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Encyclopedia > Takuu
A village scene on Takuu
A village scene on Takuu

Takuu (also Tauu or Mortlock Islands) is a small, isolated atoll off the east coast of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. An atoll is a type of low, coral island found in tropical oceans and consisting of a coral-algal reef surrounding a central depression. ... Bougainville Bougainville is the largest of the Solomon Islands and is a province of Papua New Guinea. ...



Takuu lies about 250 km to the northeast of Kieta, capital of Bougainville, at the intersection of two shifting tectonic plates, which are causing the atoll to sink. The atoll consists of about 13 islands to the east and one island to the northwest. Its position is 4°45′S 157°2′E. Takuu Island is the southernmost and largest of the islands on the eastern side of the atoll. Most of the population however, lives on a small neighbouring island named Nukutoa. The islands in the atoll are very low-lying, at most only a meter or two above the high tide mark. Their very existence is under threat in the near future for two reasons: firstly because the tectonic plate on which the atoll sits is sinking at a rate estimated at 20 centimeters per century, and secondly because of the rise in sea level caused by global warming. Professor Richard Moyle of Auckland University has predicted that the sea's relentless advance will extinguish the atoll's ability to sustain life within the next two or three years. "A couple of years ago, I would have said five. Takuu families living elsewhere in Papua New Guinea will take in as many as they can, but with no single resettlement location, I can't see Takuu continuing to function as a community" (Wane 2005:10). The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century. ... Global mean surface temperatures 1856 to 2005 Mean surface temperature anomalies during the period 1995 to 2004 with respect to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 Global warming is the observed increase in the average temperature of the Earths atmosphere and oceans in recent decades. ...

Population and Culture

The islands are inhabited by approximately 600 people of Polynesian origin. Takuu is one of the Polynesian outlier cultures which are situated outside of the Polynesian Triangle. Polynesia (from Greek, poly = many and nesi = island) is a large grouping of over 1,000 islands in the central and southern Pacific Ocean. ... The Polynesian Triangle is a geographical region of the Pacific Ocean anchored by Hawaii, Rapa Nui and New Zealand. ...

The people of Takuu place great value on the retention of their indigenous practices and religious sites. In order to protect themselves from outside influences, for the last 25 year the islands have banned Christian missionaries and foreigners are forbidden entry. Only four researchers have been permitted to spend time on the islands in that time. This ban was only lifted in the last five years, as young islanders who had lived and studied on the Papua New Guinea mainland returned to their homeland.

Traditional life continues to this day on Takuu. Traditional thatched houses stand in crowded rows, so close to each other that the eaves touch. There are no trees on the island apart from coconut palms, and the main street serves as a marae, a space for ritual ceremonies. Music is still a fundamental part of life on Takuu. Because of the long period of isolation, many of the indigenous songs, stories and dances have survived. Many of the songs date from the period before European contact, which occurred in the mid 19th century. The songs tell stories of voyages between the islands, while "dance performances fill 20 or 30 hours a week" (Wane 2005). Many of the songs are celebrations of successful relationships, whether relationships that link extended families together in productive activity or relationships binding people with their ancestors in times of need.


The people of Takuu speak a Polynesian language. Recently proposed reclassifications of the Polynesian languages place Takuu in the Ellicean outlier branch of Polynesian along with Tuvaluan, Nukuoro, Kapingamarangi, Nukuria, Nukumanu, Luangiua, Sikaiana and Pileni. These languages, spoken in various Polynesian outlier cultures, constitute a subgroup of the Ellicean languages; the Samoic languages (Samoan and Tokelauan) are the other subgroup of Ellicean. Earler classifications place all these languages under the subgroup Samoic Outlier. See Polynesian languages. Nukuoro is an atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia. ... Kapingamarangi is an atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia. ... Pileni is a culturally important island in the Reef Islands, in the northern part of the Solomon Islands province of Temotu. ... The Polynesian languages are a group of related languages spoken in the region known as Polynesia. ...

Takuu Samoan Tokelauan Rarotongan Māori Hawaiian
sky /ɾani/ /laŋi/ /ɾaŋi/ /ɾaŋi/ /lani/
north wind /tokoɾau/ /toʔelau/ /tokelau/ /tokeɾau/ /tokeɾau/ /koʔolau/
woman /ffine/ /fafine/ /fafine/ /vaʔine/ /wahine/ /wahine/
house /faɾe/ /fale/ /fale/ /ʔaɾe/ /ɸaɾe/ /hale/
parent /ma:tua/ /matua/ /metua/ /matua/ /makua/
mother /tinna/, /tinna:/ /tina:/ /ma:tua/ /ma:ma:/ /ɸaea/ /makuahine/
father /tama/, /tamana/ /tama:/ /tama/, /tamana/ /metua/, /pa:pa:/ /matua/, /pa:pa:/ /makua ka:ne/


High tide threatens Nukutoa island, Takuu
High tide threatens Nukutoa island, Takuu

The local economy depends on agriculture and fishing. In recent years, the cultivation of food plants has grown steadily more difficult as the fresh water table becomes contaminated by sea water. Sea levels rising at a rate of 20cm a year have savagely eroded the coastline, threatening its fragile ecosystem and contaminating traditional taro gardens with salt water. The highest point is now a mere metre above the high-tide mark and soon there will be no safe place to store canoes used for fishing, the cornerstone of the islanders' simple diet. As a result the returns from cultivation are diminishing and the people have been forced to appeal to the outside world for assistance. Facing starvation from rising sea-levels and low food supplies, residents of the tiny Pacific island of Takuu are calling on Papua New Guinea for assistance. In 2001, the inhabitants faced a time of great deprivation and hunger when the Atoll Queen, the only supply ship that regularly visits the islands, was laid up for six months for repairs.

In early 2006 a cyclone devastated the islands and added to their already compromised situation. The odds seem to be stacked against the survival of Takuu. The islands have no viable industry and therefore no source of income, and given its economic invisibility, the plight of Takuu has been all but ignored by the international community. A plan to construct a sea wall to guard against the relentless tide were abandoned due to lack of money (Wane 2005:12).

It seems increasingly likely that a uniquely unspoilt Polynesian culture will be consigned to the annals of history.

External links

  • Before the flood Ingenio magazine, University of Auckland
  • Mortlock Islands The two distinct island groups named "Mortlock Islands"
  • Locals face starvation as their Island home sinks CNN.com/World
  • Musical Memory of Takuu Royal Society of New Zealand, Marsden Fund Newsletter
  • PNG island sinking World today archives, ABC Online (Australia)
  • Takuu Islands Association An associated dedicated to saving the islands
  • Takuu's tragedy unfolding Islands Business


  • Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database for Takuu and other languages.
  • Joanna Wane, 2005. 'Before the Flood'. Ingenio et Labore: Magazine of the University of Auckland, Spring 2005:10, 12. URL: www.ingenio.auckland.ac.nz, accessed 30 July 2005.

  Results from FactBites:
Takuu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (951 words)
Takuu lies about 250 km to the northeast of Kieta, capital of Bougainville, at the intersection of two shifting tectonic plates, which are causing the atoll to sink.
Takuu Island is the southernmost and largest of the islands on the eastern side of the atoll.
Takuu is one of the Polynesian outlier cultures which are situated outside of the Polynesian Triangle.
Tuotetuki_takuu (198 words)
Kansainvälinen Polar-takuu on Polar Electro Oy:n myöntämä takuu kuluttajille, jotka ovat hankkineet tuotteen muista maista kuin USA:sta ja Kanadasta.
Takuu ei korvaa tuotteen normaalisti kuluvia osia, kuten joustavaa kiinnitysvyötä ja paristoja.
Takuu ei vaikuta kuluttajan voimassa olevien asianmukaisten kansallisten lakien mukaisiin oikeuksiin eikä osto-/ kauppasopimukseen perustuviin kuluttajan oikeuksiin myyjään nähden.
  More results at FactBites »



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