Ta‘ū is the largest island in the Manu‘a Group and the easternmost volcanic island of the Samoan Islands. Ta‘ū is part of American Samoa. In the early 19th century, the island was sometimes called Opoun.
The island is the eroded remnant of a "hotspot" shield volcano with a caldera complex or collapse feature (Liu Bench) on the south face. The summit of the island, called Lata Mountain, is at an elevation of 931 meters (3,054 ft), making it the highest point in American Samoa. The last known volcanic eruption in the Manu‘a Islands was in 1866, on the submarine ridge that extends westnorthwest towards nearby Ofu-Olosega.
The largest airport in the Manu‘a Islands is on the northeast corner of Ta‘ū at Fiti‘uta. There is also a private airport. A boat harbor is located at Faleāsao at the northwestern corner of the island. A roadway along the north coast connects all of the several inhabited villages between Ta‘ū on the west and Fiti‘uta.
All of the southeastern half of Ta‘ū—including all of the rainforest on top of Lata Mountain and within the caldera—and southern shoreline and associated coral reefs are part of the National Park of American Samoa. The park includes the ancient, sacred site of Saua, considered to be the birthplace of the Polynesian people.
Administratively, the island is divided into three counties: Faleasao County, Fitiuta County, and Ta'u County. Along with Ofu and Olosega islands, Tau Island comprises the Manua District of American Samoa. The land area of Tau Island is 44.31 square kilometers (17.11 sq mi) and it had a population of 873 persons as of the 2000 census and of 790 persons in the 2010 census.
Ta‘ū is where the 23-year-old anthropologist Margaret Mead conducted her dissertation research in Samoa in the 1920s, published in 1928 as Coming of Age in Samoa. In her work, she studied adolescent teenage girls and compared their experience to those of Western societies. She concluded that adolescence was a smooth transition, not marked by the emotional or psychological distress, anxiety, or confusion seen in the United States.
Until 2016, being a small and isolated island, the populace relied on costly and environmentally unfriendly diesel generators to supply their energy. However, with the construction of a solar array, battery storage system and microgrid the island's power is provided virtually 100% from the sun. This solar array was constructed by SolarCity, and now includes sixty Tesla Powerpacks. The system should be a more reliable source of energy, and was designed to power the entire island for three days without sunlight and fully recharge in seven hours.
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