Children running to greet us
Children running to greet us

A Passing Ship!

A rare sight to the children of Pukapuka's only school was our passing ship. Our chartered ship was off its normal course as we were sailing to the point where we would witness the eclipse.

All the children ran out of the school to watch as we passed, with many running along the beach to track us.


Pukapuka is a coral atoll with three small islets threaded on a reef, that encloses a beautifully clear lagoon. It is one of the most remote islands of the Cook Islands, situated about 1140 kilometres northwest of Rarotonga. It is a triangular atoll with three islets comprising little more than 3 square kilometres of land area, yet on this small island an ancient culture and distinct language developed over many centuries.

Archaeologists have recently discovered evidence of human settlement as early as approximately 2,000 years ago, and the closest prehistoric associations appear to be with Samoa and other islands to the west. The old name for the atoll was Te Ulu-o-Te-Watu ('the head of the stone'), and the northern islet where the people normally reside is affectionately known as Wale (Home).

Pukapuka has its own language and customs, and other Cook Islanders say its main asset is its “beautiful girls”. Its name derives from the puka tree which is commonplace

The entire population is said to be descended from just 14 or so people who survived a catastrophic storm and tidal wave (tsunami) over 400 years ago. 664 people inhabited the island as of the 2001 census.

South Pacific