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Swains Island (; Tokelauan: ''Olohega'' ;
Samoan Samoan may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the Samoan Islands, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean ** Something of, from, or related to Samoa, a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands ** Something of, from, o ...
: ''Olosega'' ) is a remote coral
atoll An atoll (), sometimes known as a coral atoll, is a ring-shaped coral reef A coral reef is an underwater ecosystems, ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals. Reefs are formed of Colony (biology), colonies of coral polyp (zoology) ...

atoll
in the
Tokelau Islands ) , song_type = Territorial anthem , song = "Te Atua o Tokelau" , image_map = New Zealand on the globe (Tokelau special) (small islands magnified) (Polynesia centered).svg , map_alt = Location of Tokelau , mapsize = 290px , image_map2 = T ...
in the
South Pacific Ocean South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...

South Pacific Ocean
. The island is the subject of an ongoing
territorial dispute A territorial dispute or boundary dispute is a disagreement over the possession or control of land between two or more political entities. Context and definitions Territorial disputes are often related to the possession of natural resources ...

territorial dispute
between
Tokelau Tokelau (; "north-northeast"; known previously as the Union Islands, and, until 1976, known officially as the Tokelau Islands) is a dependent territory of New Zealand in the southern Pacific Ocean. It consists of three tropical coral atolls: A ...

Tokelau
and the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, which has administered it as part of
American Samoa American Samoa ( sm, Amerika Sāmoa, ; also ' or ') is an unincorporated territory of the United States Under United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a countr ...

American Samoa
since 1925. Privately owned by the family of Eli Hutchinson Jennings since 1856, Swains Island was used as a
copra Copra ( > ) refers to the dried coconut The coconut tree (''Cocos nucifera'') is a member of the palm tree family (biology), family (Arecaceae) and the only living species of the genus ''Cocos''. The term "coconut" (or the archaic "coc ...

copra
plantation A plantation is a large-scale estate, generally centered on a plantation house, meant for farming that specializes in cash crops. The crops that are grown include cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar cane, opium, sisal, oil seeds, oil pa ...

plantation
until 1967. It has not been permanently inhabited since 2008 but has often been visited by members of the Jennings family, scientific researchers, and amateur radio operators.Swains Island
Charles A. Veley, 27 November 2008.
2012 Swains Island DXpedition
/ref>Assessment of the Birds of Swains Island, American Samoa
Andrew Titmus, Nicola Arcilla, and Christopher Lepczyk, ''The Wilson Journal of Ornithology'', March 2016.
Atoll envisioned as a model for sustainability
Star Advertiser, 20 September 2014.
The island is located south of
Fakaofo Fakaofo, formerly known as ''Bowditch Island'', is a Pacific Ocean, South Pacific Ocean atoll located in the Tokelau Group. The actual land area is only about 3 km2 (1.1 sq mi), consisting of islets on a coral reef surrounding a central lagoon ...
(Tokelau) and north of Savai‘i (
Samoa Samoa (, ), officially the Independent State of Samoa ( sm, Malo Saʻoloto Tutoʻatasi o Sāmoa; sm, Sāmoa, ) and until 1997 known as Western Samoa, is a Polynesia Polynesia (, ; from grc, πολύς "many" and grc, νῆσος "i ...

Samoa
). The land area is , and the total area including the lagoon is .


Etymology

A persistent misconception about Swains Island is its supposed discovery on 2 March 1606 by
Pedro Fernandes de Queirós Pedro Fernandes de Queirós ( es, Pedro Fernández de Quirós) (1563–1614) was a Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal Portugal (), officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt ...
, a famous
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
navigator who sailed for
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
. On that day, he reckoned an island at 10°36'S 171°W, and his ship's historian named it ''Isla de la Gente Hermosa'' (meaning "island of the beautiful people" in
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
), after its inhabitants. The closest island to that reckoned location is Swains Island at 11°03'S 171°05'W, leading later authors to identify it as the same, and thus refer to it by that Spanish name or by the Spanish version of the navigator's last name, ''Quirós'' (also spelled Quiros in English). However, the island described by Queirós was significantly larger, and at the time the calculation of
longitude Longitude (, ) is a geographic coordinate A geographic coordinate system (GCS) is a coordinate system associated with position (geometry), positions on Earth (geographic position). A GCS can give positions: *as Geodetic coordinates, ...

longitude
had a much greater uncertainty than
latitude In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. The first person to use the ...

latitude
, leading later scholars to conclude that the island found by Queirós was actually
Rakahanga Rakahanga is part of the Cook Islands, situated in the central-southern Pacific Ocean. The unspoilt atoll is from the Cook Islands' Capital city, capital, Rarotonga, and lies south of the equator. Its nearest neighbour is Manihiki which is just ...

Rakahanga
, lying 1,100 km to the east at 10°02'S 161°05'W. Captain William L. Hudson of the USS ''Peacock'' saw the island on 1 February 1841, during the
United States Exploring Expedition The United States Exploring Expedition of 1838–1842 was an exploring and surveying expedition of the Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north t ...
of 1838–42. He claimed to have learned about the island's location from a certain Captain Swain of
Nantucket Nantucket is an island about by ferry south from Cape Cod, in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. Together with the small islands of Tuckernuck Island, Tuckernuck and Muskeget, it constitutes the Town and County of Nantucket, a Consolidated city ...

Nantucket
, and after concluding that it did not match the description by Queirós, resolved to call it ''Swain's Island'' (the apostrophe was later dropped): " om having its position very nearly pointed out to me by Capt. Swain of Nantucket who stated to me at
Tahiti Tahiti (; Tahitian ; ; previously also known as Otaheite) is the largest island of the Windward group of the Society Islands The Society Islands (french: Îles de la Société, officially ''Archipel de la Société;'' ty, Tōtaiete mā) a ...

Tahiti
that he had seen it in passing – and in consequence of its being a considerable distance in latitude from, and not agreeing in size or character with the island described by Queros – in addition to this in view of it being peopled with a beautiful race – it is uninhabited and perhaps we are the first that have ever set foot upon it – thus much for its name." This Captain Swain has not been conclusively identified. Authors have suggested Jonathan Swain of
whaler A whaler or whaling ship is a specialized vessel, designed or adapted for : the catching or processing of s. Terminology The term ''whaler'' is mostly historic. A handful of nations continue with industrial whaling, and one, Japan, still ded ...
''Independence'' in 1820, or William C. Swain of whaler ''George Champlain'' in the 1830s. Other evidence suggests Obed Swain of whaler ''Jefferson'' of Nantucket, who, unlike William C. Swain, actually was at Tahiti when the United States Exploring Expedition was there with the USS ''Peacock'' and Captain Hudson. In Tokelauan, the main language formerly spoken on Swains Island, the island is called ''Olohega'' . The name is composed of the prefix ''olo-'', indicating a
collective noun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...
, and the word ''hega'', meaning a tuft of
feather Feathers are epidermal growths that form a distinctive outer covering, or plumage Plumage ( "feather") is a layer of feather Feathers are epidermal growths that form a distinctive outer covering, or plumage, on dinosaurs, both avi ...

feather
s tied to the end of a skipjack
lure Lure may refer to: Objects * Lure (falconry), a chase object used in falconry * Fishing lure, an object to attract fish * Lur or Lure, a musical instrument * Bait (luring substance), the substance used in luring Geography Albania * Lurë, a munic ...

lure
, possibly referring to the island's location at the end of the
Tokelau Tokelau (; "north-northeast"; known previously as the Union Islands, and, until 1976, known officially as the Tokelau Islands) is a dependent territory of New Zealand in the southern Pacific Ocean. It consists of three tropical coral atolls: A ...

Tokelau
chain.Tokelau Dictionary
Office of Tokelau Affairs, 1986.
Wayfinding in Pacific linguascapes: Negotiating Tokelau linguistic indentities in Hawai‘i
Akiemi Glenn, August 2012.
A variant of this name is Olosega , either also in Tokelauan or in
Samoan Samoan may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the Samoan Islands, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean ** Something of, from, or related to Samoa, a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands ** Something of, from, o ...
, another language formerly spoken there. It should not be confused with the
homonym In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of pronunciation) or homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of spelling), or both. For example, acco ...
ous island in the pair of the Manu‘a group in
American Samoa American Samoa ( sm, Amerika Sāmoa, ; also ' or ') is an unincorporated territory of the United States Under United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a countr ...

American Samoa
. It is also called ''Jennings Island'', after Eli Hutchinson Jennings, who settled there in 1856 and whose family still owns and manages the island.


Geography

Swains Island has a total area of about , of which is land. The central lagoon accounts for . The atoll is somewhat unusual, featuring an unbroken circle of land enclosing a lagoon separated from the sea. The lagoon has a maximum depth of and contains
algae Algae (; singular alga ) is an informal term for a large and diverse group of photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert Conversion or convert may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Co ...

algae
and
fish Fish are aquatic Aquatic means relating to water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere and the ...

fish
. Its water has a
salinity Salinity () is the saltiness or amount of salt Salt is a mineral In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defined chemical composition and a specific ...

salinity
of about 0.4%, described as
brackish Brackish water, also sometimes termed brack water, is water occurring in a natural environment having more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater (salt water) with fresh water together, as in est ...
, useful for bathing and washing but not for drinking. Drinking water in the island is derived entirely from
rainfall Rain is liquid water in the form of droplet Rain water flux from a canopy. Among the forces that govern drop formation: cohesion, Van der Waals force">Cohesion_(chemistry).html" ;"title="surface tension, Cohesion (chemistry)">cohesion, ...

rainfall
collected in tanks. Nearly all of the land is filled with coconut palms. The village of Taulaga (meaning harbor or town), in the west of the island, consists of a ''malae'' (open ceremonial space) surrounded by houses, but as of 2013 the only structure still standing was a church, built around 1886. The village of Etena (meaning
Eden Eden may refer to: *Garden of Eden, the "garden of God" described in the Book of Genesis Places and jurisdictions Middle East * Eden, Lebanon, a city and former bishopric * Camp Eden, Iraq Oceania * Eden (New Zealand electorate), a former ...

Eden
), in the south, contains the former residence of the Jennings family, also built in the 1880s but abandoned after a cyclone severely damaged it in 2005. A road named Belt Road used to circle the entire island, but as of 2013 only the portion connecting the two villages was usable, the rest being covered in vegetation. The island also contains several cemeteries.


Fauna

The island has been recognised as an
Important Bird Area An Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) is an area identified using an internationally agreed set of criteria as being globally important for the conservation of bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the cl ...
(IBA) by
BirdLife International BirdLife International is a global partnership of non-governmental organization A non-governmental organization, or simply an NGO, is an organization that is, generally, formed independent from government. They are typically nonprofit organ ...
because it supports a breeding population of
white tern The white tern or common white tern (''Gygis alba'') is a small seabird found across the tropical oceans of the world. It is sometimes known as the fairy tern although this name is potentially confusing as it is also the common name of ''Sternula ...

white tern
s. Seven reptile species have been recorded from the island, including three
gecko Geckos are small, mostly carnivorous lizards that have a wide distribution, found on every continent except Antarctica. Belonging to the infraorder#Hierarchy of ranks, infraorder Gekkota, geckos are found in warm climates throughout the world. T ...

gecko
s and three
skink Skinks are lizard Lizards (suborder Lacertilia) are a widespread group of Squamata, squamate reptiles, with over 6,000 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica, as well as most oceanic island chains. The group is paraphyleti ...

skink
s, as well as the
green sea turtle The green sea turtle (''Chelonia mydas''), also known as the green turtle, black (sea) turtle or Pacific green turtle, is a species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anat ...

green sea turtle
s which formerly nested on the island, but now occur only as visitors to inshore waters.


Demographics

Swains Island first appeared in the U.S. census in 1930, following its annexation to American Samoa in 1925. The
2010 census2010 census may refer to: * 2010 Chinese Census * 2010 Dominican Republic Census * 2010 Indonesian census * 2010 Malaysian Census * 2010 Russian Census * 2010 Turkish census * 2010 United States Census * 2010 Zambian census {{Disambiguation ...
counted 17 people in 6 households. There were 8 males (ages 20 to 61) and 9 females (3 under age 18, 6 ages 18 to 61). There were 11 U.S. nationals (8 born in American Samoa, and 3 in the United States) and 6 foreign nationals (4 born in
Samoa Samoa (, ), officially the Independent State of Samoa ( sm, Malo Saʻoloto Tutoʻatasi o Sāmoa; sm, Sāmoa, ) and until 1997 known as Western Samoa, is a Polynesia Polynesia (, ; from grc, πολύς "many" and grc, νῆσος "i ...

Samoa
, 1 in Tokelau, and 1 in the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
). They reported their ethnic origins as 15
Samoans Samoans or Samoan people ( sm, tagata Sāmoa) are the indigenous Indigenous may refer to: *Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally di ...
, 1 Tokelauan, and 1
Filipino Filipino may refer to: * Something from or related to the Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas or ''Filipinas'' ), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, ...

Filipino
. Of the 16 people over age 5, 15 spoke mainly Samoan, and 1 spoke another
Oceanic language The approximately 450 Oceanic languages are a branch of the Austronesian languages The Austronesian languages (, , , ) are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken lang ...

Oceanic language
, but all also spoke
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
.American Samoa's 2010 Demographic Profile Summary File Data
U.S. Census Bureau.
However, the people counted in the 2010 census did not permanently reside on Swains Island. Multiple visitors have reported the island as uninhabited since 2008. The 2020 census recorded no residents there.


History

Anthropologists indicate that the island was initially settled by
Polynesian Polynesian is the adjectival form of Polynesia. It may refer to: * Polynesians, an ethnic group * Polynesian culture, the culture of the indigenous peoples of Polynesia * Polynesian mythology, the oral traditions of the people of Polynesia * Polyne ...
voyagers and later conquered by Tokelauans from
Fakaofo Fakaofo, formerly known as ''Bowditch Island'', is a Pacific Ocean, South Pacific Ocean atoll located in the Tokelau Group. The actual land area is only about 3 km2 (1.1 sq mi), consisting of islets on a coral reef surrounding a central lagoon ...
. Whalers from
New England New England is a region comprising six states in the Northeastern United States The Northeastern United States (also referred to as the American Northeast, the Northeast, and the East Coast) is a geographical region In geography ...

New England
began visiting the island in the 1830s or earlier.
Frenchmen The French people (french: Français) are an ethnic group primarily located in Western Europe and nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common language, history, ethnicity, or a common culture, and, in many ca ...
established
copra Copra ( > ) refers to the dried coconut The coconut tree (''Cocos nucifera'') is a member of the palm tree family (biology), family (Arecaceae) and the only living species of the genus ''Cocos''. The term "coconut" (or the archaic "coc ...

copra
production there around that time, during which the native population fled due to violence by the foreigners. Captain William L. Hudson of the USS ''Peacock'' saw the island on 1 February 1841, during the
United States Exploring Expedition The United States Exploring Expedition of 1838–1842 was an exploring and surveying expedition of the Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north t ...
of 1838–42. He named it Swain's Island after a certain Captain Swain, from whom he had learned about the island's location.


The Jennings family

Fakaofo Fakaofo, formerly known as ''Bowditch Island'', is a Pacific Ocean, South Pacific Ocean atoll located in the Tokelau Group. The actual land area is only about 3 km2 (1.1 sq mi), consisting of islets on a coral reef surrounding a central lagoon ...
ans returned to the island soon after Hudson's visit, and were joined by three Frenchmen, who then left to sell the
coconut oil Coconut oil (or coconut butter) is an edible oil derived from the wick, meat, and milk of the coconut palm The coconut tree (''Cocos nucifera'') is a member of the palm tree The Arecaceae is a family (biology), family of Perennial pla ...

coconut oil
they had accumulated. In 1856, an
American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is ...
, Eli Hutchinson Jennings (14 November 1814 – 4 December 1878), joined a community on Swains with his
Samoan Samoan may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the Samoan Islands, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean ** Something of, from, or related to Samoa, a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands ** Something of, from, o ...
wife, Malia. Jennings claimed to have received title to the atoll from a
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...
Captain Turnbull, who claimed ownership of the island by discovery and named it after himself. According to one account, the sale price for Swains was 15 shillings per acre (37 shillings per hectare), and a bottle of
gin , United States, 2010) Gin is a Liquor, distilled alcoholic drink that derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries (''Juniperus communis''). Gin originated as a medicinal liquor made by monks and alchemists across Europe, particularly ...
. One of the Frenchmen later returned, but did not care to share the island with Jennings and left. On 13 October 1856, Swains became a semi-independent
proprietary {{Short pages monitor