Sokehs Island
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An Introduction to Sokehs Island

Distant Sokehs Island, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)

Pingelapese girl, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)

Canoe race in Mwalok, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)

Paddling Daumwoakote, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)

Sokehs Island (pronounced sō.kĕhs) is the largest and highest of Pohnpei’s lagoon islands with an elevation of 276 meters. A long mostly flat-topped mountain called Pohndollap runs north-south across the island, ending at imposing Paipalap (Sokehs Rock). The island is historically significant for its role in the 1910 Sokehs Rebellion against the German colonial government and was one of several locations around Pohnpei heavily fortified by the Japanese prior to World War II. It is also notable for its many outer-island residents — people of Pingelapese, Mwoakillese, Ngatikese, and Mortlockese descent — who were allowed to settle in Sokehs in the early 1900s.

Today the island has one of the highest population densities in Pohnpei and seems perpetually a-buzz with activity. An interesting time to visit is New Year’s Eve, which is celebrated with a startling blend of coordinated noise-making, marching, water-throwing, and cross-dressing. The people are generally very friendly all around, and an amiable visitor is apt to make many new acquaintances on the road. As always, watch out for hostile dogs, speeding taxis, and the occasional delirious drunk.

A History of Sokehs Island

Sokehs Island has played a prominent role in Pohnpei’s history going all the way back to ancient times. Oral histories tell of Olsihpa and Olsohpa, two sorceror brothers who journeyed to Pohnpei from a far away land, looking for the perfect place to build a powerful empire. They landed first at the northern end of Sokehs Island (then known as Soupaip) and did some experimental building in what is probably present-day Ipwal. There are many versions of the tale, but most storytellers agree that the brothers abandoned their efforts in Sokehs and moved on to a new location because they found the local inhabitants unaccommodating. One interpretation of the name’s meaning is “do not bring different people among them.”

During the Saudeleur Period, what now comprises Sokehs and Nett Municipalities was referred to as Pwapwalik and consisted of several semi-autonomous regions that paid tribute to Nan Madol. Sokehs was not united until the mid-1700s, when the Sounkawad clan conquered the whole northern part of Pohnpei and established the Wasai Sokehs as the traditional leader of the chiefdom. During this period there were repeated skirmishes between Sokehs and the chiefdom of U, one of which was documented by infamous Tattooed Irishman James F. O’Connell, a beachcomber and probable convict who jumped ship and found himself on Pohnpei sometime in the 1820s.

A decade or so later, when Protestant missionaries led by Edward Doane established a mission station in the north, the Wasai Sokehs did his best to oppose the newcomers, fearing that they would undermine his power. In the end, he mostly got what he wanted; the northern mission was eventually abandoned under pressure from the Spanish government and Sokehs went Catholic (and remains predominantly so to this day). Conflicts in the region did not end, however. In 1867 the Wasai adopted the Lepen Nett title and greatly angered the people of Nett, particularly the man who was next in line for the title. When the Wasai finally died in 1874, Nett split off and became its own chiefdom.

The turn of the century was characterized by bloody engagements between Sokehs and the short-lived Spanish colonial government based at present-day Kolonia. The most well-known conflict, however, took place in 1910 after the Spanish had departed and the Germans had taken over control of the island. It began in response to a road-building project, imposed on the Sokehs people by the German government, and led to the murder of the German administrator and an assault on Kolonia. The Germans ordered up reinforcements, including hundreds of Melanesian troops, and trapped most of the rebels on Sokehs Mountain, where they were bombarded by German warships. The attack forced the rebels to scatter. Eventually, the leaders, including two lesser chiefs, surrendered and were executed by firing squad. Almost the entire remaining population of Sokehs was sent to Palau to work in Germany’s phosphate mines, and outer-island people from Pingelap, Mwoakilloa, Sapwuahfik, and the Mortlocks were settled in the vacant lands.

Sokehs Island Eco-Adventure Guide

This 18 x 20 inch (45.72 x 50.8 cm) full-color double-sided field guide folds down to 9 x 4 inches (22.86 x 10 cm) and covers Sokehs Island and the immediate area around it. It contains:

Sokehs Island Eco-Adventure Guide Sokehs Island Eco-Adventure Guide

Sokehs Island Attractions

Sokehs Mountain (Pohndollap), Sokehs Island, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)

Sokehs Mountain

Sokehs Mountain Sokehs Mountain or Pohndollap, which means "on the big hill," is a long, mostly flat-topped ridge running north-south along the length of Sokehs Island with a knoll-like summit near the middle. The mountain was a refuge for the insurgents ...
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Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

Sokehs Rock

Sokehs Rock Paipalap, or Sokehs Rock, is without question the most striking feature of Pohnpei’s topography. Over 100 vertical meters (328 ft) of exposed basalt form the upper portion of a gigantic volcanic plug that juts from the north end of ...
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Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

Sport-Climbing on Sokehs Island

Sport-Climbing on Sokehs Island The Spire "The Spire" is exactly what it sounds like -- a dagger-like basalt pinnacle rising 50 meters (165 ft) above the top of Sokehs Ridge immediately south of Paipalap. Named in 2005 by Daniel Moor, who scaled ...
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Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

Kepindau & Pohn Pillap Waterfalls

Kepindau & Pohn Pillap Waterfalls Kepindau Waterfall The larger of two small waterfalls found on Sokehs Island (the only waterfalls not on the main island of Pohnpei) is known as Kepindau and is located in Tamwarohi Kousapw on the private land of ...
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Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

The Doldrums at APSCO Quarry

Picnicking & Swimming "The Doldrums" The hottest days call for the coolest swimming holes, and there’s no better place than the "Doldrums" at APSCO Gravel Quarry, owned by the Akinaga family. The quarry property encompasses all of the land around Dolehtik, a ...
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Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

The German Road

The German Road In 1909, the German colonial government tried to force the residents of Sokehs to build a road around the northern end of Sokehs Island. When the people didn't cooperate, they were beaten and humiliated. Ultimately, this sparked the ...
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Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

Sokehs Island Paddling

Sokehs Island Paddling Daumwoakote Daumwoakote, the magical 2 km (1.24 mi) mangrove passage running between Sokehs Island and Pohnpei Island, is an absolute must-see for anyone with a heart for adventure and an eye for beauty. If you launch opposite St. Peter's ...
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Pohnpei Diving – North Side Sites

North Side Dive Sites "Manta Road" Manta Road is easily Pohnpei's most famous dive spot due to its resident community of manta rays (including the all-black Black Morph variety) that cruise back and forth through the narrow channel as they filter-feed. The ...
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Sokehs Island GPS Data

Sokehs Island GPS Data Downloads >> GPS Central >> Sokehs Island GPS Data ...
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Fat-Tire Biking

The Best Type of Bike Pohnpei is a wild place. There are no paved bike paths or bike lanes on the roads. Off-road conditions are muddy, rocky, slippery, and very rough. Potholes are everywhere. For these reasons, mountain bikes are the ...
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Kalangan to Tony Martin of Ipwal for helping to check Sokehs Island place names for accuracy and for all of the information about legends and history; Peterson Anson of Pohnpei Transportation & Infrastructure for helping to create the beautiful shaded relief on our maps; Danko Taborosi of Island Research & Education Initiative (IREI) for his considerable support and technical assistance; and Bermance Aldis at FSM Resources & Development for covering the cost of printing and shipping.

Eco-Adventure Map Guides >> Sokehs Island