By Roland Bourdeix, Malua Solinuu. Valerie Saena Tuia and Alofa Leuluaialii

This website returns the information collected during four scientific visits conducted in 2001, 2010, 2012 and 2017 on behalf the Ministry of Agriculture of Samoa, the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network, the Secretatiat of the South Pacific Community, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Bioversity International, CIRAD (French Centre for Agricultural Research and Development), the Coconut Industry Development for the Pacific (CIDP project) and the Darwin Initiative "Saving Pacific Coconuts".

Apolima Island

The three islands of Manono, Apolima and Nuulopa are situated between the two main large islands of Upolu and Savaii. Apolima which is smaller than Manono is surrounded by rugged cliffs and access to the interior is through a single opening in the cliff navigable only with extreme care. Access is always very difficult since there is about 50m wide gate channel blocked off by a cliff called Papaloto, leaving only a narrow serpentine passage on the east side. Since the ocean surges directly into the entrance opening, at the first bend to the left a whirlpool (vili) is created which is often quite dangerous for ingoing boats. In front of the whirlpool is a small cliffy headland Paugaluga and in front of its seaward the rock Tautulioso. There is one village on the island, and is located within the crater amongst gardens and native bush. Apolima is accessible by a 35 minute aluminium boat ride from Manono-uta (on Upolu island) across the lagoon. It is about 2 km from Nuulopa and 9 km from Savaii. The total land mass of the island is approximately 101.5 hectares.

The Apolima Island is a tuff cone complex similar to the islands located east of Upolu. The crater rim is about 80 m above sea level and forms a castle-like architecture with an almost complete circular rim breached toward the east. The pyroclastic succession of the island is brownish-grey lapilli tuff in a semi-consolidated state. The tuff cone slopes at about 25–35° following the original bedding angle, which possibly indicates its relative youth. The diameter of the island appears to be close to the original rim diameter of the original tuff cone. Apolima appears to have formed from multiple explosive phreatomagmatic eruptions with shifting vent sites across a broad vent area.

A legend from Apolima. A long, long time ago a lady left Savai'i with her son and daughter. Her son's name was Nono. On the way from Savai'i, she decided to settle on Apolima Island. They started a new life there, but the children were not happy, because life was difficult. So they moved forward to the lush neighbouring island of Manono, leaving their mother behind. When they arrived in their new home, the siblings fell in love with one another, and soon a baby was born. The other people on Manono were surprised about their relationship and the boy, Nono, became very shy (“Ma” in Samoan). The story spread quickly and soon after the island became known as Manono. Running from this shame, the girl tried to return to her mother on Apolima. As she swam back, her mother saw her in the rough seas and happily opened her arms wide to seize her from the water. Apo-Lima means, in Samoan, to grab or retrieve by hand (from water e.g.). Later on when the people arrived on Apolima, they named the island after this story, Apolima, the place of the grabbing hand.

Draft movie made during our Apolima visit