Nukufetau is located 106 kilometres to the north west of Funafuti. The rectangular-shaped island is a true coral atoll, consisting of 35 islets (or motu), around a lagoon that about 13 kilometres x 7 kilometres wide. There are deep-water passages on the northwest side.
The island name derives from te fetau, a type of tree common on the atoll, which is used to make tools, and nuku, which is a place of living.
Total land area is about 3 sq. kilometres, making it the third largest island of Tuvalu.
The population is 586, according to the 2002 Tuvaluan census. Most of the people live in the village on Savave, at the south-west corner of Nukufetau.
First contact with the western world occurred in May 1819, when an American, Captain Arent de Peyster found the island. He was in command of the British brigantine Rebecca. He name the atoll after himself, calling it De Peyster's Group.
American forces arrived in 1943 during World War II. They were stationed on the islet of Motulalo and built an X-shaped airfield. It is now overgrown, but is still identifiable from space. War relics still remain on Motulalo.
The people of Nukufetau played an important part in the rescue of Eddie Rickenbacker, the famous World War I flying ace, and the crew of his bomber that crashed at sea near the island in October, 1942. A book was written on the experience, Seven Came Through.
Louis Becke, the early 20th century author spent some time on Nukufetau, arriving in 1881. He became a trader, opening a store there and marrying a local, Nelea Tikena. Becke later wrote extensively of his experiences, including the short story The Fisher Folk of Nukufetau.
Alfred Restieaux, a British trader eventually settled on Nukufetau in the early 1900's, also marrying a local. His name was bastardized to "Resture", and many descendents of his are throughout Tuvalu.
|The motus of Nukufetau:|
|Motulalo, with the old airstrip visible. Photo from NASA.|
|Boating near Savave, Nukufetau. Photo Litea, Tuvalu map Server|
Island Details of Tuvalu