Nui (atoll)

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For the small Pacific island nation sometimes pronounced "Nui", see Niue.
Aerial view of Nui
Aerial view of Nui
Nui is located in Tuvalu
Location in Tuvalu
Coordinates: 07°13′29″S 177°09′37″E / 7.22472°S 177.16028°E / -7.22472; 177.16028Coordinates: 07°13′29″S 177°09′37″E / 7.22472°S 177.16028°E / -7.22472; 177.16028
Country Tuvalu
 • Total 3.37 km2 (1.30 sq mi)
Population (2002)
 • Total 548
 • Density 160/km2 (420/sq mi)
Demonym Nuian
ISO 3166 code TV-NUI
Main article: Tuvalu

Nui is an atoll and one of nine districts of the Pacific Ocean state of Tuvalu.[1][2] It has a land area of 3.37 km² and a population of 548 (2002 census).


Nui consists of at least 21 islets. These are:

The biggest, most southern and most eastern island is Fenua Tapu (area 1.38 km²), which is followed by Telikiai (which is the most western islet), Tokinivae, Pongalei, Talalolae, Pakantou, Unimai, Piliaieve and Motupuakaka. Most human habitation in Nui is on the western end of Fenua Tapu where a village including the settlements of Fenua Tapu and Tanrake lies. The junior school is Vaipuna Primary School.

Languages and history[edit]

The people of Nui speak the Gilbertese language, the language of Kiribati, and Tuvaluan, the official language of Tuvalu.[3] The ancestors of Nui came from both Samoa and the Gilbert Islands in what is now Kiribati. Traditionally Nuian culture is organised in three family circles - Tekaubaonga, Tekaunimala and Tekaunibiti families.[4]

The island was first sighted by Europeans on 16 January 1568 by Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña, who named it Isla de Jesús (Spanish for "Island of Jesus") because it was discovered on the day following the feast of the Holy Name. There are no less than six accounts of this event, that of Mendaña himself being as follows:

"A little after nine o'clock in the morning, a lad called Trejo, being aloft, first sighted land upon the starboard side to the southwest...When we drew near, we found it so small that it was no more than six leagues in circumference. This island was very full of trees like palms; towards the north it had a reef, which entered the sea a quarter of a league, and towards the south was another smaller reef. On the west side it had a strand lying lengthways, with reefs in different parts. This is on the west side, for we could not go round the east side because of the weather. Taking this island from the sea outwards, it has the shape of two galleys, with a copse in the middle which appears like a fleet of ships"

Mendaña found the island inhabited and five canoes came nearly within bow shot of his ship, when their occupants raised their paddles and turned back with shouts. Mendaña thereupon ordered signals to be made to them with a white cloth to try and get them to return, instead of which they landed and in turn stuck up signals along the shore. At night one of the ships showed a light, it was copied by a fire, and when it was put out the fire extinguished also. Hernán Gallego, Mendaña's pilot, says the natives were "naked and mulattoes" and Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, cosmographer in the expedition reported that the island "had a large fishery". As it was late Mendaña decided to defer landing until the morning and kept the ships tacking all night. With the dawn, however, a strong westerly storm blew up, and although they tried all day to regain the island they were at length compelled to give up.[5][6][7][8]

A Dutch expedition (the frigate Maria Reigersberg) found Nui on the morning of June 14th, 1825 and named the main island (Fenua Tapu) as Nederlandsch Eiland.[9]

The population of Nui from 1860–1900 is estimated to be between 250[10] and 300 people.[11] Martin Kleis was the resident trader on Nui in the late 19th Century who sold copra to Henderson and Macfarlane.[12][13]

Thomas Andrew (photographer) visited Nui in about 1885-86.[14][15]

Nui Post Office opened around 1919.[16]

Celebrations are held on Nui on the 16 February - Bongin the Ieka (Day of the Flood) - to commemorate the Tsunami that struck the island on that day in 1882.[4]

General election, 2010[edit]

Nui constituency results[17]
Party Candidate Votes %
Non-partisan Isaia Italeli Symbol confirmed.svg 263 24.6%
Non-partisan Taom Tanukale Symbol confirmed.svg 246 23.0%

Three other candidates stood in the Tuvaluan general election, 2010 but were not elected.

By-election, 2011[edit]

Isaia Italeli died suddenly in July 2011,[18] which led to a by-election in the Nui constituency the following month. The election was won by his widow, Pelenike Isaia, who became only the second woman ever to have sat in the Parliament of Tuvalu.[19]

By-election, 2013[edit]

Taom Tanukale resigned from the Parliament 30 July 2013.[20][21] The Nui by-election was held on 10 September 2013. Leneuoti Maatusi was declared the winner, polling 297 of the 778 registered voters. Maatusi has been a civil servant and served as the Secretary of the Nui Falekaupule. He beat Palemene Anelu, a recent graduate of the University of the South Pacific, who received 206 votes and Taom Tanukale, the sitting member, whose resignation from Parliament caused the by-election, who received 160 votes.[22]

Notable local people[edit]

Isaia Taeia Italeli was the Minister for Natural Resources at the time of his death in 2011.[23]

A notable local person is Iakoba Italeli, Governor-General of Tuvalu since 16 April 2010 and former Minister of Education, Sports and Health, representing Nui in the Parliament.


  1. ^ Map of Nui. 
  2. ^ British Admiralty Nautical Chart 766 Ellice Islands (1893 ed.). United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO). 21 March 1872. 
  3. ^ "Tuvaluan (Te 'gana Tūvalu)". Omniglot. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Sotaga Pape, Hugh Laracy (ed.) (1983). "Chapter 10 – Nui". Tuvalu: A History. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific and Government of Tuvalu. pp. 74–75. 
  5. ^ Maude, H.E. Spanish discoveries in the Central Pacific. A study in identification Journal of the Polynesian Society, Wellington, LXVIII, (1959), p.299,303.
  6. ^ Maude, Islands and Men: Studies in Pacific History, Melbourne: Oxford University Press (1986)
  7. ^ Keith S. Chambers & Doug Munro, The Mystery of Gran Cocal: European Discovery and Mis-Discovery in Tuvalu, 89(2) (1980) p.170 The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 167-198
  8. ^ Laumua Kofe, Palagi and Pastors, Tuvalu: A History, Ch. 15, (U.S.P./Tuvalu)
  9. ^ Pieter Troost: Aanteekeningen gehouden op eene reis om de wereld: met het fregat de Maria Reigersberg en de ... (1829) Digitalisat
  10. ^ W.F. Newton, The Early Population of the Ellice Islands, 76(2) (1967) The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 197-204.
  11. ^ Richard Bedford, Barrie Macdonald & Doug Monro, Population Estimates for Kiribati and Tuvalu (1980) 89(1) J. of the Polynesian Society 199
  12. ^ Sotaga Pape, Hugh Laracy (ed.) (1983). "Chapter 10 – Nui". Tuvalu: A History. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific and Government of Tuvalu. p. 76. 
  13. ^ Mahaffy, Arthur (1910). "(CO 225/86/26804)". Report by Mr. Arthur Mahaffy on a visit to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. Great Britain, Colonial Office, High Commission for Western Pacific Islands (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office). 
  14. ^ Andrew, Thomas (1886). "Mission House Nui. From the album: Views in the Pacific Islands". Collection of Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa). Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  15. ^ Andrew, Thomas (1886). "Bread fruit tree Nui. From the album: Views in the Pacific Islands". Collection of Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa). Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  16. ^ Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Premier Postal Auctions. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  17. ^ Cannon, Brian (2010-09-16). "Tuvalu Election Results". Tuvalu News ( Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  18. ^ "Samoa police rule out foul play in death of Tuvalu minister". Radio New Zealand International. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
  19. ^ "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  20. ^ "Tuvalu govt bombshells". Islands Business. 30 July 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  21. ^ Cooney, Campbell (31 July 2013). "Tuvalu speaker blocks no-confidence motion". Australia News Network. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  22. ^ "New MP elected in Tuvalu". Islands Business from Radio Tuvalu. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  23. ^ "State Funeral for the Minister of Natural Resources, Hon Isaia Taeia Italeli". Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau Newsletter (TPB: 01/2011). 25 July 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 

External links[edit]