October 5, 2013 – Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands
The islands in this part of the Pacific, are actually atolls, instead of islands. The difference being that the volcano mountains that formed them have eroded over millions of years, the center peaks have collapsed into the calderas, leaving the rims of the volcanoes, where time and nature create coral reefs and eventually small islands with a lagoon in the center. As you move south and east from here, the volcanoes are “newer”, such as Hawaii, with the peaks still intact, and in French Polynesia, you see islands where the peak has “sunken”, not yet completely collapsed, leaving a mountain peak, surrounded by a lagoon, rimmed by atolls, such as Bora Bora. All of this is a natural progression of the movement of the tectonic plates.
Majuro is an atoll, where many of the gaps between the small atolls have been filled in, creating a semicircular island, with a single 24 mile road, surrounding a lagoon about 15 miles by 5 miles.
We entered the lagoon through a marked channel on the north side and made our way to the Delap dock where we tied up. This is the first time a Holland American ship has called here, and I don’t think they get many cruise ships at all. They do have an airport, and I saw an Airbus landing as we arrived. There are a couple of hotels on the island, and some B & Bs. Majuro is the capital city of The Republic of the Marshall Islands, an independent country, which the US obtained in WWII from the Japanese, and managed as a protectorate until 1986, when it gained its independence. About half of its 60,000 citizens live on Majuro. The primary economic activity in Majuro is Tuna fishing as evidenced by the many tuna fishing boats in the harbor, both large and small.
I suppose because of the scarcity of visitors to Majuro, there are no organized tour operators or commercial busses, every bus in town was pressed into service, including the school busses and the hotel shuttles. The requirement for being a taxi driver in Majuro, is a car and cardboard sign which says “taxi“.
When we were tied up at the dock, we went ashore. While supposedly the Marshallese speak both Marshallese and English, we couldn’t find a taxi driver we could understand, so we took off on our own to explore Majuro’s single road.
The people seemed quite friendly, and anxious to welcome us to Majuro (maybe it was just the cab drivers we couldn’t understand).
The local version of Home Depot
We stopped to watch these local guys in a very serious pick up game of American touch football. Notice they are playing with a soccer ball. Notice also the serious young man in the black muscle man shirt – don’t be surprised if you see him in the NFL and doing shampoo commercials.
On the way back to the ship, we stopped at one of the two hotels, had a beer in the bar and watched the local hula club perform, with the islands only disc jockey moderating.
Back home and back to sea!