Sitting in the western region of the Pacific Ocean, The Republic of Marshall Islands is composed of five islands, and 29 atolls with each having many islets. The atolls and islands run parallel to each other in a chain-like formation with the eastern portion called Ratak or sunrise group and western portion known as Ralik, the sunset group. The total number of islands and islets in the Republic are a little over 1200.
The archipelago was first inhibited by Micronesian people. The Spanish explored the island in the 16th century and were named after a British captain in 1788. Germany made an unsuccessful attempt to colonize the islands in 1885 and Japan laid claim to them in 1914. However, following a number of battles during the World War II, the U.S. captured them from Japan. In 1947 a UN mandate mad the islands a U.S. trust territory.
The islands lie in the open ocean and on average are very close to the sea level making them vulnerable to waves and storm surges. While they are not totally free from extreme weather conditions, in folklore they as known as “jolet jen Anij” (gifts from God). With the recent changes in the weather patterns, increasing severity of storms and physics of wave formation, the Marshall Islands are at risk of being inundated. It is highly probable that evacuation of the islanders may become necessary in the near future.
The people of Marshall Islands are very hospitable and polite by nature and perhaps even a bit shy. Women tend to dress in modest attire which is particularily important for younger girls, especially those residing in the more remote outer areas. The culture of Marshal Islands is based on hereditary hierarchy. People still believe grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other far-flung relatives to be the closest relatives. Such strong family ties make for close-knit communities based on respect and kindness.
Nearly eighty percent of the residents are now urban, with roughly one-half of the population living on the Majuro Atoll. Government employment opportunities led to the population explosion on the atoll. Ebeye is the other urban enclave with Kwajalein Atoll being one of the most densely populated places in the world. Many of the residents work on the United States military base nearby.
Each small atoll and island of the territory is owned by someone, inclusive of the reefs, anchorages and adjoining waters. Going ashore to fish, dive or surf requires permission from the landowners, which is typically given happily. To visit any atoll other than Majuro, permit from Internal affairs is required. The itinerary has to be approved before departure and fees which vary from atoll to atoll have to be paid in advance.
Government: Parliamentary democracy
Total area: 70 sq mi (181 sq km)
Climate: Hot & humid with average yearly temperature 80°F
Language: English, Marshallese & Japanese
Currency: U.S. dollar