Nassau (Cook Islands)
Nassau is an island in the Cook Islands.
Located 90 km south of Pukapuka, the small island (0.5 mi²/1.3 km²) of Nassau is just 9 metres (28 feet) above sea level, with an oval sandy cay on a coral reef foundation and is surrounded by a narrow reef flat. It is covered with palms, and is the only island of the Northern Group without a lagoon. The surrounding reef is 90 to 130 metres wide on all but the north side where it's narrower. The village is located in the north-west. Inland there are rich taro swamps and fruit groves, and offshore there is good fishing. It has a population of 71, according to the 2006 census, and a harbour was planned to be built in 2007, but construction has not started.
Nassau is governed by the Pukapuka Island Council. The Nassau Island Committee advises the Pukapuka Island Council on matters of Nassau Island.
Families live in thatched cottages called kikau. Elliot Smith, in the "Cook Islands Companion" (Pacific Publishing Company, Albany, California) describes Nassau as "a small garden of Eden".
The island was severely damaged in February, 2005 by Cyclone Percy. Recovery work to the islands infrastructure (Health Clinic, School, Powerhouse, Telecommunications Network and Meeting House) was completed with the kind assistance of NZAID and the Government of the Cook Islands in October of that same year, a major feat due to the remoteness of the island and infrequent shipping services. The Island now has a completely new school thanks to the NZAID Schools Refurbishment Programme, which is administered by the Cook Islands Investment Corporation.
Because there is no airport, access is limited to inter-island ship from Rarotonga, a voyage of three days or more, or from Pukapuka. The service is very infrequent. The only permanent link with the outside world is a satellite earth station built in just four days by engineers from Telecom Cook Islands and in 2004 it received its first telephone system.
Nassau originally belonged to the islanders of nearby Pukapuka and was called Te Nuku-o-Ngalewu which means "Land of Ngalewu" after the Pukapukan who was put in charge of it. When the two islands fell out with each other, it was renamed "Deserted Island" (Te Motu Ngaongao) supposedly by the islanders of Manihiki who drifted to the island and found it deserted.
In 1803, it got yet another name - "Adele Island" - after the ship of the first discoverer (Louis Coutance). About 20 years later it was renamed "Lydra Island" by another explorer, then "Ranger Island" after the London whale ship "Ranger". An American whaler May Mitchell decided in 1834 that it should bear his name and called it "Mitchell Island".
But it wasn't until a year later it that finally got the name it is known by today. Another American whaler, John D. Sampson named it after his vessel, the Nassau. It is not known why that name finally stuck, especially as another whale ship which sighted the island the following year tried to rename it "New-Port Island". (Information verified from academic research in the Cook Islands Library and Museum)
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