Where are we going?

Or perhaps, “where can we go?”

We are initially sailing for Hawaii  but the real destination is the South Pacific. Given the expected wind and ocean current, we expect to sail to Tahiti in the Society Islands. This will give us a safe port during the cyclone season (November to April), and relatively easy sailing when heading for New Zealand. See the map below for locations of the island groups.

Culutural regions of the South Pacific (click for bigger image)

My understanding is the region was settled by an Eastward migration several thousand years ago (mind-boggling), but that is the limit of my geographical knowledge. So here is a brief summary of interesting details for the different island groups:

  • USA
    • Hawaii: 8 major islands, most populous and largest area after New Zealand.
    • Johnston Atoll: An uninhabited, former navy base just south of Hawaii. Used for nuclear testing, now a national wildlife refuge.
    • Jarvis Island: An uninhabited island, claimed by the US in 1858 for guano mining. Production ceased after 21 years; the island was claimed by the UK, then the USA again, and has since become a national wildlife refuge.
    • American Samoa: A territory of 5 volcanic islands and 2 atolls, the smaller eastern half of the island group.
  • Samoa
    • In the 1890’s, a civil war between Samoans and colonial interests of Germany, America, and Britain was concluded after a cyclone destroyed warships stuck in a standoff. The Western half of the islands were given to Germany in 1899; this group became independent in 1914. Known for rugby skills.
  • Tuvalu
    • 4th smallest country in the world. 3 reef islands and 6 atolls with 10,000 people. Highest point: 4.6 metres above sea level. Known for how climate change is steadily submerging it.
  • Tonga
    • One of the very few countries in the world to resist European colonization (Kingdom of Tonga).
  • Pitcairn Islands
    • Technically a British Overseas Territory. Settled by mutineers from the HMS Bounty in 1790; population is now about 50. Known for being the most remote inhabited island in the world. Genetic diversity likely limited to 4 males of the original mutineers.
  • New Zealand 
    • Cook Islands: Population of around 20,000 spread over 15 islands, and sees about 100,000 tourists per year.
    • Niue: One of the world’s largest coral islands, 1400 people in 260 square km. The name translates as, “Look, a coconut!”
    • Tokelau: 3 atolls, population of 1400. Only a few metres above sea level.
    • Kermadec Islands: Uninhabited nature reserve.
  • Easter Island
    • Stone heads carvings and a population that deforested the island. Administered by Chile.
  • French Polynesia
    • Austral Islands: southernmost region of the group. The last region to be populated in the Pacific.
    • Marquesas Islands: easternmost group, experiences occasional droughts. After the Pitcairn Islands, likely the most distant island from a continent.
    • Society Islands: Two administrative divisions: Windward and Leeward Islands. Includes Tahiti and Bora-Bora, which claims to be the most beautiful island in the world.
    • Tuamotu Archipelago: the largest chain of atolls in the world; area of Western Europe.

Simplified regions of Polynesia. Click for Wikitravel information.