Nahuwa Atoll

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Nahuwa Atoll
FlagCoat of arms
Location of Nahuwa Atoll
Official languagesIngerish, Onnutuan
 • Total14 km2
5 sq mi
 • Estimate (2014)3,170
 • Census (2010)3,166
 • Density226/km2
634/sq mi
GDP (PPP)2014
 • Total$41.79 million
 • Per capita$13,186
Drives on theright
Internet TLD.on

Nahuwa Atoll (Onnutuan: Nahuwa) is a possession of the Kingdom of Onnutu, located almost directly on the Equator, about 2500 km south of mainland Uletha and 2000 km south of the rest of Onnutu. The closest land is the Jørpenilands, a dependency of Zylanda, nearly 1000 km to the east. The atoll has a land area of just 14 square kilometers, surrounding a shallow lagoon of approximately 25 square kilometers.


For centuries Nahuwa Atoll was known to seafaring peoples such as the Onnutuans (who called it Nahuvai in Old Uuvainese) and the Khaiwoonese (who called it Nakhoo). Archaeologists believe the atoll was used by these peoples only as a rest stop, as there is no evidence of any early settlement there.[1] In 1790 the Ingerish landed and claimed the atoll, and in 1814 established the first permanent outpost, a small naval resupply station.[2]

Copra production, 1940s

In 1862, responding to rising demand for coconut oil, a group of Ingerish investors proposed to lease the island from the Navy for use as a copra plantation. The plan was approved, and about 300 Onnutuan men and women were hired from Leluwa to build the plantation and serve as its labor force. Many were told that the work would be only temporary; however they were never paid enough to purchase passage off the island, and what little they were paid was only redeemable at the company store, or to pay rent in the laborer dormitories. Most were left with no choice but to remain on Nahuwa and continue working.[3]

By 1880 the plantation had expanded to cover most of the atoll's land area and was one of the largest producers of coconut oil in the world. By 1904 the population of Onnutuan laborers had swelled to over 1,200, the majority of whom had been born on Nahuwa. A colonial government was organized in 1911 and an Administrator was installed to oversee the "Onnutuan Village" which had grown out of the dormitories. In 1949 the copra plantation went out of business, its land split up and sold off to other interests; in 1955 ownership of the "Onnutuan Village" was transferred to its residents. A land redistribution settlement in 1974 allowed the islanders to claim individual homesteads in designated areas.[4]

The Nomphubog

In 1975 a 1500-ton Khaiwoonese cargo ship, the Nomphubog, en route from Porto Colon to Khaiwoon, ran aground on Nahuwa during a severe storm. One crew member disappeared in the wreck and after an extensive search was presumed dead, but the remainder on board survived and were flown home. The vessel itself, however, was deemed unsalvageable. When the ship's insurance was found to have lapsed, the Ingerish government refused to pay the expense of such a large dismantling project at such a remote location, and the Khaiwoonese firm that owned the wreck filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of the loss. The Nomphubog thus remained abandoned on the beach, initially regarded as an eyesore but eventually becoming a point of interest for visitors and something of a local landmark. When officials twenty years later finally submitted a new proposal to remove the Nomphubog, it was opposed by a broad majority of islanders in a community referendum.[5]

With Onnutu's independence in 1978, island leaders appealed to Ingerland to allow them to join Onnutu. A referendum on the question was held in 1980, with 92% voting in favor, and the process was completed with a handover ceremony on August 1, 1983.[6][7] Since that time, the islands have been administered by the Kingdom of Onnutu.

Government and politics

Notwithstanding its territorial status, Nahuwa Atoll participates fully in Onnutuan elections and politics, and is represented in the Onnutuan Council. Local governance is carried out by the three-member Nahuwa Council, elected every other year by atoll residents, and a Nahuwa Administrator, hired by the council to manage the public services. Judicial power is vested in a part-time judge who travels from the Onnutu main islands two or three times a year. Appeals may be made at the High Court in Leluwa.[8]

Geography and climate

Equator Monument
The atoll viewed from space

Nahuwa Atoll is located just south of the Equator, which passes roughly 300 meters off the island's northernmost point. In 1998 the underwater Equator Monument was constructed as an attraction for divers, an art installation some 50 meters in length, marking the line between the northern and southern hemispheres.[9]

The atoll is roughly "C" shaped, its main island ringed with coral reefs, sandy beaches and low dunes, and enclosing a shallow lagoon of some 25 km2 which contains several marshy islets. The lagoon connects to the open ocean at its eastern end, where two broad channels are located.

The population is concentrated on the western side of the atoll, near the airstrip and public dock. The southern end is sparsely populated, while the low lying northern and eastern areas comprise the Nahuwa Wildlife Sanctuary (NWS), a haven for birds and marine life. Nahuwa is home to several endemic avian species and is also an important stopover point for many transoceanic migratory birds.[10]

Temperatures remain constantly warm year-round, with daytime highs averaging 30°C and lows at night around 25°C. The atoll receives approximately 2,000 mm of precipitation annually, though rainfall can be variable and droughts occasionally occur. Nahuwa can experience severe storms but is out of range of tropical cyclones.[11]


Lagoon side beach and public recreation facilities

Although coconut oil is still produced on a small scale, Nahuwa's main economic activity today is public services. The government employs all the staff for the school, clinic, port, airport, road and parks maintenance, power and water utilities, meteorological station, wildlife sanctuary and research facility. The largest private employers on Nahuwa are the Nahuwa Hotel, two general stores (Nahuwa Mercantile and Onmart) as well as three small support stations for private communications satellites. There are also a number of small fishing boats.[12]

Tourism is largely limited to diving and fishing tours. Plans for tourist oriented development have been discussed and debated many times, though Nahuwa's remoteness has long been a hindering factor for such ventures. Ideas have also been floated for an international rocket launch pad complex ("Spaceport Nahuwa") which would take advantage of the atoll's equatorial position to reduce the fuel required to launch rockets out of the atmosphere.[13]


Onnutu's Office of Statistics estimates that Nahuwa's population as of July 1, 2014 was 3,170 individuals, 53% female and 47% male, 96% Onnutuan nationals and 4% (around 130 individuals) who are permanent residents from other nations. Just over 88% of the population (2,792) identify as Onnutuan ethnicity, with most of the rest reporting Ingerish or mixed ancestry. The island is experiencing a aging population as increasing numbers of young people move to the Onnutu main islands; the average age has risen from 22.5 in 1983 to 36.2 today. The official languages are Onnutuan and Ingerish. The majority religion is Vaavana, the native religion of Onnutu.[14]

Health and education

A small health clinic is headed by a doctor provides basic medical services and emergency care. For specialist treatment and advanced procedures, however, residents must travel to Leluwa. For advanced emergencies, an airlift is available to the Jørpenilands.[15]

The sole educational facility is the Nahuwa School, a combined public primary/secondary school offering free education to all local children as part of the Onnutuan system. Students pursuing tertiary education must leave the atoll, usually for Leluwa.[16]

Utilities and transportation

Although there are a number of small wells, most of Nahuwa's fresh water comes from the sky, in the form of rain catchment facilities. A solar farm completed in 2007 means most the atoll's energy now comes from the sky as well, supplying 100% of the local electricity.[17]

Internal transportation in Nahuwa is limited to a partial ring road which extends from the wilderness boundary at the northern end of the main islet, around its western edge, and down to the main dock facility in the southwest. Smaller roads branch off in different directions. A shipping line provides cargo and limited passenger service to Leluwa twice a month (3 days passage time) in addition to twice weekly air service (2 hours duration) provided by Onnutu's national airline, Onnutuan. Flights operate out of the island's only airstrip, Nahuwa Field, and airfares are heavily subsidized by the government.[18]


Nahuwa shares most of its cultural characteristics with the Onnutu main islands, specifically Uuvai, the point of origin for most of the islanders' ancestors. In the late 19th and early 20th century lengthy ballads were developed, some which would be sung while laboring in the plantation and others at night after the day's work was over. Many of these songs lamented the unfairness of the laborers' predicament and expressed a longing to return to Onnutu. As some of the Ingerish overseers could understand Onnutuan, however, the lyrics would often employ indirect language to mask the true meaning of the words.[19]


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  1. Kunuwai, Petera. "Echoes of Ancient Nahuwa". Journal of Oceanic History. 6 March 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  2. Herringsborough, Bartholomew W. (2004). A History of Nahuwa Atoll. Winburgh, Ingerland: Camwick Press.
  3. Simonds, Heather-Anne. "Testimonies of the Nahuwan laborers". Journal of Social Justice in History. 1 November 2002. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  4. Nulolaya, Paul. "The Small Steps to Freedom: Developments in 20th Century Nahuwa". Nahuwa History Project. 15 September 1999. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  5. Japhwoo, Jessica. The Curious Tale of the Nomphubug. (2003). Khaiwoon: Golden Cloud Publishers.
  6. Nahuwa Atoll Referendum Report. (1981). Winburgh, Ingerland: Government Publications Office.
  7. Traplesbury, Kelly. "Nahuwa Atoll Transferred to Onnutu." (August 1, 1983.) Diplomatic Bulletin.
  8. "Administration of Nahuwa Atoll". Nahuwa Council. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  9. "Visit Nahuwa Atoll". Nahuwa Council. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  10. "Nahuwa Wildlife Sanctuary: About". Onnutu Wildlife Trust. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  11. "Climate Data: Nahuwa Station". Meteorological Office of Onnutu. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  12. "Economy of Nahuwa Atoll". Nahuwa Council. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  13. Holuwa, Akana. (17 March 2005.) "'Spaceport Nahuwa' being discussed again". Leluwa: Oceanic Journal. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  14. "Factsheet: Nahuwa Atoll". Onnutu Office of Statistics. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  15. "Health in Nahuwa Atoll". Nahuwa Council. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  16. "Education in Nahuwa Atoll". Nahuwa Council. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  17. Nanayua, Glen. (3 June 2007.) "Nahuwa goes green". Leluwa: Oceanic Journal. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  18. "Transportation in Nahuwa Atoll". Nahuwa Council. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  19. Simonds, Heather-Anne. "Testimonies of the Nahuwan laborers". Journal of Social Justice in History. 1 November 2002. Retrieved 9 October 2014.

See also