Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Although our islands were a bit out of the way, we are so situated and so stretched out north to south that ships were bound to make stops in any one of the Marianas during the 17 and 1800s.

One such visit was made to Alamågan in 1799 by a ship in need of water.

The ship's visit was written up by a certain Captain Bass, who I can only assume was British since he had his story printed in a British magazine.

His ship was on its way to China, traveling in a westerly direction and running low on water. Without a fresh supply of it, they were sure to run out of water before they arrived in China. It was common knowledge among mariners who sailed in this area of the northwest Pacific that any one of the Mariana islands could supply food and water. Some, Bass said, preferred to by-pass the lower and larger islands in order to escape Spanish encounters. The northern islands were largely abandoned at the time and passing ships could enjoy perfect liberty in these islands.

Bass' ship decided to stop at Alamågan, which appeared before them one hazy morning. They found out soon enough that the haze was caused by plumes of smoke billowing out of Alamågan's volcano, active at the time. While on land, Bass got somewhat close to the volcano and heard rumbling deep from the earth.

Alamågan's crater, dormant at the time the photo was taken

Water was unfortunately not found so the men collected as many coconuts as possible, which were plentiful by the shore.

One lemmai tree (breadfruit) was found and some bananas, but also papaya, which came to the Marianas from abroad, so they must have passed through Guam before being brought up to the northern islands. The crew also feed themselves with the pånglao (land crabs) that were abundant and also some birds. But there was no sign of the Hawaiian pig and some chickens that were left on Alamågan by an earlier visiting British ship.

Alamågan would be settled then abandoned numerous times, under Spanish, German, Japanese and Trust Territory times, right up to Commonwealth times, all depending on the mood of the volcano.

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