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
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
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.