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Majuro, the capital of The Marshall Islands, was our last stop before we headed on to Hawaii. There was much debate on my part as to whether or not we would actually stop, I’d heard such bad reviews about all the hotels on the island and about the island itself.

In the end, I decided it would be best to check it out because my motto these days seems to be: it may be a long while before I’m this way again.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands consists entirely of low-lying coral atolls. There are 29 separate atolls in the Marshalls which contain a total of 1,225 islands, 870 reef systems and over 160 specis of coral. The Marshalls are one of four other all-atoll nations. The others are: The Maldives, Kiribati and Tuvalu.

Bikini and Kwajelein atolls are part of the Marshall Islands. I’ve had several people ask me “what exactly is an atoll?” so I did a little research and here’s what I found out:

In 1837, scientists first became interested in atolls and coral reefs when Charles Darwin returned from his 5 year exploratory expedition through the Pacific and Indian oceans. Darwin postulated the following stages of an atoll:

Stage 1: After a volcanic island is created, a fringing coral reef begins to develop closely around it. Oahu, Hawaii is considered to be in Stage 1.

Stage 2: Over millions of years, the volcanic island steadily sinks back into the ocean. The distance between the fringing reefs and the island becomes larger and larger. Eventually, the reef becomes a barrier reef. Guam would be considered in stage 2.

Stage 3:  Over time the high volcanic island becomes a smaller and smaller island.

Stage 4: Ultimately, the entire island is washed away to the sea and all that’s left is the barrier reef outline which is what is referred to as the coral atoll.

Other atoll facts:

* The word atoll comes from the Maldivian word atolhu.

* Atolls can only be found in tropical ocean regions, near the equator.

* Coral reefs, which form the foundation of atolls, can only be grown in waters with an average temperature of 23 to 25 degrees celsius.

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