Chronicle of a voyage around the world

Suvarov, Tom Neale’s perfect island...

Published on 01 june 2015 at 0h00

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The Suvarov atoll (or Suwarov for the New Zealanders and the Cook Islands’ government) is situated nearly 800 miles south of the equator, over 500 miles north-west of Rarotonga (the archipelago's main island), and over 200 miles from the nearest inhabited island, Maithili. Needless to say, you might not find Suvarov in your atlas at home... A shame. Because Suvarov is an exceptional natural site, lost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (13°14’S, 163°06’W) and is only accessible in a private yacht. The atoll, which measures around 19 km by 13, is uninhabited, but two caretakers sent by the Cook Islands government stay there for 6 months of the year, from May through the end of October. Since 1978, shortly after the death of Tom Neale in Raratonga, Suvarov atoll has become a National Park. Marine life there is very dense, and seabirds live there in their thousands. A Mecca for biodiversity. The atoll takes its name (slightly altered) from the Russian ship Suvorov, in which it was discovered in 1814. During the Second World War, the American writer Robert Dean Frisbie stayed with a few coastguards on Anchorage Island, the main island, situated close to the entry pass to the lagoon. In 1944, Frisbie, who had also lived on the PukaPuka atoll, wrote a book, The Island of Desire, which told of his experience of life on the atolls of this region of the Pacific. Reading this book, and his meeting with Robert Dean Frisbie at Rarotonga just after the war, finally persuaded Tom ...

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