The Sacred City of Pohnpei: Nan Madol

Story and Images by Pocahontas Moses

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In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in the Federated States of Micronesia, on a small island called Pohnpei, lie the ancient ruins of the city of Nan Madol, facing from the East side of the island. The city was built centuries ago by people of the island and some of the neighboring islands, but the plan to build this magnificent structure was constructed by two men, Olosohpa and Olosihpa. These two men were of the many ancestors who were said to have migrated from the West and East.

It is not like any city whose structures are of cement, but instead, it is made up of long, large piled up stones. Visitors call it the “Venice of the Pacific” because the structures are on islets scattered around the place.

Photo credit of PJ Etnol

Photo credit of PJ Etnol

The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks, the awe of the megalithic structures just gave me a sense of peace and tranquility. Our trip there was adventurous and full of fun. Walking around with my peers and jotting down thoughts, feelings and taking pictures was an experience that I want to do again. The history of Nan Madol is intriguing and also scary, but it tells why our islands are sacred and respected.

Photo credit of PJ Etnol

Photo credit of PJ Etnol

Photo credit of PJ Etnol

Photo credit of PJ Etnol

It is surprising that an old, ancient creation could still last until today. The thing that surprised me the most was the “Dipwoapw” as we Pohnpeians call it. It is a type of nut tree that is common around the island, but they are not as enormous as the one I saw at Nan Madol. I have been there many times and I did not even notice the tree standing there. I saw it the many times I went there but I did not know that it was the “Dipwoapw”. The leaves gave it away.

The “Dipwoapw” is not the only unique and enormous thing that is there. The rocks that made up the place weigh about 80 to 90 tons and are more than 10ft tall. “How did they move those rocks?” “How did they pile them up?”.

The root of the “Dipwoapw"

The root of the “Dipwoapw”

Some stone structures

Some stone structures

Nan Madol is the root of history in Pohnpei. It is the place where many historic activities took place and where many of our traditional customs came from. So, yeah, Nan Madol is important to me because if it is lost then many of our beliefs and customs will disappear. Not many people from around the world know about it so it is best if it is kept that way. Like what my father used to say, “Something that is touched by many hands, it will either break or fall down.”

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