20 Fascinating Facts About Marshall Islands
1. The Marshall Islands are an island nation in Oceania made up of around 1,225 islands and islets. Of these, 29 are atolls and five are isolated islands.
2. Around 2000 BC, the first Micronesian navigators arrived in the Marshall Islands and named the atolls Aelon Kein Ad, which means “our islands”.
3. The islands are also made up of 870 reef systems and 160 species of coral.
4. Between 1521 and 1529, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan and Spaniard Miguel de Saavedra became the first Europeans to visit the islands.
5. The Marshall Islands were ruled by foreign powers for centuries. In 1592, Spain lay formal claim to the islands; in 1885 Germany annexed the islands; in 1914 Japan captured the islands; in 1944 US forces captured the islands.
6. The islands were given their name by British Naval Captain John William Marshall who sailed through the area in 1788 with convicts bound for New South Wales.
7. The Marshall Islands have a unique flag consisting of a blue background with diagonal stripes of orange and white that increase in size towards the upper right corner. A large white star is also depicted.
8. The blue background represents the Pacific Ocean, the white stripe signifies brightness and the orange stripe signifies bravery and wealth. The two stripes also represent the nearby equator. The 24-point star represents the 24 municipalities of the country, with the four longer points representing the capital atoll and the three administrative centers of the subdistricts.
9. From 1947 to 1994, the Marshall Islands were part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI), a United Nations trust territory administered by the USA.
10. In 1986, the Marshall Islands finally gained complete independence after adopting its constitution in 1979. The country joined the United Nations in 1991.
11. The USA still controls the security and defense of the Marshall Islands and provides millions of dollars in aid annually. The USA also rents the Kwajalein atoll as a base and missile test range.
12. As such, the Marshall Islands is one of just 22 countries not to have a military. As a former US-administered territory, the Marshall Islands did not find an army after gaining independence. Instead, the USA is responsible for its defense.
13. The atolls of Bikini and Enewetak in the Marshall Islands were used for extensive nuclear weapons testing between 1946 and 1958. In total, the US detonated 67 nuclear bombs on, in, and above the Marshall Islands, as well as 12 biological weapons tests.
13. In 1954, the largest nuclear-weapons test up to that point was undertaken in the Marshall Islands. The hydrogen bomb test, known as “Castle Bravo”, was also the first hydrogen bomb to be dropped from a plane.
14. To clean up the contamination caused by the tests, a giant concrete dome, known as “the Tomb,” was constructed to bury over 87,782m3 (3,100,000ft3) – or 35 Olympic-sized swimming pools – of radioactive soil and debris.
15. Ranked by land area only, the Marshall Islands is the sixth smallest sovereign state in the world.
16. Despite its tiny land area, the Marshall Islands are scattered across over 750,000 sq miles (1,942,491 sq km) of the Pacific Ocean – an area roughly the size of Mexico.
17. With a mean elevation of just two meters, the Marshall Islands has one of the world’s lowest average elevations.
18. As such, this low-lying country is under threat from rising sea levels and climate change. The country is considering ways to adapt, including building new artificial islands and relocating the population.
19. The Marshall Islands are the world’s fourth most obese country. 83.5% of the adult population is classed as overweight.
20. The Marshall Islands is the world’s second least visited country after Tuvalu. The country only receives around 5,000 tourists a year.
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