marshall islands

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Total Solar Eclipse

These stunning photographs of July 2009′s solar eclipse were taken by Miloslav Druckmüller, a mechanical engineering professor at Brno University of Technology, Czech Republic. The event was captured on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands, an island country located in the northern Pacific Ocean.

This is a fairly precise sea map. In order to navigate by canoe among the Marshall Islands, residents made developed a way to show islands and patterns of ocean swells and breakers by lashing together sticks, threads, and shells.

The atolls lie so low that even the tops of the palms are lost to sight 20 kilometers off shore, so a Marshallese navigator may spend several days out of sight of land. Having studied swell patterns with the aid of such charts, they can find their way by observing the motion of the canoe.

For example, an island breaks up the easterly trade wind swell, producing a wave pattern that signals the presence of land. “These navigation signs … extend seaward from any atoll or island in specific quadrants and can be detected up to 40 km away,” writes oceanographer Joseph Genz. “The relative strength of these radiating wave patterns indicates the distance toward land, while the specific wave signatures indicate the direction of land.”

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The Flag of Bakini Atoll

After World War II, the United States found themselves in possession of Bakini Atoll, a South Pacific atoll of islands which was wrenched from the hands of the Japanese.  The islands were home to 167 native Micronesian inhabitants. Unfortunately, the US military decided to use the islands as the primary testing grounds for America’s early Cold War nuclear testing program.  The residents were asked to leave, believing that they could return once testing was completed.  23 nuclear devices were detonated on the atoll, causing radioactive fallout that made the islands uninhabitable.  In the meantime, the residents were forced to settle on Kili Island 400 miles away, a small island 1/6th the size of their old home with barely enough food and water to sustain their way of life. Often, the islanders faced starvation and dehydration.

In the 1970’s, the US Government attempted to resettle the islanders, but then they were forced to return to Kili Island when it was determined that Bakini Atoll was polluted with radioactive isotopes. The US Government never offered compensation for their loses. Frustrated and angry, the islanders decided to create a new flag not only to represent their people and nation, but as a protest against their unfair treatment. Based on the US Flag, it features 13 stripes for the 13 American colonies, and 23 white stars for the 23 islands of Bakini Atoll.  The three black stars in the upper right represent the three islands that were disfigured in March 1954 during 15-megaton Bravo test by the United States. The two black stars in the lower right corner represent where the Bikinians live now, Kili and Ejit Island. These two stars are symbolically far away from Bikini’s stars on the flag as the islands are in real life (both in distance and quality of life). Finally the flag features the quote “MEN OTEMJEJ REJ ILO BEIN ANIJ”, supposedly the words spoken by King Juda to Commodore Ben Wyatt meaning “Everything is in the hands of God.”

In 1987 the Nuclear Claims Tribunal was founded, and the islanders were granted $75 million dollars for damages which were paid out over a span of 15 years.  In addition, a $150 million dollar trust fund was set up in 2001, of which Bakini Atoll residents can draw 5% per year in perpetuity. 

It’s National Coffee Day - Marines break for rest and coffee during a lull in the fighting on Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands:

These Marines, begrimed and weary from two days and two nights of fighting, are typical of the conquerors of Eniwetok Atoll. Private First Class Faris M. (Bob) Tuohy, 19, is the Marine holding the coffee cup., ca. 1944

Hilda Heine (b. 1951) is currently the President of the Pacific nation of Marshall Islands. She is the first woman to hold this position not only in her country, but in any Micronesian nation. She was also the first citizen of Marshall Islands to earn a doctorate degree.

In 2000 she founded a women’s rights group called Women United Together Marshall Islands. She was elected as president of the country in January 2016.