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The Caroline Islands form a large archipelago of widely scattered islands in the western Pacific Oceanmarker, northeast of New Guineamarker. Politically they are divided between the Federated States of Micronesiamarker in the eastern part of the group, and Palaumarker at the extreme western end. Historically, this area was also called Nuevas Filipinas or New Philippines as they were part of the Spanish East Indies and governed from Manilamarker in the Philippinesmarker.


The group consists of about 500 small coral islands, east of the Philippines, in the Pacific Ocean; the distance from Manila to Yapmarker, one of the larger islands of the group, is 1200 miles.

Most of the islands comprise low, flat coral atolls, but some rise high above sea level.

People and culture

The native inhabitants speak a variety of Micronesian languages including Yapese, Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Carolinian and Kosraean, as well as the Western Malayo-Polynesian language Palauan. Other significant populations include Filipinos and Japanese.

The natives live mainly by horticulture and fishing, also supplementing their diet with many different varieties of bananas and taro, either of the "swamp" or "purple" varieties. On some islands housing continues to be built with local materials including coconut thatch. The language spoken in commerce is English, but there are several indigenous languages. They traditionally believe in a Supreme Being (Yalafar) and in a bad spirit (Can), yet they have hardly any religious rites. Due to extensive missionary work, Christianity is the primary religion practiced in this region of Micronesia.


It took about five stopovers by five different European ships before the name "Islas de Carolina" was used to refer to the stretch of islands located south of Guam. The name finally stuck when in 1686, a Spaniard by the name of Francisco Lazcano, named them after King Charles II of Spain who funded the expedition.

Some few Western travellers subsequently visited the islands, but an early visit of missionaries (1732) resulted in one of several murderous attacks on the newcomers; and only in 1875 did Spainmarker, claiming the group, make some attempt to assert her rights. The Caroline Islands were subsequently placed under the Spanish East Indies, administered from the Philippines. Germanymarker, which had occupied Yap, disputed the Spanish claim, and the matter went to the arbitration of Pope Leo XIII in 1885. He decided in favor of Spain, but gave Germany free trading rights. The Spanish did not occupy any island formally until 1886.

Then on June 1, 1899 in the German-Spanish Treaty , as a consequence of the Spanish-American War of 1898, Spain sold the islands to Germany for 25,000,000 pesetas (nearly 1,000,000 pounds sterling), which administered them as Karolinen, administratively associated with German New Guinea.

Japanmarker occupied the islands in 1914 and received a League of Nations mandate over them in 1920. During World War II, Japan had a large base at Truk Lagoonmarker, which the Allies effectively neutralized in Operation Hailstone. After the war, the islands became trust territories of the United Statesmarker, eventually gaining independence (1986 / 1994).

Colonial governors or officers

District officers (from 1889, styled Bezirksamtmann):

In the western Caroline islands (Yap and Palau [and from 1907 Saipan])
  • 29 June 1886 - 18.., Manuel de Elisa
  • before November 1897 - after November 1898, S. Cortes
  • 1899 - 1909, Arno Senfft (b. 1864 - d. 1909)
  • 1909 - ?, Rudolf Karlowa
  • 1909 - 1910, Georg Fritz
  • 1910 - 1911, Hermann Kersting
  • 1911 - 1914, Baumert

In the Eastern Caroline islands (Ponapemarker [and from 1911 Marshall Islandsmarker])-
  • June 1886 - 1887 Capriles
  • 14 March 1887 - 1887, Isidro Posadillo (d. 1887)
  • October 1887 - January 1891, Luis Cadarso y Rey (d. 1898)
  • c.1894, Concha
  • before November 1897 - after November 1898, J. Fernandez de Cordoba
  • 12 October 1899 - August 1901, Albert Hahl (b. 1868 - d. 1945)
  • 1 September 1901 - 30 April 1907, Victor Berg (b. 1861 - d. 1907)
  • 1907 - 1908?, Girschner (acting)
  • 1908 - 1909, Georg Fritz
  • 1909 - 18 October 1910, Gustav Boeder (d. 1910)
  • 1910 - 7 October 1914, August Überhorst

Ecclesiastical history

Two Jesuits, John Anthony Cantova and Victor Walter, attempted missionary work there in 1731; the former was soon murdered, the latter obliged to flee. Two other Jesuits were killed later. In 1767 the Jesuits were suppressed in the Spanish dominions, and during the next 120 years there is no trace of a missionary.

The controversy between Germany and Spain concerning the possession of the Carolines having been settled by Pope Leo XIII in favour of Spain, the king directed Spanish Capuchins to the islands, 15 March, 1886, and the Propaganda Fide officially established that mission, 15 May, 1886, dividing it into two sections, named West and East Carolines respectively. Until then the islands had belonged ecclesiastically to the Vicariate Apostolic of Micronesia. The Spanish Capuchins had a catechism and prayer book printed in the Ponape dialect, and Father Anthony of Valentia wrote a small grammar and dictionary of the Yap dialect in 1890.

When the Spanish Fathers had laid the foundations of the mission, these islands passed by purchase into the hands of Germany in 1899.Spain had contributed more than $5000 a year towards the mission; Germany granted no support. Spain had compelled the aborigines to send their children to school; Germany gave full liberty in this regard, and the people consequently began to neglect school as well as church. The mission thereby suffered greatly, and the Propaganda finally deemed it advisable to replace the Spanish Capuchins with others of German nationality (7 November 1904) and to erect one Apostolic prefecture instead of the two separate missions (18 December 1905). The Very Reverend Father Venantius of Prechthal was appointed first prefect Apostolic.

In 1906 twelve fathers and twelve brothers were working in thirteen stations, and several Sisters of St. Francis left Luxembourgmarker to take charge of the ten schools, in which were 262 children. Ninety adult converts were the harvest of that year, and the Catholic population is given as 1900 among 11,600 heathens and a few Protestants. The United States Government sent, 1 July, 1905, a Jesuit from the observatory at Manila to erect a meteorological station on the island of Yap, of which station the Capuchin Father Callistus was appointed director. The origin of the East-Asiatic typhoons had been traced to these regions, and twice a day observations are made, and notice is frequently given to Manila by cable.

Postage stamps

During the period of German control, Germany issued postage stamps for the islands; see postage stamps and postal history of the Caroline Islands for more details.

Sources and references

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