls except the northernmost ones, where the climate is the driest. Seeping through the porous soil, rainwater forms a lens of slightly brackish water. It can be reached by digging a well. Because of the slight inflow of water into these lenses and the prolonged tidal fluctuations, the lenses are relatively thin, as is the mixing zone of fresh and seawater. On some of the country’s atolls, where the climate is most humid, there are small, mostly brackish, ponds, which were formed as a result of the isolation of a separate section of the lagoon and the constant mixing of lagoon salt water with fresh rain water. One of the freshwater ponds exists on Lib Island in the Ralik chain.
Only a few uninhabited islands of the archipelago have preserved forests with vegetation typical of atolls. In the rest, the island ecosystem has undergone significant changes under the influence of anthropogenic factors: most of the native flora was destroyed and coconut palm and breadfruit plantations were planted instead of the indigenous plants. Other atolls suffered from military actions: from 1946 to the 1960s, the Americans tested nuclear weapons on Bikini and Eniwetok. In 1954 the U.S. tested its first hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll, codenamed “Bravo”. The explosion was 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima blast, and the radioactive fallout fell on neighboring islands. The nuclear tests caused enormous damage to the islands’ ecosystem.
In recent years, local flora and fauna have been threatened by rising sea levels caused by global warming. It leads to contamination of groundwater, retreating land to the ocean.
The Marshall Islands are home to 80 plant species, of which one is endemic to the archipelago and two to Micronesia. The most common species is the coconut palm, which covers about 60% of the archipelago. This plant plays a key role in the life of the islanders: on the one hand, it is a source of wood, on the other hand, it forms the basis of the Marshallese diet. The oily endosperm of the nuts is used to produce copra, which forms the basis of the country’s exports. Other plants important to the natives include pandanus, breadfruit, taro, and bananas. In the island forests are mostly pisonias and turniphorns. Mangroves can be found.
The most important representatives of local fauna are turtles and sea birds. On many northern islands, Bikar, Bokak, Bikini, lay eggs green turtles (Chelonia mydas), but previously widespread sea turtle bissa (Eretmochelys imbricata) became rare in local waters. Many of the Marshall Islands are large bird bazaars where seabirds nest (106 bird species in total). The only land birds in the country are the Pacific wood pigeon (Ducula oceanica) and the purple-capped spotted pigeon (Ptilinopus porphyraceus), now extinct on most islands. Skinks and geckos are ubiquitous. All nine mammal species are introduced to the Marshall Islands.
The coastal waters of the islands are very rich in fish (about 250 species) and corals (about 146 species).
There are no nature reserves or protected areas in the country.
Very little is known about the early history of the Marshall Islands. Presumably, the islands were settled about 2,000 years ago by people from Southeast Asia.
The first island sighted by Europeans was Bocac Atoll, discovered by the Spanish navigator Alonso de Salazar in 1526. However, the archipelago remained nameless until 1788, when it was rediscovered by British captain John Marshall, after whom it was named. Ships of many nations subsequently passed by the Marshall Islands, but none made territorial claims for the purpose of annexation. In the 1860s, the first German natives began to appear on the islands. German trading companies in these years unfolded a whole network of trade in copra and other goods. In 1885 the archipelago was annexed by the German Empire, despite verbal complaints from Spain.
During World War I, in September 1914, Japan occupied parts of Micronesia belonging to Germany, including the Marshall Islands. Since then, the islands remained under Japanese control until the Americans occupied the archipelago during World War II. Since 1920, the Marshall Islands had been ruled by Japan under a League of Nations mandate.
After a brief occupation of the islands by the U.S. Army, the United Nations entrusted the administration of the Marshall Islands to the United States as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. A strategic U.S. military base was soon established on Kwajalein Atoll to oversee nuclear weapons tests on Bikini and Enewetak Islands from 1946 to 1958.
In 1979, the archipelago was granted limited autonomy and in 1986, the Compact of Free Association was signed with the U.S., which recognized the independence of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and in return, the Republic granted the U.S. military the right to stay in the country and preserved all military bases. The defense of the country became the responsibility of the United States. In 1990, the independence of the Marshall Islands was recognized by the UN.
The treaty of association expired in September 2001. After two years of negotiations, in 2003, the treaty was extended.
The characteristics that define the economic situation in the Marshall Islands do not differ from the characteristics of other countries in Oceania: a huge exclusive economic zone, limited natural resources, remoteness from the major world markets, shortage of highly qualified professionals. The Marshall Islands’ economy also experiences such serious difficulties as the state budget deficit, balance of payments deficit, and low level of domestic savings. The country is highly dependent on funds allocated by the Asian Development Bank, the U.S. and other countries of the world. Therefore, the size of the Marshall Islands’ state budget is largely determined by the amount of foreign financial aid.
Nevertheless, the country has achieved relative economic stability in recent years, although weaknesses in the local economy and the negative influence of external and other factors that can reverse the economic gains made. The most stable components of business activity in the Marshall Islands are the public sector and the financial and economic revenues from the Reagan (USA) Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll, which is also a major employer (employing 1,200 to 1,300 Marshallese). The private sector has also been improving in recent years, but it has not had enough growth to solve the country’s growing unemployment problem. The public and private sectors remain particularly sensitive to fluctuations in the external market: for example, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the United States and the 2001-2004 avian flu epidemic in Asia, the islands experienced a sharp decline in tourist numbers; the economy is also negatively impacted by rising prices for fuel, which is fully imported into the country.
According to the Marshall Islands’ government in 2007, the country’s GDP was about $149 million and per capita GDP was $2851. The Islands’ national economic growth is very uneven. GDP growth was 2 percent in 2007 and 5.6 percent in 2004, while it was negative from 1996 to 1999 (-10.3 percent in 1996, -2.9 percent in 1999).
The main sectors of the Marshall Islands’ economy are services and agriculture. Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the country’s economy.
According to a 2005 estimate, the country’s inflation rate was 3%.
Because of the low taxes the state is a popular offshore zone.
Even before Europeans arrived in the Marshall Islands, the local population was divided into distinct groups, whose members had certain rights and responsibilities. The social organization of Marshallese society was based on the issue of land ownership. Each settlement consisted of several matrilineal clans (or marsh. jowi). The main form of social organization was clan (or marsh. bwij), which was a group of people tracing their ancestry back to a common ancestor and was based on a matrilineal system in which all land rights were passed down through the maternal line. The head of the clan (or marsh. alab), usually the oldest man of the main line, administered the landholdings belonging to the clan. A landholding (or marsh. wāto) was a small strip of land stretching from the lagoon to the ocean shore. One or more landholdings were under the control of the matrilineal lineage. Local chiefs (or marsh. irooj) held the right to all or part of the atoll (motu). Clan chiefs organized and managed the activities of the people, allocated land to clans within the same clan for their use, and organized and supervised the work of the communes, who provided food and various gifts (or marsh. ekkan) to the local chiefs. The communes had land rights, but they were constantly redistributed by the clan chief. Only the local chief had permanent land rights, but only as long as he was not defeated by another chief.
The considerable remoteness of the country’s islands from each other and fish as one of the main foods of the population have determined the skill of the people of the country in fishing, including the construction of canoes (or marsh. wa), which are capable of covering considerable distances. The Marshallese themselves are excellent navigators, having over the centuries learned to navigate by the stars, clouds, currents, birds, and even the color of the ocean.
Traditional canoes were carved from breadfruit wood using coconut wicker. The sails were embroidered by women from pandanus leaves. In all, there were three kinds of outrigger canoes: kōrkōr (marsh. kōrkōr, used for sailing or fishing in an atoll lagoon; could accommodate up to three people), tipnol (marsh. tipnol, used for sailing in the ocean or lagoon; could accommodate up to ten people) and walap (marsh. walap, used for sailing long distances; could accommodate up to fifty people).
The islanders used special charts, made only by men from pandanus root or coconut leaf veins, to teach them how to sail. They showed the direction of the current and the waves, and cowrie shells marked the islands. There were three kinds of maps: rebbelib, showing all the Marshall Islands or one of two island chains; medo, showing individual islands; and mattang, mattang, or wappepe, a small square map showing the direction of the waves around an individual island. Although maps helped navigate the open ocean, the Marshallese themselves never took them on voyages, relying on their own memory.
The weaving of various mats, traditional clothing, and bags from the leaves of the pandanus, coconut palm, and hibiscus reached a high level in the Marshall Islands. Woven mats are widely used: talao (marsh. tōlao) is used for sitting and is made of whole pandanus leaves that are stitched together; jepko (marsh. jepko) is used as a rug or placed under the mat for sleeping; janini (marsh. janini) is used for sleeping, and jab (marsh. jab) is used as a room decoration. Circular wall decorations, or obon, are also common in Marshallese homes. On Kili Island, natives of Bikini Atoll weave beautiful women’s handbags and purses, and Likiep is known for its fans.