The Platinum of Nan Madol

Pohnpei is in the center of the Federated States of Micronesia.

3,000 miles west of the Hawaiian Islands, many islands in the chain are small fishing villages. Utwa Ma, for example, is a few hundred miles closer to Hawaii but just a little fishing village on the south side of Kosrae Island, the entire island has a land area of 42 square miles. Still, it has a 5,750 ft air strip and handles 737 and 777 airplanes. Flights from Hawaii usually go through Guam or Weno Island of FSM and its Chuuk airport. Weno island has a population double that of Korsae, around 13,000 people. Pohnpei is its own island too, with the Ponpei airport that has a runway 6,000 ft long, also capable of handling jet travel.

Direct flights from Honolulu to FSM islands would only take five or six hours, but since most flights go through Guam or one of the bigger islands, travel can require 12 to 30 hours to complete the trip. Commercial flights generally offer wifi, cable movie channels and more leg room to make travel more comfortable. Expect to pay between $ 750 and $1,500 for a hop from Honolulu to one of the islands. Smaller turbo prop jumps between islands can take from an hour or two up to four or five hours.

Chuuk (airport code TRK) to Honolulu (airport code HNL) usually runs through Guam, and sometimes Tokyo. Tokyo to Honolulu is less than eight hours flight time. To make the trip you cross the international date line, so you might end up with an extra day or losing a day, depending on the direction of travel.

One reason the Pacific in this region requires such a long time to travel is that at the Equator, you are flying over the thickest part of the planet. In the north, you can fly from Nova Scotia to Scotland in five hours across the Atlantic, From Tokyo to Seattle in 9 hours, but from LAX (Los Angeles) to Sydney along the equator and across the Pacific, the miles add up and it takes 15 hours in the air to make the trip. Many large equatorial airports funnel a great many of their flights to the north or the south, where the flight patterns allow shorter trips, but you end up with more stops.

Interestingly, Sydney is the oldest major commercial airport in the world. Started in 1919 by Nigel Love, it will complete 00 years of commercial aviation history on January 9, 2020. It has three runways from 8,000 to 12,000 feet, and handles in excess of 900 flights daily.

Older still are the ruins of Non Madol. A few hours from Chuuk, the island of Pohnpei is a thick jungle, perhaps one of the rainiest spots in the world. They say it is raining somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands, but they stretch over 200 miles of the Pacific Ocean. It’s raining right now, and every day it seems on Pohnpei, roughly circular with a radius of three to four miles in size.

The airport is on a man made reef on the southern tip of the little island, and the ruins of Nan Madol are on the southern side. A maze of brackish canals and heavy stone blocks, we believe it was assembled more than a thousand years ago. But the mysteries of Nan Madol just begin with these ruins. The island was inhabited by ocean peoples but the beginning of the 1900’s saw the island under German rule. A governor named Victor Berg dies mysteriously, legend goes, because of the curse of Nan Madol.

By 1915, areas of the Micronesian Islands shifted to Japanese control, and several stories of platinum are told up to World War II, and then the rumors stopped. One story is that Japanese divers searching for corals, sponges, crab and pearls found mysterious platinum caskets where they were able to bring up small pieces of platinum. A Kilogram of platinum fetches around $30,000. A dozen or so of the types of Gold Bars you see in stories about Fort Knox could fetch a million dollars.

So reports by the Japanese of platinum from Micronesia are interesting. But the geology does not add up.