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The Native Polity of Ponape

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dc.contributor.author Riesenberg, Saul H. en_US
dc.date.accessioned 2007-05-25T17:38:31Z en_US
dc.date.accessioned 2013-03-14T19:02:11Z
dc.date.available 2007-05-25T17:38:31Z en_US
dc.date.available 2013-03-14T19:02:11Z
dc.date.issued 1968-12-31 en_US
dc.identifier.citation Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology; 10 en_US
dc.identifier.issn 0081-0223 en_US
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10088/1326 en_US
dc.description.abstract The island of Ponape lies at 6×54' north latitude and 158×14' east longitude, near the eastern end of the archipelago that comprises the Caroline Islands. Ponape and the nearby atolls of Pakin and Ant constitute the Senyavin group. Kusaie, the next major island to the east and last of the Caroline chain, is 307 nautical miles distant; and Truk is 383 miles to the west. Ponape is about midway between Honolulu and Manila, 2,685 and 2,363 miles distant, respectively. The land area of Ponape as usually given is 334 square kilometers (129 square miles). Except for a few coastal plains and lower slopes, most of the island is ruggedly mountainous with several ranges and high peaks, the highest rising to 791 meters (nearly 2,600 feet), the highest peak in the Carolines. The mountain tops are often covered with cloud and mist. The island interior consists largely of basalt, with some andesite and other volcanic rock. The lower slopes and level areas are mostly sand and gravel. Here and there, most spectacularly on Sokehs Island, are high cliffs of columnar basalt, with columnar talus at their bases. Streams and waterfalls abound. The streams are very active after every rainfall and deposit alluvium in great flats. The main island is roughly circular in outline. About 20 square miles of its area consists of coastal mangrove swamp; there are few beaches. Surrounding the island is an encircling reef, distant from the coast about 2 miles on the average and broken here and there by passages between the lagoon and the open sea. Where the reef rises above sea level, some 15 coral islets are formed. The lagoon between the main island and the encircling reef is of varying depth and contains many heads of live coral that may rise close to the water surface. It occupies about 98 square miles of water and includes in it 23 small islands of the same volcanic materials as the main island. Also in the lagoon are a number of alluvial islands lying close to the shore and, in the east, off Temwen Island, some 90 artificial islets are grouped together that contain the well-known archeological ruins of Nan Madol. All of these smaller islands together occupy an area of about 5 square miles. Ponape, like the rest of the Carolines, is in the doldrum belt. This belt swings north May to July and south August to November, accompanied by stormy weather and heavy rain. The trade winds blow from the east December to April and move around more to the south the rest of the year. Typhoons are much less common than in western Micronesia. Relative humidity is high; the monthly averages are 79 to 91 percent and are lowest in March and April. Rainfall is very heavy and is rather uniform throughout the year, though somewhat less in January to March. The annual average precipitation is 178 inches. The monthly temperature means are from 78× to 82× F., the extremes are 68× and 92× F. The extensive mangrove swamps that line much of the low shore consist of Sonneratia, Rhizophora, Bruguiera, Lumnitzera, Xylocarpus, Heritiera, and also Nypa palm. Strand vegetation occurs largely on the reef islands and where the land of the main island starts to rise inland of the mangroves. Behind the strand and mangroves is a narrow strip of coastal plain vegetation, originally primary rain forest but now mainly occupied by single dwellings or small clusters of buildings and by cultivated areas. (Very few localities on Ponape can properly be called villages.) The cultivated areas contain coconut groves, banana, breadfruit, citrus, sweet potatoes, manioc, aroids (Cyrtosperma, Alocasia, and Colocasia), and a few other cultivated plants of less importance, as well as such trees as Ficus, Calophyllum, Terminalia, ivory nut palm, Pandanus, Macaranga, Morinda, and Hibiscus, with some grasses and undergrowth. The rain forest is very dense and rich. Ponape has the most extensive native forests in Micronesia. Uninterrupted jungle covers most of the interior and reaches to the coast in a few places. The forest covers most of the steep slopes and summits and some lowlands. The lower primary forests contain large trees, palms, climbers, ferns, orchids, and other epiphytes. On the slopes where rain forest has been destroyed there are mixed coconut and breadfruit groves, also bananas, Alocasia, and some shrubbery. The montane rain forests consist of scrubby, mossy woods on the steep slopes and ridges, where the soil is thin. Tree ferns, Exorrhiza and Ponapea palms, Freycinetia, and many stunted broad-leaved trees bearing epiphytes predominate. On the high open crests are dwarfed shrubs, dwarfed Exorrhiza, tree ferns, dense growths of Pandanus, or open bogs. Grassland is rare. According to Baker (1951) some 39 species of birds occur on Ponape, including sea birds, migratory shore birds, and land and fresh water birds. Among the species are a heron, a duck, seven of the snipe-sandpiper family, six gulls and terns, two doves and a pigeon, a lory, an owl, a kingfisher, two flycatchers, two starlings, three white-eyes, and two weaver finches. Insects are numerous but comprise only a small number of genera. The only land reptiles are a few species of lizard. There were only three mammals, aboriginally: rats, bats, and dogs; pigs were introduced in very early postcontact times, and some are now feral, as are the deer brought in during German times. In contrast, the lagoon is rich in fishes, mollusks, crustacea, and other marine fauna, including two kinds of turtles. en_US
dc.format.extent 68365151 bytes en_US
dc.format.extent 10214438 bytes en_US
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf en_US
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf en_US
dc.title The Native Polity of Ponape en_US
dc.identifier.srbnumber 113396 en_US
dc.identifier.eISSN 1943-6661 en_US
dc.identifier.doi 10.5479/si.00810223.10.1
rft.jtitle Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology
rft.issue 10
rft.spage 1
rft.epage 115

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