National Geographic : 1950 Apr
U. S. Navy, Official As Tightly Packed as a City Suburb Is Tiny Touhou Island Most of the 500 people on Kapingamarangi atoll live in the thatch-roofed homes crowded in this semi circular spot, though a few dwell on adjacent Werua, left, and other islands. Large building in the center is the village church. At upper right breakers from the open sea crash on the encircling reef. Other islands serve as gardens for coconuts, breadfruit trees, bananas, and beds of puraka, or swamp taro. It doesn't take long to meet almost every person on the atoll. The majority of Ka pingamarangi's 500 inhabitants dwell on an island so tiny that you can walk around it in five minutes. Most of the rest live on two flanking islands, separated only by narrow water channels which are shallow enough to be crossed afoot at low tide. Unlike many Pacific islanders, the people here prefer to live in a small, compact com munity. The other islands are sources of food supply. On them are breadfruit trees, massed coconut groves, pandanus, banana plants, and the puraka beds. Here at Kapingamarangi the puraka, with larger leaves and longer stalks but with a comparatively small, hourglass-shaped root, has supplanted the common taro in recent years. It was introduced from Nukuoro and thrives better in the sunken beds than the original taro, which produces a large columnar rootstock. To get to the outlying island "farms," every family has its outrigger canoe. Numerous craft shuttle about the atoll on food-gathering missions (pages 526 and 533). The reef and the lagoon are combed for fish and other sea foods.