Saipan, situated about 15° N. and 146° E., is one of the larger and more southerly of the Mariana Islands. The 15 small islands of this chain are strung along an eastwardly convex ridge for more than 400 miles north to south, midway between Honshu and New Guinea and about 1,200 miles east of the Philippines. Paralleling this ridge 60 to 100 miles further east is a deep submarine trench, beyond which lies the Pacific Basin proper. To the west is the Philippine Sea, generally deeper than 2,000 fathoms. The trench coincides with a zone of negative gravity anomalies, earthquake foci occur at increasing depths westward from it, and silica- and alumina-rich volcanic rocks characterize the emergent island chain itself. The contrast between these features and those of the Pacific Basin proper to the east is held to favor the conclusion that the Mariana island arc and trench define the structural and petrographic front of Asia
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