” The land, not the man, is chief” is an ancient Yapese adage. People come and go. Money, in some of its traditional forms, is perhaps more longlasting, but fortunes gained can be easily lost, and value is a matter of constantly changing interpretation. Only the land perseveres, faithfully supplying the primary needs of food, dothing and shelter, since time immemorial.
With only a limited amount of desirable land available, the quert for property and the judicious use of it have taken on special significance in Yap. So much so that status in Yap’s highly complicated social hierarchy system is still defined by land ownership, as are the rights and responsibilities of each individual in a Yapese corn-munity.
The State of Yap stretches from 6 to 10 degree North Latitude and 137 to 148 degrees West Longitude and covers over 100,000 square miles. The total fand mass in the State, though, is quite small – only 45.9 square miles, 38.7 of which mode up Yap proper. There are, however, a great many distinct land masses, approximately 149, of which around 22 are currently populated.
There are four high volcanic islands that make up Yap proper: Rumung, Maap, Gagil-Tomil, and Yap. Yap and Gagil-Tomil are the largest two islands and are separated by a canal finished during the German administration.
The island complex is only about 16 miles long and eight miles wide. Yap boasts a large number of cross island waterways, inlets and channels, though, and an extensive shoreline that creates and illusion of greater size.
The highest point in Yap proper is Tabywol Mountain in Weloy Municipality. Rising almost six hundred feet above sea Level, Tabywol offers a spectacular view of Yap’s ten municipalities, from the foam tipped waves breaking on the reefs of Rumung in the north, to the grass cover top of Bird Island off the southern tip of Gilman.
Much of the land is rugged and hilly, especially the northern area of Maap, but lush pockets of vegetation are visible in every direction. Gagil and Tomil stand out because of their distinctive red clay valleys and ridges. Fanif and Weloy are notable for their thick jungles and die many coves, islets and small islands which dot the shorelines. Further south are Rull and Colonia – Yap’s version of the big city, which, with its one main intersection is still very much like a small frontier town.