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Flag of Kosrae
Map of Kosrae
Map of Kosrae
Kosrae is located in Pacific Ocean
Location of Kosrae
Country Federated States of Micronesia
Capital Tofol
 • Governor Lyndon Jackson (since 2011)
 • Total 111.3 km2 (43.0 sq mi)
Population (2010)
 • Total 6,616
 • Density 59/km2 (150/sq mi)
ISO 3166 code FM-KSA
Website .com.webskosraestatelegislature

Kosrae (pronunciation: koh-shrye), formerly known as Kusaie, is an island in Federated States of Micronesia. The State of Kosrae is one of four states of the Federated States of Micronesia, and includes the main island of Kosrae and about a dozen nearby islands and islets, the most significant of which is Lelu Island.

Detail Map of Kosrae State


  • Geography 1
  • Education 2
  • Languages 3
  • History 4
  • Economy 5
  • Food 6
  • Municipalities 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Kosrae is located in Pacific Ocean
Location of Kosrae in the Pacific Ocean

Kosrae, the easternmost of the Caroline Islands, has a population of 6,616 (2010 census).[1] It is located approximately 600 km (370 mi) north of the equator, between Guam and the Hawaiian Islands. Its land area is approximately 110 km2 (42 sq mi). Some parts of the island are experiencing coastal erosion.

Kosrae is a high island that is largely unspoiled. Kosrae is becoming a destination for scuba divers and hikers. The coral reefs that surround the island are kept in pristine condition through an extensive mooring buoy system, installed and maintained by concerned expat dive operators with the help of the government's Marine Resources office. The reefs are seldom visited, and contain miles of hard corals, some said to be thousands of years old.

Dense vegetation and steep mountains keep the island largely undeveloped. Viewed from the sea, the island's distinct shape resembles a female body. This has led to the island being called "the island of the sleeping lady."

Kosrae International Airport (IATA code KSA) is located on an artificial island within the fringing reef about 150 meters from the coast and is connected to the main island by a causeway. It is served by United Air Lines (formerly Continental Micronesia) "Island Hopper" flights (twice a week in each direction) between Hawaii and Guam, stopping at other FSM and Marshallese destinations on the way. Nauru Airlines also connect weekly to Brisbane in Australia and Nadi in Fiji.

There is one significant nearshore island within the fringing reef around Kosrae, which is Lelu Island, and it is only 2 square kilometres (0.77 sq mi) in area, but with a population of around 1,500. It belongs to Lelu municipality, which includes the area around Tofol, the state capital. Other very small, uninhabited islands within the fringing reef are, Yen Yen and Yenasr (also in Lelu municipality), the airport island, Kiul, Mutunyal, Sroansak (Tafunsak municipality), and Srukames (also Tafunsak municipality, Walung part).


The Kosrae Department of Education operates six public elementary schools (Tafunsak Elementary School, Malem Elementary School, Utwe Elementary School, Lelu Elementary School, Sansrik Elementary School, Walung Elementary School) and one high school (Kosrae High School). There is also one private school (Kosrae Seventh-day Adventist School).[2] In July 2011, Kosrae DOE embraced the One Laptop per Child programme, distributing 720 "XO" computers to children in its public elementary schools, becoming the first State of Micronesia to do so.[3]


The official language of Kosrae is Kosraean, although the English language may also be used in government discourse. According to the Constitution of Kosrae, English is held to have "equal authority" to Kosraean (although in an instance where the Kosraean and English versions of the Constitution are held to be in irresolvable conflict, the Kosraean version prevails)


Ruined city of Leluh
Menka ruins
The harbour (1880)

Archaeological evidence shows that the island was settled at least by the early years of the first millennium AD. This includes the city of Leluh that existed from about 1250 AD, and in its heyday had a population of about 1,500 and covered some 27 hectares. It featured burial pyramids for the nobility.

First recorded sighting by Westerners was by the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Saavedra on 14 September 1529 when trying to return from Tidore to New Spain.[4] The island was under nominal Spanish sovereignty since 1668, but it was not effectively occupied until 1885. By the time of the island's first contact with European travellers in 1824, Kosrae had a highly stratified society, typical of the surrounding islands of the time. Its cultural features included matrilineal lineage and clans, with a feudal structure of "nobles" controlling land worked by "commoners" and settlements consisting of small groups of close relatives sharing a single cook house.

The first missionary post was established by Congregationalists in 1852, and virtually the whole island had converted to Christianity by the 1870s.[5] Today, many sects of Christianity are represented on Kosrae, and religion still plays an integral role in culture.

The pirate Bully Hayes was shipwrecked on Kosrae on March 15, 1874, when his ship the Leonora was caught in Lelu harbor during a storm. Bully Hayes made his home in Utwe for seven months, during which he terrorized the local people.[6] In September 1874, HMS Rosario (under the command of Captain Dupuis) arrived to investigate the claims against Hayes. He was arrested, but then escaped in a 14-foot boat, built of timber from the wreck of the Leonora.[7] His treasure may have been left behind, buried somewhere in the forest, although subsequent diggings have failed to uncover it.[8] In 1885, after a dispute between the Spanish Empire and the German Empire, finally resolved under the terms of the Vatican State, the Spanish Navy took effective control of the island. After the Spanish defeat against the United States in the war of 1898, on February the 2nd 1899 Spain sold the Carolinas Islands to Germany for 25 million pesetas (17 million German marks). The island came under the control of the Empire of Japan after World War I.

Extensive economic improvements took place during the Japanese South Pacific Mandate of 1914 to 1945. The island was practically run by a few missionaries who converted the population; Willard Price, when he visited in the 1930s, reported that the island had no jail, there had been no murders there in sixty years, and alcohol and tobacco were unheard of.[9] The island was fortified by the Japanese during World War II, but no battles occurred on Kosrae. The Japanese garrison commanded by Lieutenant-General Yoshikazu Harada consisted of 3,811 IJA men including a company of tanks and 700 IJA men.[10] Tunnel bunkers were dug into the tops of some of the island's interior peaks and some are still intact.

In 1945, administration over Kosrae passed to the United States, which ruled the island as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Aid and investment increased from the 1960s.[11]

During the Trust Territory (TTPI) period, Kosrae was initially administered as one of the municipalities of the Ponape (Pohnpei) District, but in 1977 became a separate district.[12] When the Micronesian constitution was defeated in the TTPI districts of Palau and the Marshall Islands, Kosrae joined the remaining districts (Yap, Chuuk and Pohnpei) to form the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Kosrae is the only one-island FSM state (whereby the seven or eight small nearshore islands within the fringing reef, most importantly Lelu Island, are subsumed under the main island), while the other three states are each composed of many islands.

Until 1977, Kosrae was subdivided into districts or villages at the sub-municipality level:

  1. Lelu (consisting of Lelu Island only)
  2. Yepen (mainland part of today's Lelu municipality, with Tofol, the state capital)
  3. Tafunsak (roughly corresponding to today's Tafunsak municipality)
  4. Malem (roughly corresponding to today's Malen municipality)
  5. Utwa (roughly corresponding to today's Utwa municipality)

By 1980, five municipalities had been created from the former villages or districts:

  1. Lelu (created from the villages of Lelu district (island) and Yepen district)
  2. Tafunsak (created from the northeastern part of Tafunsak district)
  3. Walung (created from the southwestern part of Tafunsak district)
  4. Malem (created from Malem district)
  5. Utwa (created from Utwa district)

The number of municipalities has subsequently been reduced to four (by integrating Walung into Tafunsak).


In early times, a system of exchange based on sea shells existed on Kosrae, although little is currently known about how it operated. [13]

Since the 1960s, the Kosraean government has become the main employer on the island, where fishing and traditional farming remain the main source of the islanders' subsistence. Imports have replaced almost all other native manufactures.[14] The U.S dollar is the official currency used in Kosrae and throughout Micronesia.

There is a small tourism industry, mainly centered around scuba diving on the coral reef that rings the island.


Traditional foods have included breadfruit, coconut, banana, taro, yam, and sugarcane. Breadfruit was the usual staple food, and it was preserved in leaf-lined pits for times of scarcity. Coconuts were reserved for nobles.

Food was a central part of island life, since each settlement consisted of small family groups gathered around a cook house containing at least one earth oven. Soft taro was made into a feast food called fahfah by men trained in the elaborate skills needed to prepare it properly, who also prepared suhka (Kava). Brewed from the roots of a mountain plant, Suhka was served to members of the nobility. Fish were harvested mainly from the lagoon using nets.

Daily food for most families today consists of imported rice and tinned meats and fish, combined with fresh local fish and root crops. Even today, fahfah and pork are considered mainly feast foods.[15] It is thought that the Japanese introduced lime trees to the island, which now bear fruit almost all year round and are considered to be of high quality. A variety of tangerines, which are green when ripe,[16] also abound, and are famous and sought after throughout the surrounding islands. Mountain apples, a tropical tree fruit unrelated to apples (Malus), are grown in many parts of Kosrae. There are many varieties of bananas, some that must be cooked before eating and others that can be eaten when still greenish (KALIFORNI). Few vegetables are grown on the island despite the favorable climate, in part because seeds are difficult to obtain. Although in some states there are no pollinating insects, on Kosrae, bees, flies and ants are known to pollinate plants on the island.


Kosrae municipalities of 1980
Walung was absorbed by Tafunsak subsequently

Kosrae State is subdivided into four municipalities.[17]

Of the originally five municipalities of 1980, Walung was subsequently absorbed by Tafunsak.[18]

Municipality Area
(Census 1980)[20]
(Census 2010)[21]
Lelu 21.5 1,995 2,160  
Malem 16.8 1,091 1,300  
Utwe 28.5 912 983  
Tafunsak 23.3 1,342 2,173  
Walung 19.5 151 part of Tafunsak  
Kosrae 109.6 5,491 6,616  

The capital of the state is Tofol, in Lelu municipality.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ US rep at Kosrae OLPC handover:'We are your dedicated partner'
  4. ^ Coello, Francisco "Conflicto hispano-alemán" Boletín de Sociedad Geográfica de Madrid, t.XIX. 2º semestre 1885, Madrid, p.296
  5. ^ Brief history of Kosrae
  6. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography
  7. ^ James A. Michener & A. Grove Day, Bully Hayes, South Sea Buccaneer, in Rascals in Paradise, London: Secker & Warburg 1957
  8. ^ Article on Bully Hayes
  9. ^ Willard Price. The South Sea Adventure: Through Japan’s Equatorial Empire. 1936.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Brief history of Kosrae (ibid.)
  12. ^ Flagspot: Micronesia
  13. ^ The economy of Kosrae
  14. ^ Brief history of Kosrae (ibid.)
  15. ^ Article on economy of Kosrae (ibid.)
  16. ^ Kosrae green tangerines
  17. ^ Kosrae State is made up of four municipalities known as Lelu, Malem, Utwe and TafunsakKosrae State Census Report, 2000 FSM Census of Population and Housing:
  18. ^ TerritoriesPI/1980 Trust Territory Pacific Islands/1980 Number of Inhabitants.pdf Trust Territory Pacific Islands 1980 Number of Inhabitants
  19. ^ Areas converted from square miles, and portions of Walung and Tafunsak before merging estimated from map
  20. ^ TerritoriesPI/1980 Trust Territory Pacific Islands/1980 Number of Inhabitants.pdf
  21. ^ [2]

External links

  • Constitution of the State of Kosrae
  • How to get to Kosrae
  • myMicronesia/Kosrae section
  • Kosrae Surf Tours
  • Jane's Kosrae Page
  • Kosrae Visitors Bureau
  • Photos of Kosrae
  • NOAA's National Weather Service forecast for Kosrae, FSM
  • NOAA color satellite weather image for Kosrae
  • Scuba diving in Kosrae
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