1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Guam

GUAM (Span. Guajan; Guahan, in the native Chamorro), the largest and most populous of the Ladrone or Mariana Islands, in the North Pacific, in 13° 26′ N. lat. and 144° 39′ E. long., about 1823 m. E. by S. of Hong Kong, and about 1450 m. E. of Manila. Pop. (1908) about 11,360, of whom 363 were foreigners, 140 being members of the U.S. naval force. Guam extends about 30 m. from N.N.E. to S.S.W., has an average width of about 61/2 m., and has an area of 207 sq. m. The N. portion is a plateau from 300 to 600 ft. above the sea, lowest in the interior and highest along the E. and W. coast, where it terminates abruptly in bluffs and headlands; Mt Santa Rosa, toward the N. extremity, has an elevation of 840 ft. A range of hills from 700 to nearly 1300 ft. in height traverses the S. portion from N. to S. a little W. of the middle—Mt Jumullong Mangloc, the highest peak, has an elevation of 1274 ft. Between the foot of the steep W. slope of these hills and the sea is a belt of rolling lowlands and to the E. the surface is broken by the valleys of five rivers with a number of tributaries, has a general slope toward the sea, and terminates in a coast-line of bluffs. Apra (formerly San Luis d’Apra) on the middle W. coast is the only good harbour; it is about 31/2 m. across, has a depth of 4-27 fathoms, and is divided into an inner and an outer harbour by a peninsula and an island. It serves as a naval station and as a port of transit between America and the Philippines, at which army transports call monthly. Deer, wild hog, duck, curlew, snipe and pigeon are abundant game, and several varieties of fish are caught. Some of the highest points of the island are nearly bare of vegetation, and the more elevated plateau surface is covered with sword grass, but in the valleys and on the lower portions of the plateaus there is valuable timber. The lowlands have a rich soil; in lower parts of the highlands raised coralliferous limestone with a light covering of soil appears, and in the higher parts the soil is entirely of clay and silt. The climate is agreeable and healthy. From December to June the N.E. trade winds prevail and the rainfall is relatively light; during the other six months the monsoon blows and produces the rainy season. Destructive typhoons and earthquakes sometimes visit Guam. The island is thought to possess little if any mineral wealth, with the possible exception of coal. Only a small part of Guam is under cultivation, and most of this lies along the S.W. coast, its chief products being cocoanuts, rice, sugar, coffee and cacao. A United States Agricultural Experiment Station in Guam (at Agaña) was provided for in 1908.

The inhabitants are of the Chamorro (Indonesian) stock, strongly intermixed with Philippine Tagals and Spaniards; their speech is a dialect of Malay, corrupted by Tagal and Spanish. There are very few full-blood Chamorros. The aboriginal native was of a very dark mahogany or chocolate colour. A majority of the total number of natives live in Agaña. The natives are nearly all farmers, and most of them are poor, but their condition has been improved under American rule. Public schools have been established; in 1908 the enrolment was 1700. On the island there is a small colony of lepers, segregated only after American occupation. Gangrosa is a disease said to be peculiar to Guam and the neighbouring islands; it is due to a specific bacillus and usually destroys the nasal septum. The victims of this disease also are segregated. There is a good general hospital.

Agaña (or San Ignacio de Agaña) is the capital and principal town; under the Spanish régime it was the capital of the Ladrones. It is about 5 m. N.E. of Piti, the landing-place of Apra harbour and port of entry, with which it is connected by an excellent road. Agaña has paved streets and sewer and water systems. Other villages, all small, are Asan, Piti, Sumay, Umata, Merizo and Inarajan. Guam is governed by a “naval governor,” an officer of the U.S. navy who is commandant of the naval station. The island is divided into four administrative districts, each with an executive head called a gobernadorcillo (commissioner), and there are a court of appeals, a court of first instance and courts of justices of the peace. Peonage was abolished in the island by the United States in February 1900. Telegraphic communication with the Caroline Islands was established in 1905; in 1908 there were four cables ending at the relay station at Sumay on the Shore of Apra harbour.

Guam was discovered by Magellan in 1521, was occupied by Spain in 1688, was captured by the United States cruiser “Charleston” in June 1899, and was ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris on the 10th of December 1898.

See A List of Books (with References to Periodicals) on Samoa and Guam (1901; issued by the Library of Congress); L. M. Cox, “The Island of Guam,” in Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, vol. 36 (New York, 1904); Gen. Joseph Wheeler, Report on the Island of Guam, June 1900 (War Department, Document No. 123); F. W. Christian, The Caroline Islands (London, 1899); an account of the flora of Guam by W. E. Safford in the publications of the National Herbarium (Smithsonian Institution); and the reports of the naval governor.