Identification. Kosrae is the easternmost of the Caroline Islands. Until 1977, most maps identified it as "Kusaie," but the inhabitants have always known it as "Kosrae." The island is now one state of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Location. Kosrae is located at about 5° N and 163° E. Like other Micronesian high (volcanic) islands, its interior consists of rugged mountains. Today large parts of its 110 square kilometers have been cleared of rain forest for cultivation and settlement. Abundant rainfall, averaging about 500 centimeters annually, supports lush vegetation and feeds the many rivers. The island is surrounded by a small fringing reef, which provides both fish and canoe transportation.
Demography. Before the first contact with technologically advanced Western powers in 1824, the population was about 5,000. During the whaling era between the 1840s and the 1860s, new diseases were introduced that decimated the population. Only 200-300 Kosraens were alive in the 1870s, and many outsiders predicted total extinction. Population numbers began to recover in the 1880s and a steady growth began that continues into the present. Today the resident population is around 6,000.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Kosraen language is unique to the island and is not mutually intelligible with any other Modern tongue. It is one of the Nuclear Micronesian languages, its closest historical relations being with Pohnpeian and Marshallese.