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Chain Island
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Longitude Min 145 30 W Latitude Min 17 25 S
The atoll of Anaa lies 350 kilometres east of Tahiti.

Anaa is oval in shape and about 30 kilometres long from north-north-east to south-south-west with an average width of 6.5 kilometres.

3,770 hectares in area, Anaa possesses the richest soil of any atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago. It has consequently been historically the most densely populated Tuamotuan atoll until recent times.

Anaa an enclosed shallow lagoon with several basins that become deeper towards the eastern side of the atoll. The lack of water flow with the ocean and variation in water depth in the lagoon has led to the formation of limestone rocks up to three metres high called feo.

Another remarkable phenomenon arising from the shallowness of the lagoon is that its green water projects onto clouds and can seen from a great distance.

The atoll figures in one variant of a Tahitian ancestral narrative collected by the missionary J.M. Orsmond. The narrative centres on Hina, a young woman of high rank and great beauty who enjoyed the special favour of the sun and the moon. Hina married in succession Mahana-eanapa-i-te-po'ipo'i, and Ava'e-e-hiti-i-te-ahiahi, sons of Rû-roa, a woman held in high regard despite her common birth.

Hina had a daughter by each man, who were taken up into a rainbow by the gods and carried to one of the islets of Anaa. Each had with them a cocoanut.

On finding that her coacoanut was without water, Te-ipo-o-te-here, the younger sister changed it with that carried by her sister, Te-ipo-o-te-marama. This displeased the gods who spirited her away in a cloud.

The elder daughter of Hina inherited her sister’s coconut, which became the first grown on Anaa, and from which all the coconut trees throughout the nearby islands originated (Henry 1928: 615-19).

Teuira Henry writes that the tree of Te-ipo-o-te-marama ‘…stood towering high above all other trees of the group, until the cyclone of February 8, 1906, broke it off into three pieces, which were washed away by the sea (Henry 1928: 619).

Cook briefly hauled up off Anaa on 9 April 1769. Following his usual practice of giving uncharted coastal regions names ensuring their quick recognition by seamen, Cook called the atoll Chain Island, because the islands and reefs surrounding its lagoon readily brought to mind links in a chain.

Anaa was incorporated into the Pomare Kingdom of the Society Islands in the early nineteenth century and was the scene of uprisings in the early 1850s that were brutally suppressed by French colonial troops.

Two charts of the atoll by Cook exist. One is in the British Library; the other is in the State Library of New South Wales. There is also a coastal view of Anaa in pencil by Alexander Buchan in the British Library. All three items are reproduced and fully described in David, 1988: 102-3.

Related Entries for Anaa
Natural Phenomena: Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera)

People: Buchan, Alexander (? - 1769)

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Created: 17 April 2004

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000406

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