or Wa′ab (Yapese: Waqab) traditionally refers to an island
located in the
of the western Pacific Ocean, a part
of the Federated States of Micronesia. The name "Yap" in recent years
has come to also refer to the state within the Federated States of
Micronesia, inclusive of the
Main Islands and its various outer
Main Islands are considered to be made up of four separate
Island proper (Marbaq), Gagil-Tamil, Maap (Yapese:
Maap′), and Rumung. The four are contiguous, though separated by
water, and are surrounded by a common coral reef. They are formed from
an uplift of the Philippine Sea Plate, and are referred to as "high"
islands as opposed to atolls. The land is mostly rolling hills,
swamps line much of the shore, although
there are beaches on the northern sides of the islands. Excluding the
is approximately 24 km long, 5–10 km wide,
and 98 km2. The highest elevation is 178 meters/584 feet at Mount
Taabiywol in Fanif municipality on
island proper. The Yapese
people's indigenous cultures and traditions are strong compared to
other states in Micronesia.
Colonia is the capital of the State of
which includes the
Islands and the
Neighboring Islands—the outer islands (mostly
atolls) reaching to the east and south from the
Main Islands for
some 800 km (500 mi), namely the atolls of Eauripik, Elato,
Faraulep, Gaferut, Ifalik, Lamotrek, Ngulu, Olimarao, Piagailoe (West
Fayu), Pikelot, Sorol, Ulithi, and Woleai, as well as the islands of
Fais and Satawal (see map). Historically, a tributary system existed
between the Neighboring Islands and the
Main Islands. This
probably related to the need for goods from the high islands,
including food, as well as wood for construction of seagoing vessels.
In 2000 the population of Colonia and ten other municipalities
totalled 11,241. The state has a total land area of 102 km2
(39 sq mi).
2.1 Stone money
2.2 Other currencies
2.3 Living structures
2.4 Language and ethnicity
2.6 Social structure
8 See also
10 External links
Yap in the Pacific Ocean
Stone money transport to
Yap Island (1880)
A 13th century account states that the sultan of Egypt called to his
aid the Admiral of the Dry Tree, a mystical land of the (eastern)
border of the Persian empire (mentioned by Marco Polo), in whose land
the only currencies were millstones. The only region of which this is
true is the
Caroline Islands (Yap) with their stone money. The
first recorded sighting of
Yap by Europeans came during the Spanish
expedition of Álvaro de Saavedra in 1528. Its sighting was also
recorded by the Spanish expedition of
Ruy López de Villalobos on 26
January 1543, who charted them as Los Arrecifes ("the
reefs"). At Yap, the Villalobos' expedition received the same
surprising greeting as previously in
Fais Island from the local people
approaching the ships in canoes: "Buenos días Matelotes!" ("Good day,
sailors!") in perfect sixteenth-century Spanish evidencing previous
presence of the Spaniards in the area. The original account of this
story is included in the report that the
Augustinian Fray Jerónimo de
Santisteban, travelling with the Villalobos' expedition, wrote for the
Viceroy of New Spain, while in
Kochi during the voyage home. Yap
also appeared in Spanish charts as Los Garbanzos (The Chickpeas in
Spanish) and Gran Carolina (Great Caroline in Spanish).
From the 17th century until 1899,
Yap was a Spanish colony within the
Captaincy General of the Philippines
Captaincy General of the Philippines of the Spanish East Indies. The
Yap Island as a prison for those captured during the
Philippine Revolution.:204–212 After the defeat against the
United States in 1898 and subsequent loss of the Philippines, Spain
sold these islands and its other minor Pacific possessions to Germany.
Yap was a major German naval communications center before the First
World War and an important international hub for cable telegraphy,
with spokes branching out to Guam, Shanghai, Rabaul, Naura and Manado
(Sulawesi's North coast). It was occupied by Japanese troops in
September 1914, and passed to the Japanese Empire under the Versailles
Treaty in 1919 as a mandated territory under League of Nations
supervision. US commercial rights on the island were secured by a
special US-Japanese treaty to that effect, concluded on February 11,
In World War II, Japanese-held
Yap was one of the islands bypassed in
the U.S. "island-hopping" strategy, although it was regularly bombed
by U.S. ships and aircraft, and Yap-based Japanese bombers did some
damage in return. The Japanese garrison comprised 4,423 IJA men under
the command of Colonel Daihachi Itoh and 1,494 IJN men.
At the end of World War II,
Yap was occupied by the U.S. military
victors. The U.S. held it and the rest of the
Caroline Islands as a
trusteeship under a United Nations mandate (the "Trust Territory of
the Pacific Islands") until 1986. In that year, Yap, Truk, Pohnpei,
Kosrae formed the independent nation of the Federated States of
Micronesia. Under a
Compact of Free Association
Compact of Free Association with the United
States, Micronesian citizens and goods are allowed entry into the U.S.
with few restrictions.
Peace Corps has been active in
Yap since 1966. Other US-based
non-profit organizations, including Habele, have an ongoing presence
Yap proper and its outer islands, aimed at reducing
educational disparities and inequalities in access to effective
Further information: Rai stones
A large (approximately 8 feet in height) example of Yapese stone money
(Rai) in the village of Gachpar
Yap is known for its stone money, known as Rai, or Fei,: large
doughnut-shaped, carved disks of (usually) calcite, up to 4 m
(12 ft) in diameter (most are much smaller). The smallest can be
as little as 3.5 centimetres (1.4 in) in diameter. Many of
them were brought from other islands, as far as New Guinea, but most
came in ancient times from Palau. Their value is based on both the
stone's size and its history. Historically the Yapese valued the disks
because the material looks like quartz, and these were the shiniest
objects available. Eventually the stones became legal tender and were
even mandatory in some payments.
The value of the stones was kept high due to the difficulty and
hazards involved in obtaining them. To quarry the stones, Yapese
adventurers had to sail to distant islands and deal with local
inhabitants who were sometimes hostile. Once quarried, the disks had
to be transported back to
Yap on rafts towed behind sail-driven
canoes. The scarcity of the disks, and the effort and peril required
to get them, made them valuable to the Yapese.
In 1874, an enterprising Irish American sea captain named David
O'Keefe hit upon the idea of employing the Yapese to import more
"money" in the form of shiploads of large stones, also from Palau.
O'Keefe then traded these stones with the Yapese for other commodities
such as sea cucumbers and copra. The 1954 movie His Majesty O'Keefe
cast Burt Lancaster in the captain's role. Although some of the
O'Keefe stones are larger than the canoe-transported stones, they are
less valuable than the earlier stones due to the comparative ease with
which they were obtained.
As no more disks are being produced or imported, this money supply is
fixed. The islanders know who owns which piece but do not
necessarily move them when ownership changes. Their size and weight
(the largest ones require 20 adult men to carry) make them very
difficult to move around. Although today the
United States dollar is
the currency used for everyday transactions in Yap, the stone disks
are still used for more traditional or ceremonial exchange. The stone
disks may change ownership during marriages, transfers of land title,
or as compensation for damages suffered by an aggrieved party.
There are four other types of currency on the Island. First there is
"Mmbul" which is a length of lava-lava, the cloth used for loincloths,
three or four feet long and two feet wide, wrapped up in a Betel nut
sheath. Then there is "Gau" or "Gaw", a necklace of shells, up to 10
feet in length. The shells come from Canet, an island near Ponape,
from Ponape itself and from Euripik. Since these come from a distance,
Gau is worth more than Mmbul. "Yar" is money made of large shells
about eight inches wide, pierced and tied on a coconut rope. Finally,
"Reng" is the name of money made of turmeric, which is ground and
mixed with water and the paste shaped into a ball, typically used for
There are three types of traditional buildings on Yap. The "tibnaw" is
a family house and has a roof made of woven thatch (dried palm
fronds). Inside, there is one open room with no lavatory. Kitchens are
separate structures (t'ang) outside the family houses.
The "faluw" is the "men's house"; such buildings were built on the
shoreline with easy access to the sea. Prior to World War I, women had
been kidnapped and taken to the faluw. Today this practice no longer
occurs. Women considered it an honor to be chosen for the faluw,
because only the most beautiful women would be taken there. Such a
woman was called the "mispil" (resident female) of the faluw. As the
island's culture was more and more influenced by the rest of the
world's views on prostitution, this practice ended.
Largest of the three types is the "p'ebay", a place for the community
to come together for school, dances or meetings. As with all
structures on Yap, it is necessary to obtain permission before
entering. There are a few men's houses that women are allowed to
enter, however people must always ask for permission.
Language and ethnicity
Yapese language belongs to the Austronesian languages, more
specifically to the Oceanic languages.
Yap was initially settled by
ancient migrants from the Malay Peninsula, the Indonesian Archipelago,
New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. The people of the Neighboring
Islands are descendants of Polynesian settlers, and
as such have significant ethnic dissimilarities from the people of the
Yap Main Islands. Their culture and languages (Ulithian and Woleaian)
are closely related to those of the outer islands of Chuuk. English as
used as a common language.
Traditional style structure with stone money indicating great wealth.
The first stones were mined on
Palau and carried by outrigger canoe
some 450 kilometers (280 mi).
The Yapese and Neighboring Island Yapese were some of the most
renowned navigators in the Pacific. Yapese sailors traveled phenomenal
distances in outrigger canoes, without the aid of a compass,
navigating by the stars and the patterns of ocean waves using
techniques of Micronesian and Polynesian navigation. During
pre-colonial times, the people of
Yap established an island empire and
dominion over what are now the Neighboring Islands of
Beginning in the 19th century,
Yap was colonized by the Spanish,
Germans, and Japanese in succession.
The double-hulled voyaging canoe Alingano Maisu, gifted by the
Polynesian Voyaging Society
Polynesian Voyaging Society to master navigator Mau Piailug, is
home-ported on the island of
Yap under the command of Piailug's son,
Yapese society is based on a highly complex "caste system" involving
at least seven tiers of rank. Historically, the caste rank of an
entire village could rise or fall in comparison to other villages
depending on how it fared in inter-village conflicts. Winning villages
would rise in rank as a part of a peace settlement, while losing
villages would have to accept a decline in comparative rank. In many
cases lower ranked villages were required to pay tribute to higher
ranked villages. Further, dietary taboos might be imposed on lower
ranking villages, i.e., they might be prohibited from harvesting and
eating the more desirable fish and animals of the sea. Further, within
each village each family had its own rank comparative to the others.
Until the arrival of the German colonizers, the caste ranking system
was fluid and the ranks of villages and families changed in response
to inter-village intrigues and confrontations. In the early 20th
century, however, the German colonial administration pacified
enforced a prohibition against violent conflict. The caste ranking of
each village in modern
Yap thus remains the same as it was when the
system was frozen in place by the Germans. The freeze left the
villages of Ngolog, Teb, and Gachpar in the modern-day municipalities
of Rull, Tamil, and Gagil respectively, as the highest ranking.
Governor of Yap
Governor of Yap is Tony Ganngiyan.
Yap has a group of chiefs known as the Council of Pilung or the
Council of Tamol, who regulate cultural issues.
Climate data for Yap
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Average relative humidity (%)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Source #1: Weatherbase
Hong Kong Observatory
Hong Kong Observatory (sun, precipitation 1961–1990)
Yap has a relatively small tourism industry, with the
Bureau reporting only 4,000 annuals visitors since 2010. China's
Exhibition & Travel Group (ETG) has announced plans to develop a
4,000-unit resort on the island.
Yap International Airport
Yap International Airport
Yap International Airport receives service from United Airlines.
Yap High School
Yap High School in Colonia
Yap Catholic High School in Lamer village, Rull
Yap Islands Zika virus outbreak
Habele, a South Carolina–based charitable organization providing
private economic educational assistance in Yap.
William Henry Furness III
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^ Gillilland, Cora Lee C. (1975). The Stone Money of Yap. A Numismatic
Survey. (Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology 23).
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^ Goldberg, Dror. "Famous Myths of 'Fiat Money'", Journal of Money,
Credit and Banking 2005, 957–967
His Majesty O'Keefe
His Majesty O'Keefe (movie). 1954. Retrieved 28 Aug 2013.
^ Washington Post, 1984.
^ Buchanan, Neil H. "Dorf on Law". Retrieved 21 November 2015.
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archive.org. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
^ a b c Engle, Tim; Orr, Francine. "
Yap Facts – A Primer on Yapese
Culture". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
^ a b c d e Lin, Daniel (August 15, 2017). "This Pacific Island Is
Caught in a Global Power Struggle (And It's Not Guam)". National
^ "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Yap, Federated States of
Micronesia". Weatherbase. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
^ "Climatological Information for Yap, Pacific Islands, United
States". Hong Kong Observatory. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
^ "Higher Education in the Federated States of Micronesia." Embassy of
Federated States of Micronesia
Federated States of Micronesia Washington DC. Retrieved on
February 23, 2018.
^ "ABOUT YCHS."
Yap Catholic High School. Retrieved on February 22,
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yap.
The Official Government Website for the Island of Yap
Yap Visitors Bureau
Missing Air Crew Project about WWII and
Photographs of stone money
Federated States of Micronesia
Federated States of Micronesia – Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae
Statistics on buildings, population; Source: Statistics Section,
Office of Planning and Budget,
United States of America and Japan – Treaty concerning the Yap
Island and the other islands under mandate, situated in the Pacific
North of the Equator and exchange of Notes relating thereto.
Washington, February 11, 1922
NOAA's National Weather Service – Yap, FSM
Federated States of Micronesia
Spanish East Indies
German New Guinea
South Pacific Mandate
Battle of Peleliu
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
Towns and villages
Compact of Free Association
Coordinates: 9°32′N 138°07′E / 9.533°N 138.117°E /