Swains Island – One of the Last Jewels of the Planet

Continent: Oceania
Coordinates: 11.05S 171.05W AH48LW
Zones: WAZ 32, ITU 62
Allocation: AH8
IOTA: OC-200

Swains Island (Olohega) is an atoll in the Tokelau chain, the most northwesterly island administered by American Samoa. Although culturally belonging to Tokelau, politically, it is a territory of United States of America.
It has variously been known as Olosenga Island, Olohega Island, Quiros Island, Gente Hermosa Island and Jennings Island throughout its history.
The island has a land area of 1.508 km² (0.582 sq mi, or 372.55 acres).

The island is a ring of sand and coral, a mile and a half east and west, a mile wide, and nowhere more than 20 feet high, surrounding a shallow lagoon, which is only slightly brackish, with no surface connection with the sea. Most of the land, from the crest of the narrow ocean beach to the very edge of the lagoon, is thickly covered with vegetation, about 800 acres of coconut palms and various trees and shrubs found widespread in the Pacific.

Swains is considered to be part of American Samoa. It is actually part of the Tokelau group but is owned by the Jennings family and administered by the United States. The politics are very complicated. The name “Swains Island” was bestowed upon the island by Captain William Hudson, in 1841.

An American, Eli Jennings, joined the copra farmers on Swains Island, with his Samoan wife, in 1856. It is said that he purchased the island from a British Captain Turnbull, for 15 shillings per acre, plus a bottle of gin. So, if Swains was calculated to be 373 acres, the total paid would have been 5595 shillings. That would be about PS23,000 ($US40,000) in today’s values. Plus a bottle of gin.

Getting to Swains is difficult or nearly impossible. Special arrangements need to be made long in advance and transport is always subject to weather conditions.

More about Swains….