|Aunu'u and Tutuila (left to right), photo taken by PIBHMC|
After nearly a month into our cruise we have begun our work in the US Territory of American Samoa. We are conducting surveys around the island of Tutuila which is the largest and most populated of all the islands in the Territory. Tutuila has a land area of 141.81 km2(54.75 mi2) which is just slightly smaller than Washington D.C. As the third largest island in the Samoan Archipelago (Savaii & 'Upolu in Samoa are 1 & 2 respectively) it is distinctive in the South Pacific for having a large deep natural harbor.
As one of the most protected harbors in the South Pacific, Pago Pago became a point of contention when the United States gained exclusive use in 1872. However, both the British and Germans also had political and trade interests in Pago Pago. After about a decade of mounting tensions and a serendipitous cyclone, the 3countries negotiated in 1889 where Western (Independent) Samoa was ceded to the Germans, eastern Samoa went to the Americans, and the British were happy with German renunciation of Tonga, the Solomon Islands and Niue.
In April of 1900 eastern Samoa was formally annexed by the USA. Traditional rights were protected in exchange for a military base and a coaling station; however, Samoans became US Nationals, but not US citizens. Pago Pago became instrumental during World War II as the center of the Samoan Defense Group, which was the largest of the Pacific Defense Groups. As the war moved north and west, American Samoa became a strategic backwater. In the postwar era, American Samoa's military importance declined and in 1951, the Territory was transferred to the Department of the Interior, under whose jurisdiction it remains.
Until the 1960’s, American Samoa remained almost entirely traditional. After the modernization era, the subtle and restrained US presence was over. In 1977 the first elections were held for democratically elected leadership, replacing the leadership of appointed governors.
|Pago Pago Harbor|
We’ll be working in the waters surrounding Tutuila until March 2nd when we begin our transit to Swains Island. For those of you reading from the island of Tutuila you may see us as you are out and about during this time.