Paka los – the dark typhoon

Sarfert in 1919 noted another possibly typhoon event:

The next typhoon supposedly happened during the reign of King George. As the Boston-Mission, which had settled in the last years of his reign, did not report anything about it, it must have been in the time between 1837/38 and 1852. The local tradition calls it ‘paka los’ (dark typhoon), as it supposedly was accompanied by complete night. There was only one single flood wave, which according to the source destroyed everything. According to a statement by the old King, who supposedly experienced it when he was a young boy, this is not correct. According to him, it was not a typhoon, but more a natural phenomenon of another kind. He accounts: – three days long there was heavy fog and for two days it was so dark, that you could hardly see the men next to you. During the day there seemed to be smoke swirls moving in the air from NE to SW, which seemed to emanate from a big star. At night this star even seemed much bigger.

It would appear that if this was a typhoon, the path did not pass close enough to Kosrae to cause any significant wind damage (although close enough for significant cloud cover), rather the main impact was due to wave overwash possibly caused by large swell reaching Kosrae from the typhoon.

Spennemann in Typhoons of Micronesia does not record any typhoons affecting the nearby atolls of Mokil and Pingelap or Pohnpei between 1835 and 1852. However, Spennemann notes two typhoons are recorded as having affected a number of the central atolls in the Marshall Islands:

  • 1840s – severe typhoon devastated Likiep Atoll, resulting in the loss of possibly as many as 330 people, much of the population.
  • 1854 – typhoon impacted Likiep Atoll and Mejit Island with only three people surviving the event (although it is not known how many people had returned to Likiep after the 1940s typhoon).

Further south there may have been one or more typhoons that affected Ebon, the southern-most atoll in the Marshall Islands, and closer in latitude to Kosrae (Spennenann, 2004):

Erdland mentions that his informant Benjamin had heard as a child about a typhoon which devastated much of Ebon and devastate all coconut and breadfruit trees, leading to widespread starvation and subsequent population reduction by way of intentionally killing people to ensure that some enough food to survive. From missionary accounts we know that in 1857 a major food shortage occurred and about 800 people out of 1300 temporarily left Ebon for Jaluit Atoll. The cause of this food shortage is not explained in the records, but a typhoon related cause is very likely. This would suggest that the event occurred in the early to mid 1850s.


Sarfert, E. 1919/1920. Kusae. series II, subseries B, volume 4. In G. Thilenius (ed.), Ergebnisse der Siidsee-Expedition 1908-10. Friederic, Hamburg. xxvii+545 p., plates, maps.

Spennemann, D.H.R. 2004. Typhoons in Micronesia. A history of tropical cyclones and their effects until 1914. Division of Historic Preservation, Saipan, CNMI.