Settled only in the early 1700s, the Merina islands have always been remote and never supported a very large population. During the war, all the islanders were evacuated by the occupying Japanese and put ashore on the mainland; most still have not returned, as the islands were considered to be of major strategic value. The current science station was once a missile tracking outpost during the Cold War, for instance, and because of this the island escaped the ecological disasters and invasive species that ravaged many others.

After the satellite tracking station was abandoned, a few islanders were able to return but the remoteness of the island meant it was only known by a few surfers and other enthusiasts. An attempt at commercial llama farming in the 1990s failed badly, and Typhoon Dingo in 1994 caused major damage to all existing structures.

The only remaining habitat of the rare and critically endangered Red-Speckled Pseudo-Lemur, the Merina islands have attracted intense scientific interest that is in direct opposition to Club Lo, which has been developing the island and its relatively unspoiled beaches as an upscale resort.

Inland, the Merina ruins are particularly noteworthy. By far the largest and most intact ruins of any island other than Nan Madol on Ponape, they show a distinct Bali influence, leading some to surmise ancient trade or colonization efforts between the two widely separated islands. No systematic excavation has ever been undertaken, as the ruins lay on private land, but their mysteries may perhaps one day be unlocked.

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