Ujelang Atoll

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FACT FILE
Number of Islets: 30 Population: n/a Land Area: 0.67 square miles Lagoon Area: 25.47 square miles

Ujelang became a relocation center for the people of Enewetak Atoll in 1947 because of atomic tests on that island from 1948 to 1958.

The first European to visit Ujelang Atoll was Álvaro de Saavedra in 1529. He was followed a number of Spanish explorers over the hundred years or so. In 1884, the atoll was claimed, with the rest of the Marshall Islands, by the German Empire. Germans created copra plantations on the atoll’s main island. After World War I, it was ruled by the Japanese Empire. By 1935, there 40 residents on the atoll.

After World War II, the island came under the control of the United States as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands until the independence of the Marshall Islands in 1986. The island became a relocation center for the people of Enewetak Atoll in 1947 because of atomic tests on that island from 1948 to 1958. By 1973, the population had grown to 342, despite droughts and famines.

The people of Enewetak living on Ujelang dearly wanted to go back to their home. Finally, the US did an expensive cleanup of Enewetak and then planted hundreds of new coconut palms. In 1980, all Ujelang inhabitants went back to Enewetak. Some returned, but by 1989, it was officially uninhabited. It is now owned by the Enewetak Council and is visited irregularly by residents to gather food. The usual method is for the Enewetak ship Lady E to carry smaller boats to the atoll and stay a few days while the people harvest what’s available, such as coconut crabs and fruit.

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