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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of March 2, 2001

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Transcript

CURWOOD: It's Yap time in the western Pacific. Early each March, Yap Day kicks off a festival with competition and grass skirt dancing, canoe racing, and coconut tree climbing. Yap Island is the most traditional of the four federated states of Micronesia and has a history rich in, well, riches. Yap's claim to fame is its stone money, or rai, donut-shaped currency quarried from the limestone caves of Palau, an island 200 miles south of Yap. Although they can tower up to 12 feet in diameter, the value of each stone isn't determined by its size. Instead, it's the journey that makes or breaks a stone's value. Traditionally the men of Yap would brave the ocean in dugout canoes to bring the massive stones back. The more treacherous the journey, the more valuable the stone. Today, the Yapese use more contemporary currency, but if you walk through some villages you'll see stone money lining the footpaths. But you'll need more than cunning to loot the bank. The average stone weighs several tons. And for this week that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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