Stretching southeastwards from the neighbourhood of Japan to not very far south of the equator, there are several chains of islands known, collectively, as Micronesia.
The name is applied to them because nearly all are very tiny and "micro-" is the Greek word for "little".
In Micronesia are included the Pellew Islands, the Merianas, the Carolines, the Marshalls, and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. In the southernmost groups like the Ellice Islands, the people are of almost pure Polynesian stock and their habits and customs are like those of the natives of Tahiti, Samoa, and other Polynesian groups.
The people of the northern groups like the Marshalls and the Carolines are of mixed blood, being related to the Malays, Filipinos and Japanese.
The Marianas were the first oceanic islands of the Pacific to be discovered by Europeans.
In 1521, Magellan landed there on his voyage round the world, gave them the name of Ladrone or Robber Islands, and claimed them for his master, the King of Spain. A century and a half passed before missions were established there in 1668, and even then the Micronesians were not influenced very much by their Spanish overlords.
In 1885, Germany annexed the Marshall Islands, and in 1898, the same power bought from Spain the Carolines and Marianas, excepting the important island of Guam, which became an American naval base and cable station.
During the First World War, Japan, who was an ally of Britain, took the islands from the German garrisons, and at the Peace Conference in 1919, she was given a mandate over these former German possessions.
In World War II, Japan used these mandated islands as bases from which to attack Australia's outposts in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
At the end of the war however, the Japanese were driven out of Micronesia by American forces, and the islands are now ruled by the USA, under trusteeship from the United Nations Organisation.
In spite of being ruled by all these different powers in turn, the native people of most of the islands have kept many of their old customs. For instance, in the important island of Yap, which has been the site of a cable-station for the past many years, the natives have still not adopted Western dressing, the men wearing loincloths and the women grass skirts. These skirts sometimes weigh as much as thirty pounds, serving as a portable cushion when their owners sit on the ground or the floors of their huts.
In the Carolines the islanders still value what must be the most unusual form of currency in the world. In addition to the seashell money which is used in many other parts of the Pacific, they use huge limestone discs pierced with a hole in the middle, and up to twelve feet in diametre. These discs are piled around the treasure-house of the chief, and seem to be looked upon as the public property of the whole tribe. It may possibly be that this "money" is connected in some way with the mysterious ruins of an ancient civilisation which apparently flourished in the Carolines, 2,000 years or so ago.
On the islands of Ponape and Kuraii, there still stand enormous stone structures of which the natives can give no convincing explanation.
The statues and houses on the other side of the Pacific at Easter Island are not more mystifying.
On Ponape, the whole island is strewn with colossal blocks of basalt which were put together without mortar or cement of any kind and once formed massive walls.
On the side of Lele there is a great ruined citadel built of the same material, and also many miles of stonelined canals and high seawalls which once must have formed a complicated artificial harbour. On account of these ruins the island is sometimes called the "Venice of the Pacific".
The present day inhabitants are fine sailors and fishermen, but so far, archaeologists have been able to discover practically nothing about the forgotten people who built the harbour of the ruined city, sailed along its canals and defended its citadel.
Reference - The Story of the Pacific. The Sanitarium Children's Library, vol. 7, pg 9