At atoll is a ring of coral surrounding a lagoon. The coral reefs comprising the Marshalls appear to be built on the rims of underwater extinct volcanoes. The atolls are small. Majuro averages less than 1/4 mile wide and is only 1/2 mile wide at its widest point. Most of the atoll is only a few feet above sea level at high tide, and the highest point is about 10 feet.
Approximately 60,000 Marshallese inhabit these islands, which cover 700,000 square miles of ocean. About 26,000 people live on Majuro. The people are of Malayo-Polynesian descent, and their language is Marshallese. There are two dialects of Marshallese, one for the Ratak, or eastern, chain of the Marshall Islands, and one for the Ralik, or western, chain. The dialects are quite similar.
The Marshalls were largely unknown until sighted and documented by the Spanish. During the 1800’s a number of foreign vessels, many whaling ships, came through the islands, and thus the people here became exposed to those from other lands. A few traders settled here, and in the late 1800’s Germany annexed the Marshalls. In the early 1900’s, control passed to Japan which held the Marshalls until WWII. The Marshalls became a Trust Territory of the United States after the war and until 1986 when the Marshalls adopted a Constitution and became their own sovereign nation. They currently have a seat at the UN and embassies in a few countries. They still maintain close ties to the United States and are considered a Freely Associated State. Currently they are part way through a second FAS treaty with the US. With this treaty, Marshallese citizens can migrate to the U.S. and have jobs, access the education and health systems, and buy land. US citizens can come to the Marshall Islands without visas. The US provides funding for some of the government of the Marshalls, and the Marshalls enjoy use of the domestic US Postal System and US currency.