Jennifer Fry: March 11, 2011, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry

Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette

March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 11, 2012

Pago Pago, American Samoa

A brief history of American Samoa is rich and varied.  The highlights include:

  •  The islands of American Samoa have a total land area of 76 square miles.

    Coconuts grow everywhere in American Samoa and contribute to the daily diet.
  • Pago Pago or Tutuila contains about two thirds of the total area and is home to 95% of the 65,000 islanders.
  • American Samoa is located 14 degrees south of the equator, and 172 degrees meridian west, and is the center of Polynesia.
  •  Located 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,600 miles northeast of New Zealand, it forms a strategic midpoint on vital shipping and air routes.
  •  Samoan islands were “officially discovered” by Dutch Explorer Jacob Roggeveen in 1722.
  • Initial contact with the outside world came with the introduction of Christianity by John Williams of the London Missionary Society. .
  • Traditional Samoan society is based on a chieftain system of hereditary rank, and is known as the “Samoan Way” or fa’a Samoa way of life.
  • Local cultural institutions are the strongest single influence in American Samoa. The fa’a Samoa way of life stems from the aiga, the extended family with a common allegiance to the matai, the family chief who regulates the family’s activities.
  • Religious institutions are very influential in the community and the village minister is accorded a privileged position, equal in status to a chief or matai.
  • The Fa’a Samoa also reflects a communal lifestyle with non-public ownership and 90% of the communal lands controlled by the family matai.
  • American Samoa has been a territory of the United States since the signing of the April 17, 1900 Deed of Cession.
  • The Pago Pago Harbor area was the site of the coaling station and a naval base. During the War Years, the United States built roads, airstrips, docks and medical facilities exposing island residents to the American way of life.
  •  The government is divided into three branches, similar to the United States.
  • The Executive Branch is led by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor,
  •  the Legislative Branch is led by the local legislature, consisting of the House of Representatives, who are elected by popular vote and the Senate, who are represented by the village matai.
  • The judicial branch is part of the U.S. judicial system, and American Samoa has a non-voting representative elected to the U.S. Congress.

For more information about American Samoa and its history, go to:

Personal Log:

Since we arrived early, we were able to explore the island and its unique beauty.  We drove up to the National Park of American Samoa, Ma’Oputasi.  The vistas , beaches, flora, and fauna were breath-taking.  Here is a pictorial tour of the sites.

Pago Pago is home to the largest tuna cannery in American Samoa. Many islanders are employed here.
American Samoa celebrates 111th anniversary.

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