The Northern Marianas Archipelago

The Northern Marianas Archipelago

Farallon De Pajaros (Uracas) – Approximately 315 nautical miles north of Saipan, the island has an active volcano which keeps its steep slopes smooth by frequent flows of lava and ash. The summit is crowned with white sulphur and at times dense clouds of yellow smoke and fire issue from the crater The north, south and west shores are precipitous and bare.

The island is uninhabited and used by the United States military for bombing practice. Maug – Located approximately 280 nautical miles north of Saipan, the three islands are the remains of a partly submerged volcano which surrounds a deep and spacious harbor. The islands are bordered by steep cliffs. On the north and west islands there are columns resembling tombstones which crown the ridges, (out-crops of basaltic veins). The island is uninhabited. Asuncion – An island of approximately 13 square miles located about 260 nautical miles north of Saipan.

The volcano, last active in 1906, rises steeply as an almost perfect cone. White smoke occasionally emerges from the top and slopes. Lava has streamed down the mountain sides giving it a black surface. Shrubs and a few trees can be seen in some places. A landing beach is situated on the southwest end of this uninhabited island. Agrihan – Situated some 205 nautical miles north of Saipan, the volcano was active in 1917. There are areas of gentle slopes near the shore on the southeast and southwest sides and the crater entrance on the north side. The remaining island consists of steep slopes and deep gorges.

The coast is rocky and steep with a landing beach on the southwest coast. Pagan – Located 173 nautical miles north of Saipan, the island has three active volcanoes one of which is separated from the others by a narrow plain. One volcano in the south emits steam and the north volcano is frequently veiled by a heavy sulphurous cloud. The slopes of Mount Pagan are covered by brown ash and at the base of the mountain there are two curious lakes.

A series of vertical cliffs cut the island into two sections. The coast is rocky and unapproachable except on the shores of the eastern roadstead and at Apaan Bay on the west coast. Alamagan – Located 146 nautical miles north of Saipan, the island has an extinct volcano with a large crater at the summit. The west side is cut by deep gorges covered with high savanna grass. The southeast side is a steep slope of bare lava. There are deep valleys with caves.

Coconut palms grow on the gradual slopes. Warm fresh water springs are located on the northern part of the west coast. Zealandia Banks – situated between Alamagan and Guguan are 66 feet below the surface of the sea. Guguan – Located 130 nautical miles north of Saipan, the west wall of the active volcano has collapsed and a new cone has built up above the wall of the old one. There are deep ravines between the two peaks. Smoke and large quantities of sulphur sometimes erupt from the volcano. The sulphur has given the mountain the appearance of a snow cap from a distance. The coast is bordered by steep basaltic rock with gables of high ridges with deep rain eroded gorges. At times a lake forms within the crater. The island is uninhabited. Sarigan – The island is 95 nautical miles north of Saipan and is an extinct volcano. The island has numerous ravines and valleys with dense tropical vegetation. It is surrounded by perpendicular cliffs which make landing difficult. Anatahan – Located 75 nautical miles north of Saipan.

The crater within the large extinct volcano has two peaks with a grass covered flat field. The island’s steep slopes are furrowed by deep gorges covered by high grass. The coast line is precipitous, landing beaches are on the northern part and western shore and at a small sandy beach on the southwest shore. The wreckage of a World War II B-29 Superfortress lies on the northside edge of the crater’s flatlands. The last formal surrender of World War Two occurred on Anatahan. On June 30, 1951, 18 Japanese castaways, all survivors of a convoy sunk on June 12, 1944, finally surrendered five years and 8 months after the conclusion of hostilities. Farallon De Medinilla – Situated 45 nautical miles north of Saipan, this is a coral island with deep caves. It is less than one square mile in area and is table-land with low vertical sides covered by bush and savanna grass. The shores of this uninhabited island have low cliffs with caves on the south and west sides. Esmeralda Banks – 24 miles west of Tinian, is the southern most active volcano in the Izu – Volcano – Mariana Arc and is one of the most active vents in the western Pacific. It rises to within 100 feet of sea level and is considered to be an area of potential eruption or a "hot spot." In the early part of the 20th century the banks were reported to be above sea level but disappeared below water as a result of an earthquake. Always there is an association of island arcs and deep ocean trenches as in the case of the Marianas. Always the two are in areas of volcanic unrest.

On the concave side of the islands are rows of volcanoes. On the convex side there is a sharp down-bending of the ocean floor which results in "V" shaped trenches and submarine canyons with steep cliffs. The Mariana Islands are the peaks of submerged mountains. The islands are part of an elongated, dismembered island arc system. Island arcs generally are associated with active volcanoes and form above zones where oceanic lithosphere is sliding under an adjacent overriding crustal plate. The U.S.G.S. National Earthquake Information Center recorded 324 events between latitude 11 – 21 degrees north and longitude 144 – 150 degrees east between 1991 and 1994. Most of these earthquakes were larger than 4.5 in magnitude. The islands of Asuncion, Guguan, Maug, Managaha, Sarigan and Uracas (Farallon De Pajaros) are maintained as uninhabited places as the Northern Islands Sanctuary. No permanent structures can be built and no persons can live on the islands except as necessary for the purposes for which the islands are preserved. The islands are preserved as habitats for birds, fish, wildlife and plants.

The permanent status given the preserve on Maug is based on a survey of the botany, ornithology, terrestrial biology, marine biology and ichthyology of the three islands that are collectively known as Maug. Saipan – The principal island and commercial center of the Northern Mariana Islands. It is about 12.5 miles long and 5.5 miles wide and has a total land area of 46.5 square miles which is about the size of San Francisco. Saipan is slightly larger than Hong Kong but smaller than the District of Columbia. Saipan is four and one half times smaller than Guam, 120 miles south. Mt. Tapotchau at 1,554 feet is the highest point. The measurement from the floor of the Marianas Trench to the crest of Mount Tapotchau is 37,752 feet or 7.15 statute miles, (from sea level Mount Everest measures 29,028 feet ).

Saipan's 54 mile coast line is irregular except on the western side where there is a fringing reef. A large part of the island is public land. Saipan has 14 miles of beach. Of the 8 communities on Saipan, Garapan and Chalan Kanoa may be considered the principal urbanized areas. The population in 1995 was 52,698. Tourism and garment manufacturing are the major economic activities. Saipan is 120 miles north of the United States Territory of Guam. Saipan is one of 14 islands in the Northern Marianas archipelago that make up the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Location: 15 degrees – 15 minutes north; 145 degrees – 40 minutes east. The Northern Marianas are about as far away from the U. S. west coast as, for example, Washington, D. C. is from Cairo, Egypt. Since the International Date Line is between Hawaii and the Mariana Islands, as a consequence of this geography, at no time do normal business hours on the United States east coast coincide with those of the Commonwealth. Indeed, telephone communication with the U.S. west coast and Hawaii, when conducted during normal business hours and work days, can only take place 4 days a week or between Tuesday and Friday (from the CNMI ), Monday to Thursday (from the U. S.). While the islands are a western oriented culture, they are situated in the Eastern Hemisphere and are about as far west of the United States as one can get and still remain under the flag. They are as distant as Tokyo or Melbourne and about the same distance north of the equator as Manila. The Mariana Islands are 9 time zones west of Washington D.C.; 6 zones west of San Francisco and 4 zones west of Honolulu. To provide some appreciation of the size of the Pacific, the flying time between Saipan and Honolulu is more than seven hours. This portion of the Pacific alone is greater in distance than that of the Atlantic Ocean between the United States east coast and Europe. Rota – “The Treasure Island” – is approximately 10.5 miles long and 3 miles wide with a 38.3 mile coastline encompassing an area of 32.8 square miles. The highest elevation is Mt. Manira at 1,625 feet.

The principal community is Songsong. Rota is primarily an agricultural community with a population of 3,509, (1995). Rota is one of 14 islands in the Northern Marianas archipelago that make up the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The island is 47 miles north of Guam; 63 miles south of Tinian and 73 miles south of Saipan. Location: 7 degrees – 30 minutes north; 145 degrees – 12 minutes east Tinian – Approximately 10.5 miles long by 5 miles at its widest point and has a total area of 39.2 square miles and a coastline 38 miles in length. The highest point,Puntan Carolinas, is 583 feet above sea level. The principal community is San Jose.

Tinian is primarily an agricultural community with a hotel casino opening in 1998. A large portion of Tinian has been leased to the U.S. military. Population 2,631, (1995). Tinian is one of 14 islands in the Northern Marianas archipelago that make up the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.Tinian is 5 miles south of Saipan, 63 miles north of Rota and 115 miles north of Guam. Location: 15 degrees – 5 minutes north; 145 degrees – 45 minutes east.