It turns out that the fifteen Northern Mariana islands, located in the western Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the Philippines, are one of two Commonwealths of the United States. (The other is Puerto Rico.) Apparently, the Northern Marianas are completely unique because they “were not conquered, annexed, or purchased by the United States.” Instead, the people of these islands negotiated with the U.S. to get the commonwealth relationship that the majority wanted.
The natives of the Marianas arrived at the islands around 2000 BCE, but they almost died out from diseases after Spaniards discovered and settled the islands. (Some remnants of the native population remained, and they have since repopulated three of the islands, along with other groups.) Germany won control of the islands for a while, and Japan later invaded and occupied them. Finally, at the end of World War II, the U.S. military invaded the Marianas and liberated them from the Japanese. Many territories liberated by the U.S. during the war have become independent nations, but the people of the Northern Marianas chose instead to establish close political ties with the super-power.
These Commonwealth citizens can elect someone to be part of Congress, but their Congressional Representative can only vote in committee, not on the floor. Also, the people of the Northern Marianas cannot vote for president.
The Northern Marianas Islands can be divided into two groups. The southern islands are made of limestone (a sedimentary rock laid down in layers from the skeletons of sea creatures) and fringed with corals (which are living creatures that create reefs, which become home to many more living creatures). The three islands that are inhabited (where people actually live) are all this limestone type.
The northern islands are volcanoes. And some of these volcanoes are active, which means that they can and sometimes do erupt! Nobody lives on these islands.
To the east of the Northern Mariana Islands is the Mariana Trench—the deepest part of the Earth's oceans. The trench plunges more than 36,000 feet (almost seven miles) down. (In metric terms, that is almost 11 kilometers.) Weird giant one-celled organisms live in this trench. They can reach as large as four inches long!
You may wonder why a critter only four inches long gets to be called “giant,” but remember that it is only one cell! The biggest cell in the human body can barely be seen with a human eye—and most cells can only be seen with a microscope. So a four-inch cell is giant!
If you ever want to stump your friends, learn the name of this giant one-celled creature: an Xenophyophore. Learn how to pronounce it here.
According to Geek O System, xenophyophores eat dirt and even “tolerate high levels of heavy metals like uranium.” They ooze a kind of cement from their bodies...and they build their bodies “out of whatever is lying around nearby.”
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