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Nan Madol – Venice of the Pacific

Nan Madol

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, between the equator and the eleventh parallel, lies the city of Nan Madol on the island of Pohnpei. Considered to be one of the greatest archeological wonders of the world, it is the only ancient city ever built atop a coral reef, and, like Easter Island, it is an engineering marvel.

Nan Madol, part of the Federated States of Micronesia, is comprised of a vast tapestry of 92 artificial islets all interconnected by canals. The megalithic structures were constructed primarily with basalt logs, a volcanic rock that breaks naturally to form long blocks, then stacked horizontally, log cabin style to form walls as high as 50 feet and up to 17 feet thick. The average weight of each stone is 5 tons, with some weighing as much as 25 tons each! The stones and columns are so heavy that conventional and mainstream scholars have yet to determine how it was built, who built them, and exactly where the building materials came from.

Radio carbon dating and archeological excavations puts Nan Madol to be as old as 200 B.C. Therefore, there is no logical explanation as to the origin of the massive hexagonal shaped stones. It has been determined that the stones are not natural but instead, man-made and certainly did not come from the immediate area.

Nan Madol, which means “between spaces,” lives up to its nickname as it does seems to be lodged in between of truth and myth. What mainstream scholars cannot explain, locals myths can. Legend has it that the ruins of this ancient city, once home to a mysterious civilization, is abound with uncharted corridors that connect the man made islets, possesses tombs carrying the remains of giants, and spirits of dead Kings. The locals believe that the builders used magic to transport the stones to the island. At first glance, the ruins seem to be under a spell, just as the legends claim and one cannot help but wonder if these relics represent a confrontation with the unknown.

Scientific theory suggests the stones were brought from the mainland using bamboo rafts to float them across the water. However, in 1995 while making a documentary movie for the Discovery Channel, all attempts to transport stones weighing more than a ton in this fashion failed.

No written records on the islands history exist and it has been kept alive by word of mouth only. The local practice of keeping secrets is a sacred and is one of the obstacles to learning more about their history. The local king Nahmwarki made a proclamation saying to all, “to disrupt the holy ground that once belonged to past rulers with supernatural powers would be breaking the law.“ In fact, he threatened the English archeologist, F.W. Christian with capital punishment should he break the law and dig. Jewelry and other artifacts that were buried with the chiefs were plundered.

On Nan Madol, archeologists are met with slim pickings of artifacts to study, and even then, face the possibility of a curse said to be cast upon those who violate the lands. In 1874, a shipwreck near the Marshall Islands took hundreds of crates belonging to polish anthropologist Jan Kubary, to the bottom of the ocean, and with it went much of Nan Madol history.

In the early twentieth century, while the island was under German rule, then Governor Victor Berg dared to disregard the royal ban and entered the sealed tomb of Nan Madol, opened the coffin of the ancient island rulers, and in it found the skeletal remains of giants measuring two to three meters tall.

That night, Nan Madol was alive with spirit activity. A wild storm came about with lightning flashes in the sky and torrential rains pounding down on the island as Governor Victor Berg lay in delirium, hearing the sounds of a conch shell blowing. The next morning, on April 30, 1907, Governor Berg died. The German physician serving on the island that night could not determine the cause of death, but the natives were certain that his death was a curse from the Gods for his blatant disrespect. Today’s rationale says he died as a result of sunstroke and heat exhaustion contracted while surveying the ruins.

Why would someone build a city on coral reefs that rises only five feet above water? Nan Madol had no food or water available on the island and the rulers depended on the “commoners” to bring them whatever they needed. What was the purpose of Nan Madol? This question has puzzled scientists for centuries!

I came across a very interesting theory that may answer the many questions about the mysterious city of Nan Madol and the purpose of her existence:

Add to the already mysterious aspects surrounding this ancient city thus far, Nan Madol is positioned halfway between the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines, at the location where severe storms and typhoons are started. This happens when cold air is brought into contact with the warm waters of Caroline Islands. Research shows that many severe storms originate from Nan Madol location. Coincidental? I think not! Because this is where severe storms are generated, it is very rarely hit by these storms, making it the safest place in the Pacific!

Nan Madol and Kosrae (an islet similar to Nan Madol) create a 300 mile long zone, the birthplace for typhoons and the place where they develop their strength and severity. They soon grow too big and end up ravishing the Philippines!

About Madeleine Noa

Madeleine Noa is a freelance writer from Honolulu, Hawaii who has published articles on a wide range of topics including spas, real estate development in Hawaii, entertainment, luxury yachts, and history. She is also a copywriter and creates sales collateral for small businesses and corporations. She has been an associate writer for "IN" Magazine and "Second City" Magazine, having been published 13 times between the two publications. She currently is involved in the alternative energy industry and in helping to sustain a symphonic orchestra in Hawaii.

One comment

  1. Hi I researched this subject as I have come accross some old Magic Lantern slides of the isles of Nan Matal with actual photos of the acient wall and a native stood beside a huge mill like wheel these are early 1900s and may have formed the basis for A merritts book also plates of whole body tattoos scetches and rhino beetle can anyone shed any light on the plates

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