RU  UK  EN
Articles  >  Visit  >  Nan Madol: A City over an Abyss

Nan Madol: A City over an Abyss

Author: 09.04.2018 | travel, Micronesia
Only an abandoned artificial archipelago with traces of extinct civilizations can better than a deserted island! Cadent splash of oars that plows blue dreams of the Pacific Ocean quells drumroll of ecstasy in your temples while preparing will and mind to the meeting with the greatest mystery of Micronesia. Nan Madol lies empty for more than one hundred years; mighty walls are gnawed away by sea salt but even in thrall of oblivion the forbidden city doesn’t lose its greatness.

From a bird’s perspective Nan Madol looks like a labyrinth of small islands scattered around south-eastern coast of volcanic Pohnpei Island in the west of Caroline Archipelago. An attentive eye will soon spot a system in emerald chaos of shredded scraps of land: ninety two tiny islands shape streets, squares and alleys connected by canals and not at random but in perfectly straight lines. In hours of low tide, water retreats to give way to unprecedentedly mighty metallic constructions.

Photo outpostmagazine.com

Ruins of Nan Madol are distinctive for their unusual pattern of stonework that can be seen nowhere else in the world except also on neighboring Kosrae Island where remains of another ancient city – Lelu – were found. Monumental basalt columns lying crosswise make for colossal constructions eight to eighteen meters high. Weight of the blocks reach and exceed thirty tons. It is even more amazing given that basalt rocks, where raw material was probably mined, can only be found on the other side of Pohnpei.

Imagination of charmed globetrotters defies illiterate aborigines rolling huge blocks therefore it comes as no surprise that occult passions huff and puff around the Pacific Venice. Erection of Nan Madol is attributed to anybody and everybody – aliens from space, a race of giants from lost continent Lemuria or even to an underwater army of the great and dreadful Cthulhu. Even Lovecraft himself in his Shadow over Innsmouth implies that megaliths of Nan Madol and Lelu were created by the Great Old Ones.

Photo pohnpei-adventure.com

In fact, there was no need in supernatural intervention – improvised means were just enough. Cooling down lava formed vertical basalt outlets in the shape of hexagonal columns so they didn’t have to do any stone dressing while in order to lift and move the blocks islanders used leverages that were familiar even to primitive men. Stone plates were often damaged during transportation but aborigines learned to patch up gaps using coral heads. Under impressive weight of the stonework, drying coral would turn into a hermetic substance that replaced mortar.

According to data of radiocarbon analysis, Nan Madol was developed in several stages over 5th – 8th century. Shatters of a destroyed atoll that is mentioned in annals under the name Kanamwayso – Residence of Gods – serves as a foundation for water-lodged constructions. Heyday of the city coincides with the period of reign of Saudeler Dynasty. History of fight for power is reflected in epic tales about twin brothers Olisihpa and Olosohpa. They both possessed secret knowledge so it was no trouble for them to conquer all tribes of the island. Caring about prosper of the kingdom, the twins built a city in honor of the god of harvest by making a dragon lift “land of gods” from sea bottom. Upon Olisihpa’s death Olosohpa became a sole ruler of Pohnpei and his son founded Saudeler family that reigned since 1200 through 1648.

Photo pohnpei-adventure.com

In south-eastern part of Nan Madol houses of worship are preserved that help compile an idea of religious practices of Micronesian Empire. Gods and goddesses were identified with animals and at that each totem deserved a splendid temple complex located on a separate island. Central temple was situated on Ided Isalnd where they worshiped sea god Reeke in the shape of an eel. Two stone pools survived till our times: one of them was intended for the divine eel, in the second one small fishes were bred to feed the “idol”. On a neighboring island, Nanunsunsan goddess dwelled in the shape of a turtle. Till now divers find shells of sacrifices “goddesses” decorated with pearls on bottoms of canals.

The Saudelers told chieftains of conquered tribes to relocate to Nan Madol, closer to gods and spirits. For such honors they were supposed to eternally glorify their emperor however through disguise of ostentatious generosity, political motives showed clearly. It was much easier to execute surveillance over potential leaders and limit contacts of senior dignitaries with plain folk, embittered by exorbitant tributes and depredations of royal entourage, while they all were on a limited territory. Fables have it that among rulers there occasionally were cannibals and on their orders people were kidnapped.

Decay of Nan Madol is attributed to invasion of bellicose tribes from Kosrae Island. According to a legend, chieftain of the conquerors Isokelel was a son of the god of storm who decided to teach a good lesson to the last of Saudelers. When royal palace on Pahn Kadira Island was surrounded by warriors, the tyrant jumped into the water and turned into a fish while the city, cursed by the gods, got deserted and came to decay to become a resort for of evil spirits.

Photo pohnpei-adventure.com

Dilapidated mausoleum of the Saudelers on Nan Duvas Island is still considered dominant in Nan Madol. The citadel is surrounded by double fortress walls and three open-ended fortifications, divided by trenches. It is only possible to penetrate the yard through a tiny manhole: when crawling into the fortress on their knees, islanders got filled with sensation of own nonentity. Cold cell in underground prison awaited those who didn’t show required awing while property of victims of royal brutality was seized in favor of the treasury.

There were talks that during Japanese occupation platinum sarcophagi of Saudelers along with other treasures discovered during excavations of temples were taken from Nan Madol. Polite response of Tokyo to official request of American administration of Pohnpei, sure enough, refuted wild rumors… However who knows what mysteries are hidden behind gloomy walls of the megaliths?

Main photo wondermondo.com

It will be interesting:
Montmartre of Belgrade
There are few ones similar to it. Around 400 meters long. With its special atmosphere. Small town inside a city. Cars don’t drive here. Here you can feel old uneven stone-blocked pavement beneath your feet with paintings on buildings around being so delusive that one cannot make out where there is a real window-balcony-door and where it is merely a picture…
Departure: Con Dao
The week passed in a desperate anticipation of vacations. I’ve been enthusiastically terrorizing GoogleMaps zooming in and out the precious dot of terrain against the background of deep blue ocean turn and turn about. At a reduced scale I saw open jaws of the Hollywood Alien, impudently teased by a midge at its very nostrils.
Bolivia: spilt salt spells tourists
It turns out possible to walk in heaven living on Earth. It is enough to go to the south of a small country of Bolivia, to one of the most extraordinary deserts of the world – Uyuni. When looking at pictures of tourists who had been there you can’t help asking: “Are you sure it isn’t Photoshop-made?”
Valga. City at the crossroads
People who like to travel usually visit the same places. Citizens of Paris, Venice, Rome, Krakow, Dresden have become accustomed to tourists for so long that they often look cavalierly at them, pouting their lips, while less known but no less interesting towns or villages always welcome guests.
If you have 10 dollars and you are in New York
Finally, one of our favorite categories reached the city, where dollars are considered as the main currency. Thus, we will not have to go around exchange offices and constantly convert prices. So, we go to such a different and exciting New York to spend our 10 dollars.
Salzburg attractions: A birthplace of geniuses
Here were born composer Mozart and poet Georg Trakl, here Haydn wrote his operas, and many other famous people are connected with Salzburg. But only a small part of local attractions is linked to these geniuses. A city with a fairly small population, thanks to its memorable places was listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site.
Gjirokastër: “Albanian Rome”
A function of UNESCO World Heritage Committee is to work in the most careful manner year after year on studying objects that constitute outstanding culture civilizations and are unique in their origins. Under number 569 of an impressive list of the organization city of Gjirokastër, the one from the south of Albania, is located – it is it we are going to study today through the length and breadth.
Ferris wheel goes round...
Except for Russian-speaking countries, nowhere else a round metal attraction is called a devil’s wheel. Named after its creator, Ferris wheel first opened panorama of Chicago city from 80-meter height in 1893. Since then rotating upright wheels with multiple passenger cabins began to spring up almost in every big city. OUTLOOK offers you to learn about the most impressive observation wheels.
Interesting not only in city centers. Residential districts of the world
There are hardly many travelers who would go somewhere further than city centre where their hotel is situated when on a short-term journey. And if location is a metropolis on top of everything else, such “outside” trips are sure to be put on hold till better occasions.
Lost island of Yap. The land of big money
How can you understand the nature of finance, if there is no desire to go deep into the jungle of science? It is better to see once, than to read a hundred times: a trip to the island of Yap in Micronesia replaces the entire university course of monetary theory. Yap roads are lined up with giant doughnut-shaped, carved disks the size of a millstone - rampant inflation has made the world biggest money into fun for tourists.
Departure: Jamaica
Jamaicans like rum, marihuana (hardly anybody seems to be bothered by the fact that it isn’t officially legal there), Bob Marley and… attending churches. They also wouldn’t mind winning several Olympic medals as well as competing for a crown of a beauty queen. Today we get acquainted with peculiarities of both serious and funny Jamaica.
We were there: Budapest is an underground, aesthetics and recovery city
The creative copywriter Masha Goldman travel around half a planet. The girl can compare travels with the useful drug. Masha tells that every trip, even the shortest and least far gives her complete renewal of powers and it seems that the new life begins.
Don’t get lost: The most interesting markets of Istanbul
Eastern cities are hard to imagine without a huge number of the commercial places. It is in the genes of the local citizens to sell and buy regardless their age and status. Despite the fact that Istanbul is semi-European city, the metropolis has prominent oriental features. So as to know exactly where to go and what to buy, OUTLOOK talks about the most spectacular markets after returning from Istanbul.
Alfama: Moorish heritage of Lisbon
Today we are inviting you for a walk in the oldest neighbourhood in the city of Lisbon, the famous Alfama, an emblematic quarter we often see in the movies and works of popular culture when it comes to the Portuguese capital.
Travel to Columbia. Another Cartagena
In the world there are two Cartagenas. In both, their inhabitants speak Spanish, love bullfighting, and in the evenings they go to the beach to skip the mojito and breathe the salty wind. But only in one of them a rhythm of hot salsa, placers of emeralds and pearls can burst into a languid city walk, and bright, hot beauties can cross the road. And this is Colombia!
Iceland through the eyes of Sofiya Andrushchenko
Iceland is a ‘country of ice and fire’, ‘country of thousand rivers and lakes’, countless waterfalls and geysers. There, like in a fairy tale, again and again, you feel like pinching yourself to check if you are dreaming or does it all really exist…
History of the street: Spiegelgasse
Spiegelgasse is originated from German collocation ‘Mirror street’ or ‘Mirror alley’. However, it is not the biggest and the most important street in Zurich. Moreover, it is vice versa, incredibly short and narrow… Well, being situated in the quiet nooks of the old city in such a way that no tourists could see it.
Pay your fare and look out of the window: The coolest tram routes in the world
Despite many pessimistic forecasts of urbanists of the 20th century, on-street trammanaged to stand up competition withsubways, cars and other means of public transport, and even found a second wind in modern city. The beginning of the 21stcentury, with its incredible technologies will surely become history as an era of "tram renaissance".
The brightest places in Croatia: Gateway for aristocrats
Croatia is dubbed the pearl of the Adriatic coast. This country in the south of Central Europe recently became a member of the European Union. Now its beauty sites are much visited: every year more than 10 million tourists come to enjoy it, that is even more than population of the country. Let’s find out what attracts travellers so much.
Puerto Rico: Swimming with fireflies
Many travelers just don’t want to go into all the troubles to get an American visa for some two weeks of holidays. But having glanced at pictures of Puerto Rican Mosquito Bay they’ll change their minds instantly. Dark sea slick, silence… when suddenly mysterious green glow from the depth extends the darkness to shock the public on the shore.
Close
Outlook facebook page