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Niulakita is a southern most island in the Tuvalu group and has no lagoon at all but only a swamp at its centre.  It was not taken into account in the naming of the Tuvalu group as Tuvalu means a "group of eight".

  The famous Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana was the first to discover Niulakita in 1595 and called it La Solitaria; George Bennett, a Nantucket whaler in 1821 named it Independence; while others have called it Sophia and Rocky.  Niulakita has never had a permanent population of its own so it was well suited to being claimed by people from elsewhere.

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The American trader Harry S. Moors, of Samoa, exploited its guano deposit late last century.  In 1914 he sold it to E. F. H. Allen of the Samoa Shipping and Trading Company, which also maintained a trading station on Funafuti. 

The Allen's connection with Niulakita (and, indeed, with Tuvalu) ended in 1916.  That year the island was purchased by Burns Philp and Co. of Sydney.  They in turn, sold it in 1944 to the Western Pacific High Commission who would administer it for the benefit of Tuvalu.

In 1946 a Lands Commissioner toured the group to find out how much land each island had for its inhabitants.  He discovered that Niutao had the highest population density.  To relieve the pressure on the land he suggested to the old men of the island that some of their people could go to Tonga or, if they preferred, they could exploit Niulakita.  They chose the latter. A more recent but less notable event in the history of Niutao has thus been its acquisition of Niulakita.

The first group of workers, with their wives and children, were sent to Niulakita in 1949 to cut copra.  When they arrived they found some Vaitupu people there.  These were returned to their home leaving their few cows behind.  The Niutao people were rather scared of these animals which they did not have on their island. 

There was no school on the island in those days.  Its children could not read nor write, although they were given a little instruction by a man named Loela, who had remained behind when the Vaitupuans left.  A school was opened there in 1980 and operates as an extension of the one at Niutao.   Similarly, the Niutao council is responsible for the labourers at Niulakita. 


Click on the map above for a detailed map

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Jane Resture
(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 17th October 2008)