Tower Island

In the main entrance channel to the Vava’u group is a small islet, Lotuma Island, about 150m across with a clearing in the middle and buildings just visible from the water. A tower, flagpole, and wharf were marked on the chart. We anchored nearby and explored – was it a resort? Government buildings? Private residences?

The clues:

  • The dilapitated wharf has deep water at the end, required for big ships.
  • The generator building contained one very large rugged diesel genset given the number of buildings.
  • Each of the 7 buildings were different. Most windows were broken and roofs rusted to pieces, but not much vandalism or graffiti. Some buildings were clearly personal living areas with large windows overlooking the water.
  • Some buildings had welded security wire in the opening between rooms.
  • The mango trees had bricks surrounding their base.
  • Besides the odd coconut, there were no trees or seedlings in the clearing. Possibly poisoned. No flat sections for gardening.
  • The tower was excellently maintained (pressure treated lumber) and gave us our likely answer – this could have been an observation outpost in WWII, built by NZ or Oz or USA, to watch for ships approaching the Tongan group.
  • The was corroborated by finding “279th Engineering Detail” engraved on a concrete step.
  • We were excited by finding a grenade near a tree, but it turned out to be a toilet float.