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Short description: Atoll in the South Pacific
Fakaofo Atoll.jpg
Aerial view of Fakaofo
Fakaofo map.png
A map of Fakaofo Atoll and all its islands (map in Polish)
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Total islands43
Major islandsFale on Pacific Ocean
Area3 km2 (1.2 sq mi)
Dependent territoryTokelau
Largest settlementFale
LanguagesTokelauan, English

Fakaofo, formerly known as Bowditch Island, is a South Pacific Ocean atoll located in the Tokelau Group. The actual land area is only about 3 km2 (1.1 sq mi), consisting of islets on a coral reef surrounding a central lagoon of some 45 km2. According to the 2006 census 483 people officially live on Fakaofo (however just 370 were present at census night). Of those present 70% belong to the Congregational Church and 22% to the Catholic Church.[1]

Geography and government

Village square

The main settlement on the island is Fale on Fale Islet, towards the western side of the atoll. Located two kilometres to the west of it is the relatively large Fenua Fala Islet, where a second settlement was established in 1960. Other islets in the group include Teafua, Nukumatau, Nukulakia, Fenua Loa, Saumatafanga, Motu Akea, Matangi, Lalo, and Mulifenua.

Fakaofo's Council of Elders is made up of citizens over the age of 60.


Natives of Fakaofo; engraving after a drawing by Alfred Thomas Agate

The island was sighted by the whale ship General Jackson in 1835, which returned in 1839.

The island was named Bowditch (after Nathaniel Bowditch), this island was visited by the American ship USS Peacock (1813) which was part of the first American voyage of discovery – The United States Exploring Expedition (also known as "the Ex Ex" or "the Wilkes Expedition"), 1838–1842, United States Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes commanding.[2] Nathaniel Bowditch (1773–1838) was a noted American navigator who wrote a famous two-volume encyclopedia of navigation and sailing that is still used and published today by the Defense Mapping Agency Topographic Center (DMATC). In Twenty Years Before The Mast,[3][lower-alpha 1] Charles Erskine wrote "The people found on this island had no knowledge of fire, which I believe, is the only instance of the kind on record."

In a village on the island is a coral slab monument personifying Tui Tokelau, a god once worshiped in the islands.

Between 1856 and 1979, the United States claimed that it held sovereignty over the island and the other Tokelauan atolls. In 1979, the U.S. conceded that Tokelau was under New Zealand sovereignty, and a maritime boundary between Tokelau and American Samoa was established by the Treaty of Tokehega.

Climate crisis

Five metre high concrete walls surround one of Fakaofo's atolls, that were constructed by residents to protect the islet from rising sea levels.[4]

List of islands

  1. Mulifenua
  2. Vini
  3. Motu Pelu
  4. Avaono
  5. Talapeka
  6. Te Lafu
  7. Olokalaga
  8. Palea
  9. Manumea
  10. Ofuna
  11. Kavivave
  12. Heketai
  13. Motuloa
  14. Motu Akea
  15. Motu Iti
  16. Niue
  17. Fugalei
  18. Manuafe
  19. Otafi Loto
  20. Otafi Loa
  21. Kaivai
  22. Nukuheheke
  23. Nukamahaga Lahi
  24. Nukamahaga Iti
  25. Tenki
  26. Pagai
  27. Matakitoga
  28. Vaiaha
  29. Falatutahi
  30. Lapa
  31. Hugalu
  32. Logotaua
  33. Tafolaelo
  34. Otano
  35. Akegamutu
  36. Te Loto
  37. Kapiomotu
  38. Metu
  39. Hakea Mahaga
  40. Pukava
  41. Hakea
  42. Te Kau Afua o Humu
  43. Nukulakia
  44. Te Papaloa
  45. Pataliga
  46. Nukumatau
  47. Fale
  48. Te Afua tau Lua
  49. Fenua Fala


  1. This book should not be confused with another book with a similar title by Richard Henry Dana Jr., which tells about hide trading on the California coast in the early 19th century.

See also

  • List of Guano Island claims


External links

Coordinates: 9°21′55″S 171°12′54″W / 9.36528°S 171.215°W / -9.36528; -171.215

Template:TokelauTemplate:List of Oceanian capitals by region