Cook Islands, New Zealand home rule of the South Pacific; 293 km2,
17,700 residents (2001). The islands are located 3000 km NE of the mother
country and consist of a northern and a southern group. The main island of
Rarotonga with the capital Avarua is located in the southern group where 90% of
the population lives; the northern, more dispersed group consists of small coral
islands and reefs and is home to a more traditional culture. The Cook Islands
are formally an independent country, but the residents have New Zealand
citizenship, and a larger number have emigrated to New Zealand, where they are
called Cook Island Maori because they are Polynesians closely related
to New Zealand's indigenous people.
The economic basis is weak; Imports of goods are usually 10-15 times larger
than exports. The main sources of income are aid from New Zealand and
significant tourism. In addition to the large public sector, the tourism
industry is the most important employer. Also the sale of stamps and the
cultivation of cultured pearls contribute to the economy along with private
transfers from those taken to New Zealand.
The Cook Islands have a tropical climate. Precipitation varies widely. The
north-facing slopes of Rarotonga are located in the trade wind belt and have an
annual rainfall of over 200 cm, while the northern islands are quite dry. All
the islands are formed as a result of volcanic activity. Rarotonga as the
youngest is clearly volcanic, while various stages of atoll development and
coral reef formation can be observed on the other islands.
Archaeological evidence suggests early Polynesian immigration and an
organized society from approximately 1100. In 1595, Spanish sailors were the first
Europeans to meet the northern group of the Cook Islands, and in the 1770's,
Captain James Cook visited the southern group and called it the Hervey
Islands. From 1821 onwards, foreign missionaries and merchants, in collaboration
with powerful chiefs, gradually gained greater influence over the development of
society on the islands, which in 1824 was given the name Cook Islands. In 1888,
Britain declared the islands a protectorate, and in 1901 it was annexed by New
Zealand, which as a colonial power retained full control of the country until
Guam, the southernmost and largest of the islands in the Marianas archipelago
in the western Pacific; 541 km2, 155,000 residents (2000). Just
under half of the population state that they are of local (chamorro)
descent. Guam is a so-called Unincorporated Territory under
the United States with a single seat (without the right to vote) in the House of
Representatives in Washington. The local government is run by an elected senate
in the capital city of Agana.
One-third of Guam's area is occupied by US military bases. Anderson Air Force
Base occupies the northern part of the island; from here, bombing raids departed
during the Vietnam War. Apra Harbor is a naval base with shipyard and
support base for the United States' strategic submarine nuclear strike
force. Agriculture and industry are of limited importance, while tourism is
rising sharply; it is predominantly Japanese who, among other things, visit the
war memorials from World War II.
Guam consists of low volcanic mountains to the south and a coral plateau to
the north. The climate is tropical-humid, and Guam is occasionally hit by
typhoons, thus in 1992 by "Omar", which destroyed thousands of houses and threw
several of the naval base's warships ashore.
Guam was populated between 3000 and 2000 BC. The culturally homogeneous
chamorro population subsisted on simple farming and fishing. Mutual giving and
worship of the spirits of the deceased were important cultural traits.
In 1521, Magellan landed as the first European on Guam. Other seafarers
followed and in 1565 claimed the island for Spain. The island was for a long
time the supply station for Spanish galleons from Manila, which sailed once a
year between the Spanish colonies of the Philippines and Mexico.
Many years of fighting with the Spaniards reduced the number of chamorro from
over 50,000 to approximately 3000, and in the late 1600-t. Spain gained full control
of the Marianas. During colonial times, the culture of the Chamorro was strongly
influenced by Mexico and later by the Philippines. Today's chamorro are of mixed
In 1898, Guam was taken over by the United States. Until 1950, the U.S.
Department of the Navy administered the island, interrupted only by Japanese
occupation 1941-44 during World War II, before Guam was recaptured by the United
States after a series of fierce battles. The island gained limited autonomy in
1950, and the population has since pushed for it to be expanded. However, this
is complicated by the economic dependence on the United States.