There is only way to reach the Outer Islands of Yap, on a state-operated cargo ship that makes the run about twice a year. Hundreds of passengers cram aboard for the two week journey, making temporary homes under tarps strung over the deck or hammocks strung up in the rigging, anywhere you can fit your body and your stuff.
In December of 2008 a particularly strong series of tides, known as a king tide, rolled across parts of Ulithi, damaging large portions of the taro crop. This man is pointing to the area that was hardest hit.
The island of Falalis is just barely wide enough to support a tiny airstrip, used mainly by a small plane service run by missionaries.
A king tide rolled through Falalis in December 2008, eroding the coastline and leading to the death of many of the coconut trees closest to the ocean.
The coconut is everything: water, fat, fiber, protein, carbohydrates. By the time kids are ten most of them can scramble up a tree without a problem.
A kid with a guitar on the island of Wotegai. Yapese music tends to sound like traditional Hawaiian music.
There is not much room on Wotegai, but there’s enough space for a makeshift basketball court, or at least half a court. The games I saw got pretty intense.
Saliap is another island in the Woleai chain. Under a trade agreement with the U.S. signed in 1986, the Federated States of Micronesia were granted independence but citizens were given the right to live and work in the U.S. and serve in its military. In 2008, the country had more Army recruits per capita than any U.S. state. For those teens wanting a different sort of life, military service is a sure ticket off the island.
Rain in the Woleai lagoon.
On Ifalik people use outrigger sailing canoes to travel between nearby islands. The crafts are how early Pacific mariners crisscrossed the world’s greatest ocean thousands of years before Magellan and Columbus ever set sail.
Colorful loincloths among the boys of Ifalik, with an approaching storm in the background.
Copra, or the dried meat of the coconut, is collected for export on the island of Ifalik.
A mostly healthy taro field on the island of Ifalik. The yellowed leaves on the left signify sick plants.
The Outer Islands of Yap are coral atolls, which means, similar to in southern Louisiana, no land is more than 10-20 feet above sea-level. New numbers released this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests seas may rise up to two feet by the end of the century.
Coming into Eauripik, the smallest inhabited island in the Outer Islands of Yap.
On Eauripik homes are built on platforms for protection against the sea during king tides and typhoons.
A taro field on Eauripik. Taro is the island’s staple food.
Leaving Eauripik, tiny, tiny, and maybe one day, gone.