The Island Where Most People Are Colorblind

Pingelap Atoll, a Micronesian island in the South Pacific, sometimes goes by its other name: Island of the Colorblind. According to legend, a devastating typhoon in 1775 caused a population bottleneck. One of the survivors — the ruler, in fact — carried a rare gene for an extreme type of colorblindness. Eventually, he passed the gene on to the island’s later generations. Today, roughly 30% of the island’s people are colorblind, a rate significantly higher than the 1-in-30,000 occurrence elsewhere in the world. The upside of colorblindness is excellent night vision, which comes in handy for another island tradition: catching flying fish by night using a bright fire suspended from a boat. The remoteness of the island and a religion that discourages marriage to outsiders has kept the gene pool relatively small and allowed the mutation to persist.