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Tongatapu is the main island of the Kingdom of Tongamarker and the location of its capital Nuku alofamarker. It is located in Tonga's southern island group, to which it gives its name, and is the country's most populous island, with approximately 71,260 residents (2006), 70.5% of the national population. Tongatapu is Tonga's centre of government and the seat of its monarchy.

There are numerous historical sites on Tongatapu, relating to both the early history of the Tongans as well as the post-European contact period. One of the most iconic of these is the Royal Palacemarker, located on the capital's waterfront and formerly the monarch's principal residence, but since the accession of King Siaosi Tupou V now occupied only by HM Queen Halaevalu Mataʻaho ʻAhomeʻe, the Queen Mother.

Tongatapu, as a commercial and transport hub, has (led by Nuku alofa) experienced more rapid economic development than, as well as attracting many internal migrants from, the other islands of the Kingdom

European discovery

Tongatapu was discovered by Europeans on 20 January 1643 by Abel Janszoon Tasman commanding two ships, the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen commissioned by the Dutch East India Company of Batavia (Jakarta). The expedition's goals were to chart the unknown southern and eastern seas and to find a possible passage through the South Pacificmarker and Indian Oceanmarker providing a faster route to Chilemarker. The expedition set sail from Batavia on 14 August 1642. Tasman named the island "t’ Eijlandt Amsterdam" (Amsterdam Island), because of its abundance of supplies. This name is no longer used except by historians.

Note on spelling

Before the reform of Tongan language spelling in 1943, Tongatapu was written as Tongatabu. The Tongan p is sounded between the English p and b, something that up to the end of the 19th century was probably more pronounced than at present. When first written, Tongan used "b" for this sound but by the beginning of the 20th century many words were already spelled with a "p". Such a well established name as Tongatapu was the last to follow and the IATA abbreviation of Fua amotu International Airportmarker is still TBU.

Sites on Tongatapu

See also


  1. Hooker, Brian. The European discovery of the Tonga Islands

External links

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