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Niuafoou map

Niuafo'ou Map, Tonga

Niuafo'ou Island in the remote Niua Group, some 350 kilometers northwest of Vavau, is one of the most unusual islands in the South Pacific. Vai Lahi, a deep crater lake in the center of the island, contains small three islands with lakes of their own: Lakes within islands within a lake within an island.

Though this collapsed volcano is currently dormant, there have been many eruptions within living memory. In 1853 'Ahau village was swallowed by a lava flow, followed by Futu in 1929 and Angaha in 1946. Some 1,300 Niuafo'ou islanders were evacuated to Eua island after the 1946 eruption.

A rare flightless bird, the megapode (called malau in Tongan), incubates its eggs in the warm sands of hot springs beside the lake. Magma close to the surface incubates the eggs, and after 50 days the megapode chicks emerge fully feathered and ready to fend for themselves. Sadly, humans and free-ranging pigs dig up the eggs for food and the birds are facing extinction.

Niuafo'ou is famous in philatelic circles as Tin Can Island. There's no wharf on the island, and in years past, the island's mail was sometimes thrown overboard by passing freighters in a sealed tin can. Since 1983 special Niuafo'ou stamps have been issued valid for postage only from the island.

Getting to Niuafo'ou is difficult. The supply ship from Vavau is only every month or two. The weekly flight from Vavau can only land when the winds are exactly right and planes often have to turn around and go back without landing. The only accommodations are with local families.

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