palmerston island

Palmerston Island
Palmerston Island
A coral atoll in the Cook Islands
Central-Southern Pacific Ocean, 290 miles northwest of Rarotonga
First European Contact
James Cook landed on 16 June 1774
25 people, mostly descendants of 19th century English sailor William Marsters
Palmerston Island is a remote coral atoll in the Cook Islands, located about 290 miles (470 km) northwest of Rarotonga in the Pacific Ocean. It has a total land area of approximately 1 square mile (2.6 km²) spread across several sandy islets on a continuous ring of coral reef enclosing a lagoon. The only inhabited islet is Home, with a population of around 25 people.

Key Facts

  • Discovered by Captain James Cook in 1774, but remained uninhabited until 1863 when English sailor William Marsters arrived with two Polynesian wives.
  • All current inhabitants are descendants of William Marsters, making English their native language - the only island in the Cook Islands where this is the case.
  • The island was granted full ownership to the Marsters family in 1954 by the British government.
  • Palmerston is administered by the Cook Islands government through the Palmerston Island Administration, in association with New Zealand.
  • The economy is based on fishing and subsistence living, with limited trade of parrot fish and copra.
  • Electricity, rainwater storage, and basic communication services are available, but the island has no airport or regular transport links.
  • Visiting yachts are welcomed, with each boat hosted by one of the island families during their stay.
Palmerston Island is known for its extreme isolation and the unique English-speaking Polynesian culture developed by the Marsters descendants over generations. Access is difficult, with most visitors arriving by private yacht or infrequent cargo ships from Rarotonga.
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