Wotje Commercial Airport.
Republic of the Marshall Islands

A Photo Essay
by Jon G. O'Neill

   Wotje was the first stop on the Air Marshall Islands (AMI) flight from Majuro to Likiep where I was going to research the Likiep Village Historic Site. For various reasons ours was the first flight in several weeks. Consequently, not only did a large number of locals gather to see the event but a significant amount of fresh food was loaded for carriage back to family members living on Majuro. Some of the insulated ice boxes had to be secured in the aisle as there was no room in the luggage compartments.
   Thirty-five airfields in the Marshall Islands have been allocated an IATA three-letter code including U.S. military fields. They service the needs of the two (Ratak and Ralik) archipelagic island chains of thirty atolls comprising almost 1,200 islands, and their estimated population of 71,000. Most airfields are unpaved, have minimal or no facilities and are suitable only for operations by small aircraft. Only four are paved. However, Majuro International and Kwajalein handle larger passenger jets and regular international services are provided by Continental Air Micronesia.
   The following photographs of Wotje airfield were taken by the author in 1999 during research for a Post-graduate Honours degree from Charles Sturt University, Australia. Work had not begun on the proposed extensions to the airport and demolition of Japanese-era buildings at the end of the runway.

Photograph taken during overflight of Wotji Atoll prior to landing.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Another view during the landing approach. In both pictures, the gaps between the islands display the dynamic processes of island building on a low coral atoll as wave and tidal action alternately build-up and remove coral base.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

We were quite unaccustomed to island style runways and became a little concerned when the plane was flying lower than the coconut palms but all we could see was what looked like a rough bush track!
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

By comparison the "hardstand" appeared to be much more acceptable. However, the landing and subsequent takeoff proved to be very anti-climactic as both were smooth and comfortable.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

This radial engine was resting beside the runway. A passenger asked if it was being kept for spares!
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Another view of the World War II relic.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

As a weekly visit the aircraft always attracts curious visitors who wander across the runway at any time - after all it is only a runway for an hour or so each week.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Another view of the 'terminal' and the large crowd of all ages who came to watch.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

[Atolls of the Marshall Islands]

Bibliographic citation for this document

O'Neill, Jon G. (2002). Wotje Commercial Airport, Republic of the Marshall Islands-- A Photo Essay. URL: http:/marshall.csu.edu.au/Marshalls/html/History/Ebon_Wreck2.html

Jon G. O'Neill Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.
e-mail: jooneill@csu.edu.au

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.
e-mail: dspennemann@csu.edu.au

Authorisation to conduct research in the RMI was obtained from the Honorable Mr. Hiroshi Yamamura, Minister of Internal Affairs and Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Yokwe and komol tata.

Jon G. O'Neill 2002
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