The Islands of American Samoa

Tutuila Island

Tutuila is, by far, the largest of the seven islands of the territory of American Samoa.  All addresses on Tutuila, as on all other islands in the group, are zip code 96799, or Pago Pago, AS 96799.

Let’s be very clear about the size of Tutuila.  Although 95% of the territory population is on Tutuila, that number is no more than 60,000 (census data is unreliable).  The CIA factbook says there is150 miles of road in American Samoa (all islands) but this seems like a huge overstatement.  There is maybe 60 miles of paved road (probably an over-estimate) on Tutuila.  There are fewer than 10 “STOP” signs (depending on how many are actually standing) and no traffic lights.  The absolute maximum speed limit is 30mph, although most areas have posted speed limits of 25mph or less.  There are no cities, not even a large town on Tutuila or anyplace in American Samoa.   

Aunu'u Island

Aunu'u is a small volcanic island off the southeastern shore of Tutuila in American Samoa. It has a land area of 375 acres and a population of about 475 persons. A short boat ride and a hike around Aunu’u make for an extraordinary day.  The ride out to Auasi village, where the boats leave for Aunu’u, is beautiful.

Manu'a Islands

Although there are three islands in the Manu'a group, we will discuss them collectively because they are seldom referenced individually.  The three islands are Ta’u, Ofu and Olosega. Manu’a is located about 70 miles east of Tutuila.  The addresses are Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Ta’u

Ta’u is the largest of the Manu’a group and the easternmost volcanic island of the Samoan Islands. The island is the peak of a huge undersea mountain.  Lata Mountain on Ta’u is the highest peak in American Samoa at an elevation of 3,054 feet (931 meters).  The land area of Tau Island is 44.31 square kilometres (17.11 sq mi) and it had a population of 873 persons as of the 2000 census.  Also see Wikipedia.

Swains Island

Swains Island is a very small atoll.  Swains, also known as Olohega 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 £23,000 ($US40,000) in today’s values.  Plus a bottle of gin.

Rose Atoll

Rose Atoll is a tiny uninhabited island located about 180 miles east-southeast of Pago Pago Harbor.  Rose was established as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1973.  Changes in fishing rights laws may have created some confusion over the status of fishing rights but it is best to just consider Rose Atoll and the surrounding sea as a no take zone.  If you are ever privileged to visit Rose, please just leave everything as you found it.

Pago Pago Marine Charters, a company based in American Samoa, offers charter services to Rose. Excellent coverage of a recent charter can be found on pagopago.com..