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The Ngatik massacre took place over two days of fighting on the atoll of Sapwuahfik in the Micronesian island chain in July, 1837. Captain C.H. Hart and his crew of beachcombers of the Lampton from Sydney, Australia massacred as many as 50 Sapwuafihk men. Hart had hoped to raid what he believed was a large stash of tortoiseshell on the island.


In 1836, Captain C.H. Hart and his crew of beachcombers sailed to the island of Sapwuahfik on the trading cutter Lampton of Sydney, Australia, on a trading mission in search of tortoiseshell, pearl shell and sea cucumber. While on the island, Hart and his crew came across what Hart believed was a trove of valuable tortoiseshell (used for ladies’ combs, boxes and mirrors).[1] Hart tried unsuccessfully to trade for the shells with the locals, who then chased Hart and his crew off of the island.[2]

One year later in July 1837, Hart returned to the island with an armed crew. When they arrived, Sapwuahfik warriors were waiting for him on the coast, so Hart took the Lampton to another islet of the atoll over night. The following day, Hart and his crew stormed the island along with two canoes of Pohnpeains who followed the Lampton in tow.[3] In the two days of fighting that ensued, Hart and his men massacred the majority of the men on the island. Lin Foyer estimates that all but one of the Sapwuahfikan men were killed in the massacre,[4] while Alex Zuccarelli writes that all but 20 men were killed for a total of 50. The surviving men fled the island by canoe.[5] Though Hart and his men did not target women and children, many of the women took their own lives as well as those of their children. In the trove of tortoiseshell that he had discovered a year earlier, Hart found only 25lbs of hawksbill tortoiseshell, and 100lbs of relatively worthless green turtle shell.[6]

After the massacre, some of the men from Hart’s crew as well as some Pohnpeians settled and repopulated the island.[7] These men got together wed with local Sapwuahfik widows and formed a new culture and language, known as Ngatik Men’s creole, a mixture of English and the Sapwuahfik dialect of Ponapean.[8]

Before leaving the island, Hart installed crewmember and fellow beachcomber Patrick Gormon[9] as Nahmnwarki,[10] or Isipaw (paramount Chief) of the island, instructing him to collect as much tortoiseshell as possible. Hart renamed the island Ngatik after the massacre, but it has since been given its original name again, Sapwuahfik.[11]

Two years following the massacre, Hart was investigated for the incidents by Commander P.L. Blake of the HMS Larne.[12] Charges were never laid against the perpetrators.[13]


  1. Far Outliers, “The Ngatik Massacre, July 1837,” [accessed January 18, 2009].
  2. Lin Foyer, The Ngatik Massacre: History and Identity on a Micronesian Atoll, (Washington; Smithsonian I. Press, 1993), 1-3.
  3. David Hanlon, Upon a Stone Alter: A history of the island of Pohnpei to 1890 (Hawaii: University of Hawaii press, 1988), 62.
  4. Far Outliers, [accessed January 18, 2009].
  5. Alex Zuccarelli, “Pohnpei: Between Time and Tide,” the Ngatik Massacre, [accessed January 18, 2009]
  6. Hanlon, 62.
  7. Jocelyn Linnekin and Lin Foyer, Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in the Pacific. (Hawaii; Hawaii Univserity Press, 1990), 127.
  8. Foyer, Ngatik Massacre, 232-234.
  9. Beachcombers, Traders and Castaways in Micronesia, “Kosrae,” Patrick Gormon, [accessed January 18, 2009].
  10. Hanlon, 62.
  11. Far Outliers, [accessed 18.1.09].
  12. Ibid.
  13. Alex Zuccarelli, [accessed January 18, 2009].
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