Chuuk State

Chuuk State

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The many islands within this huge atoll are crowned with natural beauty. The outer barrier reef is punctuated with idyllic sand spits dotted with coconut palms. The high islands in the central lagoon rise into the blue island skies.

Lush vegetation and simple living punctuate the lives of the lagoon. Fishing, weaving and tending garden supplant the subsistence lives that many sustain on their individual islands. It is not unusual to see women waist deep in the mangroves hunting for a special delicacy or men walking the reefs by torchlight at night looking for baby octopus. Boat makers create vessels high in the hills of the inner islands and take them down to sea when finished. Open hearth fires are still used to cook the daily meals. Life here is close to nature and lived in conjunction with the land and the sea. Local carvers are also famous for using beautiful local woods to carve warrior masks and busts. And the Chuukese love stick is part of a legendary practice of courtship unique to this island group.

Reef Life from ChuukChuuk, with its vast, shallow, beautiful lagoon is a Mecca for wreck divers. A major shipwreck site from WWII, Truk Lagoon is unquestionably the world's best shipwreck diving destination. Here, more than 50 hulks have been transformed into shipreefs, holding the very best of the undersea world and maritime history at one site. Hard and soft corals in a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes attract divers worldwide for both daytime and night diving. The vast selection of artifacts still found on the wrecks after five decades are testament to the unique history of the Micronesian Islands. The historical aspect of Truk Lagoon is not totally hidden by the jungles. Japanese lighthouses, perched high atop the lagoon's finest overlooks, can be reached by hiking or driving. Old runways, command centers, gun emplacements, cave networks, hospitals and libraries can be found with the help of a knowledgeable guide.

Chuukse ChildrenIn Chuuk, the pace of life slows and tropical nature is easily observed and appreciated. Many of the islands offer lush vegetation that harbors rare and migratory birdlife. Enthusiasts have been known to camp high in the hills to observe these special avians. Wild orchids and other flora are found in the scenic and sometimes rugged terrain of the islands. Traveling by ocean kayak from island to island is one way to enjoy Chuuk. Often overlooked are the outer reefs where a great variety of fish, both pelagic and reef dwelling, venture near cascading coral walls that stretch into the blue abyss of the Pacific Ocean. Windsurfing and sailing in the lagoon passes is also done during tradewind season.

SIGHTS OF CHUUK

Scuba enthusiasts regard the Truk Lagoon Underwater Fleet as one of the world's most intriguing dives. More than 60 submerged vessels and several downed aircraft rest in the depths of the lagoon, forming the world's largest underwater museum. In 1971 the legislature established the entire area as the Chuuk State Monument.

Chuuk LandscapeDuring World War II the Japanese Imperial Fleet was quartered inside the lagoon. The assault on the fleet by U.S. Naval forces in February 1944 greatly affected Japanese combat ability by destroying a significant number of warships. The psychological impact of "Operation Hailstone" may have been as Important a feature of the engagement as the actual loss of tonnage and the physical damage to shoreside installations. Some historians credit the victory at Chuuk as the turning point of the Pacific War.

Built by the Japanese in the early 1930's, the Sapuk Lighthouse was constructed atop a hill commanding a panoramic view of the strategic northeast passage. Below the lighthouse are huge guns used to prevent American ships from entering the lagoon. The abandoned houses of lighthouse guards stand nearby in eerie silence.

The Japanese Wartime Communications Center is the principal structure in the complex of buildings that now comprise Xavier High School. Built of reinforced concrete with walls three to four Feet thick, the massive building sustained little damage despite direct hits from U.S. Bombers.

The property on which the building stands had been purchased by the Catholic Church prior to the war, and when it was reclaimed, decided to repair the structure and use it as a nucleus for a Jesuit high school. Today the complex includes classroom buildings, a chapel, living quarters and offices for staff members, a study hall, gymnasium, workshop, mess facilities, and student dormitory.

The Tonata Guns and Caves serve as other reminders of wartime. Japanese Forces fortified many natural caves on Weno and other islands in Chuuk. Sometimes, as on FeFan and Tonowas, they enlarged the caves to install guns, or rails for the transportation of munitions and stores. The Tonata installations are typical of those found throughout the former bastion of Chuuk.

Tonachau Mountain Iras is, at 229 meters, the loftiest peak on Weno. The mountain is the legendary home of the God Souwoniras and his divine son. Situated by the Wichon River and Falls, the Wichon Men's Meeting House is the spot where Weno chiefs are reported to have met with Poomey, eldest of the six brothers who were the first chiefs of Chuuk. The shallow pool at the base of the Falls is still used for bathing and sport, just as it was in historic times. The site of Poomey's dwelling on a mountaintop may be seen From here and his gardens are nearby. Numerous petroglyphs are etched in the exposed basalt above the falls.

Nefo Cave, just 50 meters From the Governor's residence, is about 10 feet wide, 6 feet high and 78 Feet long. The cave contains a gun used by Japanese soldiers to guard entry to the north pass, and many of the soldiers lived there.

Other islands in the Truk Lagoon have historic and scenic sites well worth a visit.

Nemwes and Fouman Rocks, in Tunuk and Onip on Udot Island, are associated with the tales of the ancient rivalries between Chuuk and Yap, an island group that lies to the southwest. Legend has it that Nemwes, the daughter of a Yapese high chief, disobeyed her Father's wishes and came to Udot by walking across the sea. But when the priests of Udot destroyed her power to walk on water, Nemwes died of grief.

Chuuk Lagoon WreckChuuk Atoll, in the Caroline Islands, encompasses 15 large islands, 192 islands and 80 islets and has one of the largest lagoons in the world. It measures 85 kilometers at its widest point and encloses an area of 822 square miles.

What lies beneath the blue waters is a submerged museum of World War II wrecks, for there are more than sixty ships of the Japanese wartime fleet encrusted with coral and lying at various depths.

On these wrecks are fighter planes still transports, trucks still lashed to the decks of freighters, and officers' china and utensils with brand names still recognizable.

The lagoon has been declared a monument, and salvage and souvenir taking of relics is prohibited by law. Divers must obtain a permit before diving around the ships.

One of the two top scuba diving locations in the world. Chuuk's water temperatures are 29 degrees C and incredibly calm between December and May. Average temperature above water is 30 degrees C.

The Japanese Officer's Quarters on Eten Island still stand despite aerial bombing by U.S. aircraft during World War II. The extent of damage to the reinforced concrete structures is greater than at other sites targeted for attack. The Japanese greatly modified the island of Eten by the creation of an airfield so that its present Form actually resembles an aircraft.

The main island of Weno (formerly Moen) is the capital and commercial center, and is home to roughly 16,100 of Chuuk's total population of 53,300. This is where the fathers of a Jesuit-run school lived and were summoned daily by a large bell. It's also from Weno that you can get your best views of the lagoon and its sheltered waters.

Chuuk's district center on Weno is where visitors can experience a taste of island life by visiting the local stores jammed with everything from kerosene stoves to ladies wear and handicrafts.

For an outstanding view of Weno and the lagoon, climb onto the old lighthouse built during Japanese occupation and visit the former Truk Continental for a stroll in the coconut palm grounds with splendid views across the water to Dublon Island, formerly the Japanese military headquarters.

On Sapou, overgrown vegetation partially conceals the remains of what was once a city.

Chuukese CraftsmanAt Fefan, craftsmen carve Chuukese lovesticks - slender, dagger-shaped wooden rods carved on each side, which are sold in handfuls to tourists with an eye for exotic souvenirs.

In past years, an island man would carve his personal notches on the lovestick and let his would-be sweethearts feel it. At night, lovestick in hand, he would kneel beside the thatch wall opposite where a girl lay sleeping, poke the stick through the wall and entangle her long hair, hopefully awakening her without arousing her family.

The silent language of the lovestick began when the girl put her fingers around the shaft's notches and identified the owner.