Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Lost Island of Anuta

The island of Anuta is a tiny, remote tropical outpost in the South Pacific. It is one of the most isolated communities on Earth, 75 miles (four days sailing) from its nearest neighbour.

It is a small volcanic island with a fringing coral reef. The highest point on the island is 65 m (213 ft) above sea level. The island is quite small, its diameter being only about 750 m (½ mile). The island is known as ‘te fatu sekeseke’, the slippery stone, due to it being such a small spot in the ocean - just half a mile in diameter and 70 miles from the next populated island, so hard to find and so easily ‘slid’ away from.

They are an ocean-going culture, still capable of navigating great distances by the stars. The current population descended from Tongans who arrived in 1580. The island is ruled by two chiefs. The chief's status is marked by tattoos.

Due to its extreme remoteness, Anuta is one of the most intact Polynesian cultures remaining on earth. Two hundred and fifty Anutans inhabit a beautiful island just a half mile wide. Historically, some of its inhabitants have used the small island of Fatutaka, about 60 km (37.5 mi.) to the southeast, as a gardening location. The men fish with hand lines from traditional out-rigger canoes for sharks and marlin. They dive on the reef for lobster and collect shellfish at low tide. The women cultivate every available patch of land with taro, manioc and bananas.

To the Western eye it looks like paradise, white beaches, turquoise sea, swaying palm trees. But what is life like for the people who inhabit paradise?

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