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Nauru: Command Ridge

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Command Ridge | Nauru | Oceania

[Visited: November 2012]

Finding Command Ridge itself is an easy affair: it lies directly up from Aiwo district, on the way to Buada Lagoon. The highest point of Nauru, Command Ridge holds an antenna, and inevitably was the place where the Japanese built their strongholds during World War II. After walking up the road to Buada, I took a track parallel to the truck road where trucks were speeding by, leaving behind a cloud of dust. While crossing the road a little later, I could see rails in the road: once, a track ran from the phosphate mines to the harbour where the commodity was shipped. The track now basically turned 180 degrees, and climbed until I reached the red and white antenna with a satellite dish underneath. A friendly Nauruan walked with me to show me how I could continue walking on the ridge itself. This proved to me more of a challenge than I had thought. There is no soil to walk on anymore, and I had to find my way going up and down the pinnacles defining the landscape of the top of Command Ridge. By doing so, I reached several Japanese bunkers, which had been built in and around the pinnacles.

Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): World War II Japanese anti-aircraft installation on Command Ridge

From the top of one, I could see two Japanese anti-aircraft installations still pointing to the sky for bombers that would never come. The day was drawing to a close, and I did not have the time to continue over the pinnacles to get closer. Instead, i enjoyed the views of the interior of the island I had walked before that same day, the cloud of phosphate emanating from the processing plant below, and the hazy view of the cantilevers at the sea. The next day, I wanted to find the Japanese prison, but no one seemed to be able to direct me in the right direction. Even when I reached the big intersection above Aiwo, the security people I asked, looked at me if I was not totally sane: a Japanese prison? I decided to ask another guy a little further on; he jumped out of his chair and walked me to the entrance which was hidden from view by a thick vegetation, tucked away in Command Ridge itself. I walked to an old door which was wide open, and entered a natural corridor defined by vertical coral walls.

Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): Two Japanese anti-aircraft installations on Command Ridge

Inside, I saw various cells; the Japanese had used the coral walls and constructed some of them in the slabs of limestone. The vegetation is creeping in on the cell blocks, and judging from the littered cans of beer on the soil, the place is still being used as a get-together, but without Japanese supervision. Being imprisoned in these small cells which didn't seem to have much ventilation or daylight, certainly must have been an ordeal during the war. After seeing the old Japanese jail, I tried walking up another track, and was surprised to find out that it actually led right up to Command Ridge again. Even better: I suddenly found myself right under the rusty Japanese guns I had seen before, and scrambled up the pinnacles so I could stand next to it. A ten minute walk from Command Ridge then took me to the rubbish tip, and I needed some searching to find more Japanese guns on top of the pinnacled landscape. The sun was going down fast, and I now was in a hurry to get down for yet another sunset over the vast ocean surrounding Nauru.

Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): Vegetation slowly covering a cell of the Japanese jail
Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): Entrance gate to the World War II Japanese prison
Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): Cell block in the Japanese prison on Command Ridge
Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): Japanese bunker on Command Ridge with views towards the interior of Nauru
Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): Corridor with cells which once were used by the Japanese as a prison
Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): View over Command Ridge with Japanese bunker
Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): View over Command Ridge with pinnacles and antenna at the highest point of Nauru
Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): Bunker entrance on the top of Command Ridge
Picture of Command Ridge (Nauru): Anti-aircraft installation used by the Japanese in the interior of Nauru, a little away from Command Ridge

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