From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about atoll in Tuvalu. For the islet with a similar name in Wallis and Futuna, see Nukufetao.
Nukufetau atoll from space
Nukufetau atoll from space
Nukufetau is located in Tuvalu
Location in Tuvalu
Coordinates: 08°00′S 178°30′E / 8.000°S 178.500°E / -8.000; 178.500Coordinates: 08°00′S 178°30′E / 8.000°S 178.500°E / -8.000; 178.500
Country Tuvalu
Population (2002)
 • Total 586
ISO 3166 code TV-NKF
Main article: Tuvalu

Nukufetau is an atoll that is part of the nation of Tuvalu.[1][2] The atoll was claimed by the US under the Guano Islands Act some time in the 19th century and was ceded in a treaty of friendship concluded in 1979 and coming into force in 1983. It has a population (2002 census) of 586 who live on Savave islet. In 1951 the school that was located on Motumua islet was transferred to Savave and became the government primary school for Nukufetau.[3] It was named the Tutasi Memorial School in honour of its predecessor.


Nukufetau is an atoll with passages through the reef that allow large ships to enter and anchor in the lagoon. Nukufetau consists of at least 33 isles:

The biggest island is Motulalo. In the late 19th century, after the coming of the missionaries, the people of Nukufetau lived on Fale islet before shifting to Savave which is on the lagoon side of the Fale settlement.[4]


Alfred Agate (1841).
A man from the Nukufetau atoll, drawn by Alfred Agate in 1841.

The traditional history of Nukufetau is that a party of Tongans were the first people to settle. When they landed they found only one fetau (or fetaʻu in Tongan) tree growing on the atoll, so they called the place Nukufetau - the island of the fetau. They planted coconut trees and settled on Fale on the western side of the atoll.[5]

Arent Schuyler de Peyster, of New York, captain of the armed brigantine or privateer Rebecca, sailing under British colours,[6][7] passed through the southern Tuvalu waters in May 1819 sighting Nukufetau.[8]

In 1820 the Russian explorer Mikhail Lazarev visited Nukufetau as commander of the Mirny.[8][9]

The United States Exploring Expedition under Charles Wilkes visited Nukufetau in 1841.[10]

Louis Becke, who later became a writer, operated a store on Nukufetau from February 1881 to August 1881.[11] Becke later wrote a story about a fishing expedition: The Fisher Folk Of Nukufetau.[12]

The population of Nukufetau from 1860-1900 is estimated to be 250 people.[13][14]

Alfred Restieaux was a trader on Nukufetau in the late 19th century from 1873 to 1879 and met his wife Litia.[15][16] He returned sometime in the 1880s; in 1892 Captain Davis, of HMS Royalist, recorded Alfred Restieaux and Emile Fenisot as trading on Nukufetau.[17][18] Restieaux died on Nukufetau in 1911.

Nukufetau Post Office opened around 1925.[19]

During World War II Coastwatchers, who observed and reported on Japanese shipping, had a station on Nukufetau.[20] In 1943 United States Navy Seabees build a deepwater wharf and an airfield on Motulalo, which is the largest islet of Nukufetau.[21] Two intersecting runways of Nukufetau Airfield formed an "X" shape.

B-24s were based at the airfield. The Marine Attack Squadron 331 (VMA-331) also flew Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers from Nukufetau.[22] After the war the airfield was dismantled and the land returned to its owners, however as the coral base was compacted to make the runway the land now provides poor ground for growing coconuts.[21]

Cyclone Pam, March 2015[edit]

Nukufetau was effected by storm surges caused by Cyclone Pam in early March 2015, which damaged houses, crops and infrastructure. As of 22 March, 76 people (13 percent of the population) were displaced and were living in 2 evacuation centres.[23]

General election, 2010[edit]

Nukufetau constituency results[24]
Party Candidate Votes %
Non-partisan Enele Sopoaga Symbol confirmed.svg 490
Non-partisan Lotoala Metia Symbol confirmed.svg 399
Non-partisan Elisala Pita 322

Lotoala Metia died on 21 December 2012[25] The calling of a by election was delayed until the High Court ordered Prime Minister Willy Telavi to issue a notice of elections five days after the judgment, which is delivered in 29 May 2013.[26] The Nukufetau by-election, 2013 was held on 28 June.[27] The by-election was won by Pita Elisala with over two-thirds of the vote.[28][29][30] Following the by-election the government changed with the Parliament appointing Enele Sopoaga as Prime Minister.

Nukufetau by-election, 2013
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Independent Elisala Pita Symbol confirmed.svg
(opposition candidate)
537 67.04 +40.45
Independent Petely Niuatui
(government candidate)
264 32.96 n/a
Majority 273 34.08
Opposition gain from Government Swing

Notable local person[edit]

A notable local person is Saufatu Sopoanga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu 2002-2004, who represented Nukufetau in the Parliament of Tuvalu for a number of years.[31][32]


  1. ^ Map of Nukufetau Atoll. 
  2. ^ British Admiralty Nautical Chart 766 Ellice Islands (1893 ed.). United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO). 21 March 1872. 
  3. ^ Nofoaiga Lafita, Hugh Laracy (ed.) (1983). "Chapter 12 - Nukufetau". Tuvalu: A History. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific and Government of Tuvalu. p. 91. 
  4. ^ Nofoaiga Lafita, Hugh Laracy (ed.) (1983). "Chapter 12 - Nukufetau". Tuvalu: A History. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific and Government of Tuvalu. pp. 86–87. 
  5. ^ Nofoaiga Lafita, Hugh Laracy (ed.) (1983). "Chapter 12 - Nukufetau". Tuvalu: A History. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific and Government of Tuvalu. p. 86. 
  6. ^ "De Peyster, Arent Schuyler, 1779-1863. Details of the discovery of the Ellice and de Peyster Islands in the Pacific Ocean in May, 1819". Bibliothèque nationale du Québec. 
  7. ^ "The De Peysters". 
  8. ^ a b Laumua Kofe, Hugh Laracy (ed.) (1983). "Chapter 15 - Palagi and Pastors". Tuvalu: A History. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific and Government of Tuvalu. pp. 102–103. 
  9. ^ Keith S. Chambers & Doug Munro, The Mystery of Gran Cocal: European Discovery and Mis-Discovery in Tuvalu, 89(2) (1980) The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 167-198
  10. ^ Tyler, David B. - 1968 The Wilkes Expedition. The First United States Exploring Expedition (1838-42). Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society
  11. ^ 'Louis Beck, Adventurer and Writer', Chapter 8, Rascals in Paradise, James A. Michener and Arthur Grove Day, Secker and Warburg (1957)
  12. ^ Becke, Louis. "The Fisher Folk Of Nukufetau". Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  13. ^ W.F. Newton, The Early Population of the Ellice Islands, 76(2) (1967) The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 197-204.
  14. ^ Richard Bedford, Barrie Macdonald & Doug Monro, Population Estimates for Kiribati and Tuvalu (1980) 89(1) J. of the Polynesian Society 199
  15. ^ Resture, Jane. "From Restieaux to Resture". Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  16. ^ Resture, Jane. "Alfred Restieaux Manuscripts – Part 2". Jane Resture. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  17. ^ Resture, Jane. "TUVALU HISTORY - 'The Davis Diaries' (H.M.S. Royalist, 1892 visit to Ellice Islands under Captain Davis)". Retrieved 20 Sep 2011. 
  18. ^ "A Brief History of Tuvalu". Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  19. ^ Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Premier Postal Auctions. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  20. ^ Clayworth, Peter (16 November 2012). "Coast-watching headquarters at Nukufetau, Ellice Islands, 1941". 'Intelligence services - Intelligence services, 1800s to 1945', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  21. ^ a b Melei Telavi, Hugh Laracy (ed.) (1983). "Chapter 18 - War". Tuvalu: A History. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific and Government of Tuvalu. p. 143. 
  22. ^ Bartsch, Bill. "War Relics in Tuvalu and Kiribati". South Pacific Bulletin (1975). Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  23. ^ "Tuvalu: Tropical Cyclone Pam Situation Report No. 1 (as of 22 March 2015)". Relief Web. 22 March 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  24. ^ Cannon, Brian (2010-09-16). "Tuvalu Election Results". Tuvalu News ( Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  25. ^ "Tuvalu Minister dies in Suva", Islands Business, 24 December 2012
  26. ^ Matau, Robert (June 2013). "Tuvalu’s high court orders by-election to be held". Island Business. 
  27. ^ "Tuvalu’s former PM Sopoaga has another shot", Islands Business, 10 June 2013
  28. ^ "Tuvalu’s Opposition waiting to hear from GG", Islands Business, 1 July 2013
  29. ^ Coutts, Geraldine (2 July 2013). "Tuvalu opposition demands parliament be allowed to sit after weekend by-election". Radio Australia. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  30. ^ "Tuvalu’s parliament convenes July 30", Islands Business, 3 July 2013
  31. ^ "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2002. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  32. ^ "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2006. Retrieved 7 March 2013.