Relief map of Tongatabu

Photograph of the anchorage at Nuku'Alofa, Tongatabu

Navy History and Heritage Command #NH 91173

Nuku'Alofa (175.200W 21.133S) is the capital and principal port of the kingdom of Tonga. It is located on the island of Tongatapu, a large, flat limestone island some 3000 miles (4800 km) southwest of Pearl Harbor, 490 miles (790 km) southeast of Fiji and 490 miles (790 km) southwest of American Samoa. The island is about 18 miles (29 km) long and nine miles (14 km) wide. An offshore reef encloses a former lagoon on the northwest coast, transforming it into a large tidal sand flat, and there is another large, irregular lagoon opening onto the north coast whose entrance is choked with coral heads. However, there is a deep anchorage off the north coast at Nuku'Alofa that is one of the best in Polynesia, having a deep-draft harbor protected by reefs to the east and west. The port was fairly well-developed and became an important base along the sea lanes from Australia to the U.S. West Coast. The island had a good road net and the land was heavily cultivated, producing copra, bananas, oranges, vanilla, and squash.

Nuku'Alofa had an airfield in 1941 which by May 1942 was capable of temporarily operating a carrier air group. The island was identified as a desirable location for a naval and air base on 6 March 1942, and the U.S. Navy began development of an advance fleet base after negotiating an agreement brokered by the British consul. The first U.S. forces, consisting of 147 Regiment, 77 Coast Artillery Regiment (Antiaircraft), and 68 Pursuit Squadron, and Navy base forces (8600 men), arrived on 9 May 1942. An airfield with three runways was built at Fuaamotu near the southern tip of Tongatabu. The base would have proved extremely important if the Allies had lost the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Japanese had moved against Fiji and Samoa, but the Allied victories at Coral Sea and in the Guadalcanal campaign ensured the safety of Tonga, and the base was closed in November 1943.

Climate Information:

Temperatures: Jan 78 Apr 77, Jul 71, Oct 74

Rainfall: Jan 16/8.0, Apr 13/10.2, Jul 9/0.8, Oct 9/4.0 == 57.7" per annum


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