The Populated Islands of Yap State, FSM
Published 10 years ago, updated 4 years ago
Chris and Des of SY Trigger sent extra information about Woleai Atoll 13 February, 2013.
WW2 Historical interest at Woleai Atoll FSM Yap
(7° 22.217’N 143° 54.541’E)
We made an unscheduled stop at Woleai Atoll and were pleasantly surprised – despite the good reports that we have read about this atoll.
Woleai has a very interesting history which might not be widely known. During WW2 a Japanese garrison of almost 7,000 men was stationed on Woleai where they built an airstrip, several bunkers and had a seaplane base. During the bombing raid on 1 April 1944, which was part of the Palau-Yap raid, the Americans dropped 60 tons of bombs on Woleai and spent around 20,400 bullets. The wrecks of several Japanese planes, Betty Bombers, Zeroes and Zekes are still on the island and an Emily seaplane with a wingspan of 38 meters is submerged in the atoll. Deeper water holds the wreck of a submarine according to the Islanders. Decayed Japanese light armored tanks type 96 can be seen scattered between palms trees and taro patches. There are also several anti-aircraft guns and cannons strewn around the island and torpedoes in storage bunkers.
(Link to Woleai WW2 remnant photos: Yap Outer Isles.)
There was a famous rescue of a downed Hellcat pilot by the submarine USS Harder. The wounded pilot ditched in the sea and had a raft dropped to him by an Avenger, but the current took him onto the reef. 3 Hours later the sub-USS Harder surfaced about 2 miles from shore. The cook and 2 other volunteers swam a rubber raft out on a towline while the sub kept position with the bow on the reef and the engines in slow forward. Covering fire from escorting fighter planes and gunfire from the sub subdued Japanese sniper fire.
On the way back the tow line was accidentally severed by a Seagull seaplane tasked to rescue another downed pilot. The cook swam back to the sub with the towline while the rest of the group waited on the reef. Another crew member swam out with a new line to tow the raft back as quickly as possible. The islanders who witnessed these happenings were in two minds to help or not, but the local “magic” folded palm leaf kept on indicating that they must keep their heads down.
Today there are around 1000 islanders living in the atoll with the largest concentration of people on Woleai Island which is divided into 5 different villages. There is a high school for children of neighboring outer islands, a general store, a clinic, and a church. The island has a running generator that provides cash electricity to each household. The runway is not in use anymore.
We met with chief Francis Waieral (the chief of the northern-most village on Woleai Island). He is a sharply witted fountain of information of 70-some and was a youngster when Yap was subjected to the Japanese. There is a $10 fee per person which is payable to the chief and shared in a communal coffer. There is an additional fee for diving which we negotiated to $10 flat. In exchange, you get the freedom to walk around the island and experience Woleaian culture, get a guide to show you the location of the WW2 cannons, bunkers, anti-aircraft guns, wrecked warplanes, and Japanese built airstrip. Our guide was Julien (in a red canoe) who was very knowledgeable, extremely helpful and had lots of interesting tales to add. The Islanders are welcoming but respectful of your privacy and are gracious with gifts of fish, taro, breadfruit, coconuts, bananas and much (too much) more.
Chris and Des – SY Trigger
Scott Leis sent this very informative report 30 March, 2012.
Apart from Ulithi Atoll, these islands are not official Ports of Entry, so prior arrangements must be made to visit it. (Ed. See Clearance)
It is also the local custom to bring a gift for the island’s paramount chief upon arrival. This can be anything from a case of Ramen Noodles or a bag of rice to some fresh fish.
Falalop Island is located at 10°01 03.73N, 139°47 26.27E. It is the largest of the four populated islands in Ulithi Atoll and the location of the only runway and hotel in Ulithi. Pacific Missionary Aviation (PMA) flies to Falalop, Ulithi twice a week as long as there are fuel and weather permits. Yap’s PMA office can be contacted at [email protected] to inquire about flight schedules and availability. If sailors are interested in staying at the hotel, arrangements can be made by contacting the Yap Visitors Bureau at [email protected].
The other populated islands in Ulithi are:-
Asor (10°01 46.76N, 139°45 56.52E), Mogmog (10°05 17.04N, 139°42 30.09E) and Federai (09°54 35.0N, 139°39 31.42E) formerly known as Fassarai.
Mogmog is considered the most traditional island in the atoll. All the populated islands in Ulithi now have limited electricity. People in Ulithi speak their own language, Ulithian, and the majority can speak some English.
Fais is located at 09°45 46.29N, 140° 31 04.48E. It has the greatest elevation of any of the Neighboring Islands in Yap State with the highest point of the island being around 85 ft. It is a beautiful island with raised coral cliffs on its east and west coasts. It is not part of an atoll and therefore, finding a secure anchorage may be tricky. It is recommended to consult the latest charts around this island and consult one of the locals as soon as you get there regarding a reliable site for anchorage. Most people here are initially skeptical and quiet when meeting new visitors but are very friendly once you get to know them. Fais also has a runway and receives periodic flights from Yap’s PMA office. People from Fais speak Ulithian and the majority can also speak some English.
Ngulu is located at 08°27 09.25N, 137° 29 14.89E. Ngulu is a large atoll but only one of the islands is populated. Very few people live here, but those that do speak Yapese and can also possibly speak some English. The water and reef here are part of a Marine Protected Area (MPA)and violators will be held to local and legal punishments.
Eurapik’s approximate location is 06° 41 31.45N, 143° 02 55.33E. It is a small atoll with only a few islands, one of which is populated. People here speak Woleaian and the majority can also speak some English. Eurapik does not have a deep channel entering the reef so be careful entering the channel depending on the tides.
This is a small atoll made up of many small islands. People live on Falalop, Wotigai, Tagailop, Falalas and Sililap islands and speak their own language, Woleaian, and the majority can also speak some English. Falalop is the largest and most populated island and also has a runway that receives periodic flights from Yap’s PMA office. Woleai Atoll provides a good place for a safe anchorage in the event of a storm and is protected from the north, east and west by islands.
Ifalik is located at 07° 15 03.05N, 144° 26 46.93E. It is a small atoll with only a few islands, one of which is populated. People here speak Woleaian and the majority can also speak some English. Ifalik is one of the most traditional islands of all the Neighboring Islands between Yap and Chuuk. Good anchorages are available inside the reef.
Fachilop’s approximate location is 08° 36 45.67N, 144° 33 39.49E. It is a small atoll with only three islands, two of which are populated. The two populated islands are Piig and Fachilop. People here speak Woleaian and the majority can also speak some English. Good anchorages are available inside the reef near Piig or Fachilop.
Elato is located at 07° 30 43.67N, 146° 10 19.47E. It is a small atoll with only a few islands, one of which is populated. People here speak Woleaian and the majority can also speak some English. Good anchorages are available inside the reef near the island.
Lamotrek is located at 07° 27 19.15N, 146° 22 49.85E. It is a small atoll with only a few islands, one of which is populated. People here speak Woleaian and the majority can also speak some English. Good anchorages are available inside the reef near the island.
Satawal is located at 07° 22 52.75N, 147° 01 52.30E. It is not part of an atoll and therefore, finding a secure anchorage may be tricky. It is recommended to consult the latest charts around this island and consult one of the locals as soon as you get there regarding a reliable site for anchorage. People here speak their own language, Satawalese, and the majority can also speak some English.