Suwarrow Island

Suwarrow lsland is a low coral atoll in the Cook lslands in the Pacific Ocean. lt is about1,300km south of the equator and 825 km northwest of Rarotonga from which it is administered.


Suwarrow Island became famous because a man named Thomas Neale lived on the island for over 20 years (1950-1970). He wrote about his life in a book called "An lsland to Oneself'. lt was a fascinating account of self-sustenance. Although he was sometimes called a hermit, he did not embrace that title. He enjoyed the company of cruising boats that came to visit.


The current island caretaker is John Samuela, who lives on the Island from May to November with his wife Veronica and their four sons. A Cook island flag is flown from the flagpole on the jetty when the caretakers are there, and taken down each day at sunset to the blowing of a conch shell.

Suwarrow lsland was uninhabited when discovered by the Russian ship "Suvorov", which reportedly followed clouds of birds to the island on September 17,1814. The ship was named after Russian General Alexander Sovorov who appears as "Suwarrow" in Lord Byron's epic poem Don Juan. The Cook lslanders call it Suwarrow because they don't have a "V" in their Maori derivative language.


Suwarrow was described by Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson as "the most romantic island in the world." lt wasn't the model for her husband's famous book but the atoll is a true Treasure lsland. In the mid 19th century a ship from Tahiti was carrying out salvage work on Suwarrow's reef when it unearthed a box containing US$15,000in gold and silver coins. And in 1876, a New Zealander, Henry Mair discovered silver pieces of eight in a turtle's nest!


The main island was once covered with tall forest and banyan trees which were cleared in the mid-1870s when excavations uncovered stone walls and platforms, lime kilns, a flintlock, a musket and a skeleton holding an iron bolt.


Today, Suwarrow is a treasure island of another kind. lt was declared a National Heritage Park in 1978, and new regulations were introduced in 2009 that mean the island itself, its reef, and a six kilometer area around it is totally protected under Cook lsland law. Suwarrow and its reef are home to a million seabirds, thousands of coconut crabs, hundreds of sharks and rare species of turtles.

South Pacific