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Index – Culture – Pacific ghost town protected by myth

The massive stone monsters of Nan Madol – basalt walls made up of tons of rock – were built under mysterious circumstances at least as much as the giant human head statues on Easter Island, or Stonehenge that remains impressive and mysterious. Micronesia’s ghost town lived its heyday for more than 800 years, and Albert Lin, exploring the Lost Cities, sets out to unravel the secret of Nan Madol.

After nearly a thousand years, the mangrove-covered archipelago is nowhere near its former self. Of course, under the living foliage, the same basalt structures await the explorer, they hide well in the vegetation cover, so it is almost impossible to see them with the naked eye, to discover their darkest secrets.

Ghost Town in the Pacific

It is no longer easy to approach the artificial archipelago, because it is still in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Nan Madol was the center of the late Al Saud dynasty. The inhabitants of the archipelago still believe in superstitions – they are convinced that ghosts inhabit and guard them. Aliens arriving on the island are also not safe: if they do not ask the king for permission to enter and do not attend a party, they may die, too. At least there were examples of this…

It is not enough that Nan Madol, like Venice, is a canal city, and the extent of the archipelago is too large to be mapped except by drone (it is walkable, although this can be done by way of a mangrove forest instead. from distance). Its largest central sanctuary, like the other buildings, was built of basalt. It is not possible to explain where they came from here and how they were able to stack these stone blocks of several tons on top of each other, because the ocean does not produce basalt and there were no cranes at that time …

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There are no written records of the construction of Nan Madol. Settlement history spread through oral tradition. With today’s head – and according to the laws of its physics – it is inexplicable that these rocks were moved. According to the locals, the basalt columns were magically lifted up, and the boulders literally “float on top of each other”. Were these multi-ton basalt columns really flying? However, being a naturalist, Albert Lane is not satisfied with this alternative.

He discovers that a basalt mountain rises 10 miles from Nan Madol: the only formation from which the settlement’s basalt columns can rest. However, another question arises: 800 years ago, how were the fragments of rocks weighing several tons crushed and transported to the other end of the island? It is impossible for the basalt to be transported through the forest, so it seems that the only solution is water transport. After all, where there are mangroves, there is also water, and water, despite this, has the ability to float.

Thanks to the drone, the research team also noticed a strange thing on the ocean floor – black basalt rocks. This discovery may support the hypothesis that earlier inhabitants actually transported rocks through canals to Nan Madol. However, even Albert Lin does not realize whether the 9-meter-long column on the ocean floor is basalt or part of a natural reef. One thing is for sure: coral does not grow vertically…

(Cover Photo: Andre Seale / VW PICS / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)