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Discoverers of the Cook Islands and the Names They Gave

5. Manuae

page 21

5. Manuae

A black and white sketch of the island Manuae.

An atoll with two horse-shoe isles, sited on the eastern peak of a twin-peaked volcano. The volcano is an elongated structure with a diameter of 56 km E-W, 24 km N-S, at a depth of 3,000 m. The second peak is “Astronomer Bank”, 13 km west of manuae, and 300 m below sea level.

Total land-areas: 6 km2; Manuae: 2.1 km2; Te Au-o-Tu: 3.9 km2 Diameter of lagoon: 3.2 km max. altitude: 8.8 m

Position: 19°15′43″S, 158°57′ 43″W

Population: 1966: 15; 1971: 2

Manuae to Rarotonga: 229 km, to Aitutaki: 101 km, to Atiu: 111 km.


An Aitutakian tradition gives the honour of discovery to their ancestor Ruatapu. Leaving his home island Taputapuatea (probably Raiatea), Ruata-pu called at Rarotonga and Tonga Tapu. After re-visiting Rarotonga, he went to Mauke and Atiu. An atiuan chief, Renga, gave him two small birds, a kura and a moo, and some coconuts. On his way to Aitutaki, Ruatapu found the atoll and spent four days there. He planted the coconuts and liberated the birds. Many years later Ruatapu sent his second son and his son's wife to the atoll to fill it with children and to reign as an ariki. They landed on the smaller islet, but soon moved over to the larger one, which Te Uru-tupui called Te Au-O-Tupui, that is: the kingdom of Tupui. It is now known as Te Au-O-Tu. Two years later a canoe arrived with a solitary voyager, named Rongovei. Te Urutu-pui sent him to Utataki-enua-o-Ru to find himself a wife. Rongovei returned with two wives and was installed by Te Urutupui as an ariki over the islet (1).


Another tradition states that Ruatapu found the island already populated (2), and this is in agreement with the Atiuan tradition that the island was first settled by two Atiuan brothers, who went to Aitutaki for wives. Some Aitutakians went after them to take revenge for stealing some girls, but they remained instead in peace (3).

Still later Mangaians came to the island. This resulted in war. At the time of Captain Cook the two motu were bitter enemies (3).

The Aitutakians went often to the atoll to collect coconuts. Then it happened that the men did not return, and after investigations they learnt that the missing people had been killed and eaten. So they sent six armed canoes to capture and slay the entire population of the island. Some, however, were made captives and brought to Aitutaki as slaves (4).


Ruatapu found on the islets a large number of “tavake” (Boatswain birds), so he called the newly discovered land Manu-Enua, that is: Bird-Land (5). Another name of the island was Enua-Kura, translated as: The Land of the redparrot feathers (6). Gill relates the story that a year or two before Cook's visit to Mangaia (1777) a canoe sailed from Aitutaki to Manuae to collect red- page 22 parrot feathers. On the way back they were driven out by a storm, and finally reached Mangaia (7).

The third name of the island was Te Tapuae-Manu, that is: The Footprint of Birds (8).

On his third voyage the islanders told Cook that their home was called Te Rougge Mau Atooa; this might be Te Ruaeke Mau Atua, as part of an islet is called Ruaeke (9).

On Forster's version of the Tahitian map of islands the name is written as Moe-No-Tayo (10).

The present-day name is Manuae, translated as Home of Birds (11). It was originally the name of the smaller islet. It was also spelt as Manuwai (12), and Manauai (13).


On his second voyage Captain Cook arrived at Tahiti in August 1773, just over a year after leaving England. From Tahiti he sailed south-west, and on Sept. 23, 1773 he sighted the atoll. He passed it next day without seeing any people (14).

On his third voyage Cook reached the island on April 6, 1777. Soon six or seven double canoes came out. The natives had strong black hair which most of them wore hanging Ioosely from the shoulders, or tied in a bunch on the top of the head. Some, however, had it cut short. Their bodies were not tattooed, and they wore a piece of mat wrapped round the waist. Through Omai Cook learnt that the islanders had seen two great ships before, probably the “Resolution” and the Adventure in 1773. Lieutenant King was sent with two armed boats to look at the coast. The islanders threw some coconuts and invited the strangers to come ashore. The spears and clubs of the natives made King decide not to land. According to information gained through Omai, the island was at that time under the control of an ariki from Atiu (15).


The first name that Cook gave to the island was Sandwich, but he later crossed that name out to give it to the Hawaiian islands. He renamed the atoll Harvey Isle in honour of Captain Harvey, a Lord of the Admitalty. In other manuscripts it is written as Harveys Island, Hervey's Isles, and Hervey Island (16). The present-day English name is Hervey Island (17).


John Williams visited the island on July 7, or 8, 1823, and found some sixty people living there. Some six or seven years later there were only five men, 3 women, and a few children on the island (18). The missionaries brought them to Aitutaki (19).

When Lamont of Penrhyn fame called at the island in 1852, he found a white man, named George, his two native wives and some children there. Some time before another white man and his wife had been living on the island (20).

In June 1889 Commander Nicolls of H.M.S. “Commorant” declared Hervey Island to be a British protectorate (21).

At the turn of the century the island was used as a kind of penal settlement for natives, who worked on a copra plantation (22). Makea Daniela was sentenced to one year's hard labour on Manuae in 1899 (23).

page 23

The islats of Manuae and Te Au-o-Tu were leased to the Cook Islands Trading Coy Ltd for 25 years on June 7, 1898. This lease was confirmed on Sept. 16, 1903. The Lessor was the Aitutaki Government.

This lease was transferred to Charles Frederick Bates and Edward Louis Gruning on Nov. 26, 1907, to Thomas Bunting on Aug. 26, 1924, and to the latter's son, Jeremiah Aylmer Bunting on Aug. 21, 1925, to William Buckland on July 3, 1946, to C.G. Joannides on Febr. 16, 1961, to the Manuas Development Cooperative Society on Jan. 5, 1962, to the Cook Islands Co-operative Bank Ltd on July 23, 1969 (24).


228c:177–178, 180–181


230:62, 68








192:5, 17


195:173; 198:240–241


230:64, 70


9b:90 and note; 9c:848












9b:89–91; 9c:845–848; 9d:1009–1010; 113:56–60


9a:241 and note 2; 9c:845; 9d:1009


394; 110a


204:262; 218:18; 64:182








89:266, 269; 40:172




Records of Land Court, Rarotonga.

A black and white sketch of a bird. A black and white sketch of round fruit.