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THE KINGDOM OF TONGA

Aspects

         

Thanks to a quirk of humankind and not of nature, the International Date Line swings eastward from its north-south path down the middle of the Pacific Ocean just enough to make the last Polynesian monarch the first sovereign to see the light of each new day. When the king greets the dawn and looks out on his realm from the veranda of his whitewashed Victorian palace, he sees a country of low but extremely fertile islands, of gorgeous sandy beaches, and of colourful coral reefs waiting to be explored.

His is a nation protected but never ruled by a Western power. Like Samoa to the north, Tonga has managed to maintain its Polynesian culture in the face of modern change. As the Tonga Visitors Bureau says, the kingdom "still remains far away from it all; still different, still alone, and to the joy of those who find their way to her - essentially unspoiled."

Whole this description is true of the perfectly flat main island Tongatapu, it is especially applicable to Vava'u, a group of hilly islands where fjordlike harbour makes it one of the South Pacific's most popular yachting destinations, and to Ha'apai, a group of low islands which seems to have changed little since the crew of H.M.S. bounty staged their mutiny just offshore in 1789. visiting Vava'u is extremely pleasant to the eyes, and a trip to Ha'apai is like travelling back in time to the old South Seas. Bring your sense of adventure to Tonga, for this is the poorest country in the South Pacific. The electricity may go off while you're here, and the tap water may be turned off (not that you can drink it when it's running). You'll see multitudes of dogs, chickens, and even pigs almost everywhere, even wandering the streets of Nuku'alofa, the capital. And with a few exceptions, you'll stay in accommodations that make a Motel 6 seem luxurious.

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Thank you so much for visiting the above four Domains. I am very pleased to be able to share with you that further limited advertising on Tonga-Aspects Page, along with other Web Pages within the above three Domains, are now available. Potential advertisers are cordially invited to choose from several thousand Web sites available for placement of your important advertisements. For further information, please contact me at:

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In other Polynesian languages, the word Tonga means "south." It stands to reason that Tonga would be so named because the kingdom lies south of Samoa, the first islands permanently settled by Polynesians and presumably the launching site for the colonization of Tonga and the rest of Polynesia. but to the Tongans the name means "garden," and when you drive from the airport into Nuku'alofa, the nation's capital, you can see why. It seems that every square yard of the main island of Tongatapu ("Sacred Garden") not occupied by a building or by the road is either under cultivation or lying fallow but ready for the next planting of bananas, tapioca, taro, yams, watermelons, tomatoes, squash, and a plethora of other fruits and vegetables. Crops grow in small plots under towering coconut palms so numerous that this flat island appears to be one huge copra plantation. The Tongans are generally poor in terms of material wealth, but they own some of the south Pacific's most fertile and productive land.

There just isn't much of it. The kingdom consists of 170 islands, 36 of them inhabited, scattered over an area of about 100,000 square miles, an area about the size of Colorado. the amount of dry land, however, is only 700 square kilometers (269 square miles). that's smaller than New York City. The largest island in the kingdom, Tongatapu has about a third of the country's land area and about two-thirds of its population. it's a flat, raised atoll about 40 miles across from east to west and 20 miles acros from north to south at its longest and widest points. In the center is a sparkling lagoon now unfortunately void of most sea life.

The government and most businesses and tourist activities are in Nuku'alofa (population 22,000), but there i much to see outside of town, including some of the South Pacific's most important and impressive archaeological sites. There are three major island groups in the country. Tongatapu and the smaller 'Eua comprise the southernmost group. About 155 kilometers (96 miles) north are the islands of the Ha'apai Group, and about 108 kilometers (67 miles) beyond them is the beautiful Vava'u Group. Even farther north, and definitely off the beaten path, are the Niuas Islands. The most frequently visited islands are Tongatapu and the sailor's paradise of Vava'u.

THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT  TONGA lies roughly north-south along the edge of the Indo-Australian Plate. The Tonga Trench, one of the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean, parallels the islands to the east where the Pacific Plate dips down and then under the Indo-Australian Plate. The resulting geological activity puts Tonga on the "Ring of Fire" that encircles the Pacific Ocean. One of Tonga's islands, Tofua, is an active volcano, and the entire country experiences frequent earth tremors. Legend says hat earthquakes are caused when the Polynesian goddess Havea Hikule'o moves around underground; consequently, Tongans customarily stomp the shaking ground to get her to stop whatever she's doing down there.

Most of the islands are raised coral atolls. The exceptions are the Niuas and, in the Ha'apai Group, the active volcano Tofua and its sister volcanic cone, Kao. Geologists say hat the weight of the growing Ha'apai volcanoes has caused the Indo-Australian Plate to sag like a hammock, thereby raising Tongatapu and 'Eua on the south end of the Tongan chain and Vava'u on the north end. As a result, the sides of Tongatapu and Vava'u facing Ha'apai slope gently to the sea, while the sides facing away from Ha'apai end in cliffs that fall into the ocean .

GOVERNMENT  Although Tonga technically is a constitutional monarchy, the king in reality is head of a system of hereditary Polynesian chiefs who happen to have titles derived from England. The present king, Taufa'ahau Tupu IV, (See  Jane Resture's comments below), picks his own Privy council of advisors and appoints seven cabinet members and the governors of Ha'apai and Vava'u. With few exceptions they all are nobles. The cabinet members and the governors serve until they retire or die, and they hold 12 of the 30 seats in Parliament - in effect, for life. Of the 16 oth4r members of the Parliament, the nobles choose nine from among their ranks, leaving nine to be elected by the tax-paying commoners.

it would be an understatement to say that the royal family has a hand in every important decision made in Tonga; in fact, very little gets done without its outright or tacit approval or involvement. With more and more Tongans living abroad, and those at home being exposed more and more to news of the world, the monarchy has been under increasing pressure to move to a democracy. this is not likely to happen as long as King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV - now in his 80s - is on the throne. What happens after he dies was very much up in the air.

THE ECONOMY  Tonga has few natural resources other than is fertile soil and the fish in the sea within its exclusive economic zone. The world markers for a its major exports - vanilla, kava, bananas, coconut oil, pineapples, watermelons, tomatoes, squash, and other vegetables - has been unstable and even depressed at times in recent years. The country imports far more than it exports. In addition, the kingdom has run out of land to apportion under the rule that gives each adult male j8.1/4 acres for grown crops. Given this lack of land, plus little chance of upward economic or social mobility, many thousands of Tongans have left the country and now live in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Money sent home by them is a major source of foreign exchange for the country.

For the commoners who remain behind, labor unions are illegal, and the primary chance for economic advancement is in small businesses. although some of these are flourishing when compared to those of outer south Pacific island countries, the royal family can get involved when leases or permits are required from the government. The royals are partners in many businesses operated here by both Tongans and expatriate residents, and they reportedly own majori8ty interests in the corporation that control Tonga's communications satellite slot above the Pacific and the allocation of Internet address using its extension ".to".

History

Legend has it that the great Polynesian god Maui threw a fishhook into the sea from Samoa and brought up the islands of Tonga. He then stepped on some of his catch, flattening them for gardens. Tofua and Kao in the Ha'apai Group and some of the Niuas were left standing as volcanic cones. Polynesian settlers found and settled these gardens sometime around 500 B.C. on their long migration across the South Pacific. Around A.D. 950, according to another myth, the supreme god Tangaloa came down to Tongatapu and fathered a son by a lovely Tongan maiden named Va'epopua. the son, Aho'eitu, thus became the first Tui Tonga - King of Tonga - and launched one of the world's longest-running dynasties. Under subsequent Tuis, Tonga became a power in Polynesia; its large war canoes landed with fierce warriors conquered and dominated the Samoan and the eastern islands of present-day Fiji.

The first Tuis Tonga ruled from the village Niutoua on the northwest corner of Tongatapu. they moved to Lapaha on the shore of the island's interior lagoon about 800 years ago, apparently to take advantage of a safer anchorage for the large, double-hulled war canoes they used to extend their empire as far as Fiji and Samoa. At that time, a deep passage linked the lagoon to the sea; it has been slowly closing as geological forces raise the island and reduce the entrance to the present shallow bank. Over time, the Tui became more of a figurehead, and his power was dispersed among several chiefs, all of them descendants of the original Tui. For centuries the rival chiefs seemed to stop warring among themselves only long enough to make war on Fiji and Samoa. One of the domestic wars was in full swing when missionaries from the London Missionary Society arrived in 1798 and landed on Lifuka in the Ha'apai Group. Two of the missionaries were killed. The rest fled to Sydney, leaving Tonga to the warring heathens.

EUROPEANS ARRIVE: Tongatapu and Ha'apai had been sighted by the Dutch explorers Schouten and Lemaire in 1616, and the Dutchman Abel Tasman had landed on them during his voyage of discovery in 1643. The missionaries knew of the islands, however, from the visits of British Captains Samuel Wallis, James cook, and William Bligh in the late 1700s. During his third voyage in 1777, Captain cook was feted lavishly on Lifuka by a powerful chief named Finau I. Cook was so impressed by this show of hospitality that he named the Ha'apai Group "The Friendly Islands." Unbeknownst to Cook, however, Finau I and his associates apparently plotted to murder him and his crew, but they couldn't agree among themselves how to do it before the great explorer sailed away. The name he gave the islands stuck, and today Tonga uses "The Friendly Islands" as its motto.

Captain Bligh and H.M.S. Bounty visited Lifuka in 1789 after gathering breadfruit in Tahiti. Before he could leave Tongan waters, however, the famous mutiny took place near the island of Ha'afeva in the Ha'apai Group. Some 20 years later Chief Finau II of Lifuka captured a British ship named the Port au Prince, brutally slaughtering all but one member of its crew, stealing all of its muskets and ammunition, and setting it on fire. The survivor was a 15-year-old Londoner named Will Mariner. He became a favorite of the chief, spent several years living among the Tongans, and was made a chief. Mariner later wrote an extensive account of his experiences, telling in one of the four volumes how the 'Tongans mistook 123,000 silver coins on the Port au Prince for gaming pieces they called pa'anga. The national currency today is known as the pa'anga. The arrival of the Wesleyan missionaries on Lifuka in the 1820s coincided with the rise of Taufa'ahau, a powerful chief they converted to Christianity in 1831. With their help, he won a series of domestic wars and by 1845 had conquered Tonga. He made peace with Fiji, took a wife of the incumbent Tui Tonga as his own, and declared himself to be the new Tui Tonga. The deposed Tui, last of the direct descendants of the original Tui Tonga, lived on until 1865.   

ROYALTY ARRIVES: Meanwhile Taufa'ahau took a Christian name and became King George I of Tonga. In 1862 he made his subordinate chiefs "nobles," but he also freed the commoners from forced labor on their estates and instituted the policy of granting each adult male a garden plot and house lot. He created a Privy council of his own choosing and established a legislative assembly made up of representatives of both the nobles and commoners. this system was committed to writing in the constitution of 1875, which still is in effect today, including its "Sabbath-is-sacred" close. the legislative assembly is known now as Parliament.

King George I was dominated during his later years by the Rev. Shirley W. Baker, a missionary who came to Tonga from Sydney in 1860 in 1860 under the auspices of the Wesleyan Church. Over the next 50 years he held almost every important post in the king's government. When the British established their protectorate over Tonga according to the terms of the 1889 Berlin treaty, which also divided the Samoas between Germany and the U.S., they found the kingdom's finances to be in a shambles. In cleaning up the mess, Baker returned to Tonga in 1900 as a lay reader licensed by the Anglican church and died there in 1903. His children erected a large statue of his likeness at the grave on Lifuka, in the Ha'apai Group.

King George I died in 1893 at the age of 97, thus ending a reign of 48 years. His great-grandson, King George II, ruled for the next 25 years and is best remembered for signing a treaty with Great  Britain in 1900. The agreement turned Tonga's foreign affairs over to the British and governed any further encroachments on Tonga by the Western colonial powers. As a result, the Kingdom of Tonga is one of the few Third World countries never to have been colonized. King George II died in 1918 and was succeeded by his daughter the 6-foot 2-inch Queen Salote (her name is the Tongan transliteration of "Charlotte"). For the next 47 years Queen Salote carefully protected her people from Western influence, even to the extent of not allowing a modern hotel to be built in the kingdom. she did, however, come to the world's attention in 1953, when she rode bareheaded in the cold, torrential rain that drenched the coronation parade of Queen Elizabeth II in London (she was merely following Tongan custom of showing respect to royalty by appearing uncovered in their presence).

Impressions: The people were hospitable and, as you sailed in, local boats really did come alongside as they did in voyagers' tales, to invite you to their villages for a feast. Only when arrangements were finalized does the awful truth dawn: it is not natural hospitality being pressed so warmly upon you, but salesmanship.

KING TAUFA'AHAU TUPOU IV: Queen Salote died in 1965 and was succeeded by her son, the now late King Tupou IV. Trained in law at Sydney University in Australia, the new king - then 49 years old - set about bringing Tonga into the modern world. On the pretext of accommodating the important guests invited to his elaborate coronation scheduled for July 4, 1967, the then modern International Dateline Hotel was built on Nuku'alofa waterfront, and Fui'amotu Airport on Tongatapu was upgraded to handle jet aircraft. tourism, albeit on a modest scale, had finally arrived in Tonga. The king ended the treaty of protection with Great Britain, and in 1970 Tonga reassumed her small role on the world's stage. this enabled hr to acquire aid from other countries with which to make further improvements.

Although not as tall as his mother, the king stands above 6 feet and once weighed on the order of 460 pounds (the large statue of him beside the old terminal at Fua'motu Airport is only a slight exaggeration of his former size.) He has slimmed down in recent years to just over 300 pounds, thanks in part to an exercise program seen wearing ski goggles and a motorbike helmet when flying from 'island to island. Watching him arrive at an airport should not be missed. See  Jane Resture's comments below:

COMMENTS FROM JANE'S OCEANIA HOME PAGE NEWSLETTER OF OCTOBER 2006 ON THE PASSING OF KING TAUFA'AHAU TUPOU IV OF TONGA WHO DIED IN AUCKLAND'S MERCY HOSPITAL ON 10TH SEPTEMBER 2006 AFTER BEING GRAVELY ILL FOR MOST OF 2006.

NEWS AND VIEWS 

An instantly recognisable figure wherever he went, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga will be remembered around the world for his promotion of Tonga and for the informal, yet majestic style in which he reigned. Indeed, it was the King's mother, Queen Salote, who first put Tonga on the world map when she attended Queen Elizabeth's coronation in London, in !953. Queen Salote refused to have her carriage covered on a very wet day and, in doing so, got gloriously soaked, winning the admiration of the crowd.

Taufa'ahau was born as Crown Prince in 1918.  He was a bright student who gained his Leaving Certificate at 14 years of age. In 1933 he attended Newington College in Sydney, Australia, and then entered the University of Sydney, graduating as a Bachelor of Arts at 21. In 1941 his father died and he returned to Tonga, being crowned King in 1967.

Queen Elizabeth II of England visited Tonga in 1953, 1970 and 1977. She appointed the King to British orders, whose insignia he wore
with great pride. In 1970 he was appointed the Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific. Taufa'ahau will certainly be remembered in Britain for the magnificent appearance he made at the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, for which occasion a special chair had to be constructed to hold him.

During the last years of Taufa'ahau's reign there was considerable concern about large sums of money lost in dubious schemes to sell Tongan passports as well as criticism of the largely non-representative system of government in Tonga. The king is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho, and his son, Tupouto'a, who has succeeded him to the throne.

DEMOCRACY DOESN'T ARRIVE  The king and his government have had their problems, thanks to more and more of his commoner subjects going overseas to work in the Western democracies, and to those at home becoming better educated and more aware of what's going on both in Tonga and in the world. In the late 1980s a group of commoners founded Kele'a, a newspaper published without the king's input. The paper created a ruckus almost from its first issue by revealing that some government ministers had rung up excessive travel expenses on trips abroad. Then came news that the government had stashed millions of dollars in U.S. banks, money earned from selling Tongan passports to overseas nationals (most of them Hong Kong Chinese but including Imelda Marcos, wife of the deposed Philippine dictator). For $20,000 the buyers received a passport declaring them to be "Tongan protected persons." The documents didn't allow the person to live in Tonga, however, so other nations refused to recognize them. to compound the problem, the Tongan High Court ruled the sales to be unconstitutional. rather than refund the money, Parliament held a special session in 1991; and amended the constitution - a document that had not be significantly changed since 1875. it also raised the price to $50,000. the new passports also allow the holders to live in Tonga.

Incensed, several hundred Tongans marched down Nuku'alofa's man street in a peaceful protest. Nothing like that had ever happ3ned in Tonga before, but it was just the beginning. When the king kept on selling passports, the leaders held a pro-democracy conference in late 1992. That led to fresh elections in 1993 - with the same old results .  .  .

THE TONGANS

The population of Tonga is estimated at somewhere around 100,000 (no one knows for sure). Approximately 98% of the inhabitants are pure Polynesians, closely akin to the Samoans, the bedrock of the Tongan social structure is the traditional way of life - faka Tonga - and the extended family. Parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews all have the same sense of obligation to each other as is felt in Western nuclear families. although Tongans are poor by Western standards, the extended-family system makes sure that no one ever goes hungry or without a place to live.

THE TONGAN SYSTEM  The extended family aside, some striking differences exist between Tonga, Samoa, and the other Polynesian islands. Unlike the others, in which thee is a certain degree of upward mobility, Tonga has a rigid two-tier caste system. the king and 33 "Nobles of the Realm" - plus their families - make up a privileged class at the top of society. Everyone else is a commoner, and although commoners can hold positions in the government, it's impossible for them to move up into the nobility even by marriage. titles of the nobility are inherited, but the king can strip members of the nobility of their positions if they fail to live up to their obligations (presumably including loyalty to the royal family). The king owns all the land in Tonga, which technically makes the country his feudal estate. Tonga isn't exactly like the old European feudal system, however, for although the nobles each rule over a section of the kingdom, they have an obligation to provide for the welfare of the "serfs" rather than the other way around. The nobles administer the villages, look after the people's welfare, and apportion the land among the commoners.

Under Tonga's constitution, each adult male is entitled to a garden lot of 8.1/4 acres and a site for a house in the village. Unfortunately, the population has outstripped the amount of available land, but this system is primarily responsible for the intensely cultivated condition of Tongatapu and the other islands and for the abundance of food in the country. Foreigners are absolutely forbidden to own land in Tonga, and leases require approval of the Cabinet, which for all practical purposes means the king.

TONGAN DRESS  Even traditional Tongan dress reflects this social structure. Western-style clothes have made deep inroads in recent years, especially among young persons, but many Tongans still wear wraparound skirts known as valas. These come to well below the knee on men and to the ankles on women. to show their respect for the royal family and to each other, traditional men and women wear finely woven mats known as ta'ovalas over their valas. Men hold these up with waistbands of coconut fiber; women wear decorative waistbands known as kiekies. Tongans have ta'ovalas for everyday wear, but on special occasions they will break out mats hat are family heirlooms, some of them tattered and worn. The king owns ta'ovalas that have been in his family for more than 500 years. Tongan custom is to wear black for months to mourn the death of a relative or close friend. Since Tongan extended families are large and friends numerous, the black of mourning is seen frequently in the kingdom. In keeping with Tonga's conservatism, it's against the law for men as well as women to appear shirtless in public. While Western men can swim and sunbathe shirtless at the hotel swimming pools and beaches frequented by visitors, you will see most Tongas swimming in a full set of clothes.

RELIGION  Wesleyan missionaries gained a foothold in Tonga during the early 1820s and by 1831 had converted Taufa'ahau, the high chief of the Ha'apai Islands. As happened with the converted chief named Pomare in Tahiti, Taufa'ahau then used missionary support - and guns from other sources - to win a series of wars and become king of Tonga. Tonga quickly became a predominantly Christian nation - apparently an easy transition, as Tongan legend holds hat their own king is a descendant of a supreme Polynesian god and a beautiful earthly virgin. When Taufa'ahau instituted a constitution in 1862, a clause in that document declared. "The Sabbath Day shall be sacred in tonga forever and it shall not be lawful to work, artifice, or play games, or trade on the Sabbath." The penalty for breaking this stricture is a T$10 ($8) fine or 3 months in the slammer at hard labor. Although thee now is some flexibility that allows hotels to cater to their guests on Sunday, almost everything else comes to a screeching halt on the Sabbath. Taxis don't run, airplanes don't fly, most restaurants other than those in the hotels don't open. Tongans by the thousands to to church, then enjoy family feasts and a day of lounging around in true Polynesian style.

About half of all Tongans belong to the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, founded by the early Methodist missionaries and headed by the king. the Free Church of Tonga is an offshoot that is still allied with the Methodist synods in Australia and New Zealand. There are also considerable numbers of roman Catholics, Anglicans, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Mormons. church services are usually held at 10 am on Sunday, but very few of them are conducted in English. St. Paul's Anglican Church, on the corner of Fafatehi and Wellington roads, usually has communion in English on Sunday at 8am. The royal family worships at 10am in the Free Wesleyan Church on Wellington road, a block behind the royal Palace. The red national flag has a cross on a white field in its upper corner to signify the country's strong Christian foundation.

The Mormon church has made inroads in Tonga. Gleaming white Mormon temples have popped up in many Tongan villages, along with modern schools that offer quality education and the chance for students to go on to Mormon colleges in Hawaii and Utah. Many Tongans have joined the church, reportedly for this very reason, and there are now sizable Tongan communities in Honolulu and around Salt Lake City, headquarters of the Mormon church. Unlike the Samoans and Cook Islanders, Tongans do not have unlimited access to a larger Western country such as the U.S. or new Zealand, and the promise of Mormon help in settling in America is an appealing prospect in light of the population pressures at home. Tongans of all religions bury their dead in unique cemeteries set in groves of frangipani trees. The graves are sandy mounds decorated with flags, banners, artificial flowers, stones, and seashells. Many of them are bordered by brown beer bottles turned upside down.

As was the cased throughout Polynesia, the Tongans accepted most of the puritanical beliefs taught by the early missionaries but stopped short of adopting their strict sexual mores. Today Tongan society is very conservative in outlook and practice in almost every aspect of life except the sexual activities of unmarried young men and women. In keeping with Polynesian customs described earlier on this Web site, Tongan families without enough female offspring will raise boys as they would girls. They are known in Tongan as fakaleitis ("like a women") and live lives similar to those of the mahus in Tahiti and the fa'afafines in the Samoas. In Tonga they have a reputation for sexual promiscuousness and for persistently approaching Western male visitors in search of sexual liaisons

Impressions - The people stay home on Sunday and entertain each other with good food, even if they have to semi-starve all week.

THE TONGAN LANGUAGE

The official language is Tongan, but English is taught in the schools and a widely spoken in the main towns. Tongan is a Polynesian language similar to Samoan. One major difference between them is the enormous number of glottal stops (represented by an apostrophe in writing) in the Tongan tongue. these are short stops similar to the break between "Oh-oh" in English. Every vowel is pronounced in the Latin fashion: ah, ay, oh, and oo (as in kangaroo) instead of ay, ee, eye, oh, and you as in English. the consonants are sounded as they are in English.

An extensive knowledge of Tongan will not be necessary for English-speakers to get around and enjoy the kingdom, but there are a few words you can use to elicit smiles from your hosts and to avoid the embarrassment of entering the wrong restroom.

English   Tongan   Pronunciation
hello   malo e lelei   mah-low ay lay-lay
welcome   talitali fiefia   tah-lay-tah-lay fee-ay-fee-ah
how do you do?   fefe hake?   fay-fay hah-kay?
fine, thank you   sai pe, malo   sah-ee pay, mah-low
good-bye   'alu a   ah-loo ah
thank you   malo   mah-low
how much?   'oku fiha?   oh-koo fee-hah?
good   lelei   lay-lay-ee
bad   kovi   koh-vee
woman   fefine   fay-feen-ay
man   tangata   tahn-got-ah
house   fale   fah-lay
transvestite   fakaleiti   fah-ka-lay-tee

For more information, the Friendly Islands bookshop on Taufa'ahau road carries language books, and the Tonga visitors Bureau on Vuna road distributes a brochure of Tongan phrases.

What Day Is It?
 
Tonga was one of the first nations to welcome the new millennium because of a capricious quirk in the International Date Line. Established in 1884, this imaginary line marks the start of each calendar day. theoretically, it should run for its entire length along the 180th Meridian, halfway around the world from the Zero Meridian, the starting point for measuring international time.  

If it followed the 180th Meridian precisely, however, most of the Aleutian islands would be a day ahead of the rest of Alaska, and Fiji would be split into 2 days. to solve these problems, the date line swings west around the Aleutians, leaving them in the same day as Alaska. In the south Pacific, it swerves east between Fiji and Samoa, leaving all of Fiji a day ahead of the Samoas.

Since Tonga and Samoa lie east of the 180th Meridian, both countries logically should be in the same day. But Tonga wanted to have the same date as Australia and New Zealand, so the line was drawn arbitrarily east of Tonga, putting it 1 day ahead of Samoa. To travellers, it's even more confusing, since Tonga and Samoa are in the same time zone. When travelling from one to the other, therefore, only the date changes, not the time of day. for example, if everyone is going to church at 10am on Sunday in Tonga, everyone's at work on Saturday in Samoa.

Tonga's Seventh-Day Adventists, who celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday but work on Sunday, have taken advantage of this abnormality to avoid running afoul of Tonga's tough Sunday blue laws. In god's eyes, they say, Sunday in Tonga really is Saturday. Accordingly, Tonga is the only place in the world where Seventh-Day Adventists observe their Sabbath on Sunday.

It should be mentioned, however, that the ultimate honour of the first nation to welcome the new millennium belongs to the Republic of Kiribati whose far-flung Millennium Island (formerly Caroline Island in the Line Group) did, in fact, welcome the new millennium and is the first country to see the dawn of the new millennium.
Dateline
 
500 B.C.   Polynesians from Samoa settle in Tonga.
950 A.D.   By legend, supreme god Tangaloa comes to earth, fathers a son by beautiful virgin, thus founds Tui Tonga dynasty
1642   Dutchman Abel Tasman is first European to set foot in Tonga.
1777   Captain Cook is feted by Finau I in Ha'apai, names them "The Friendly Islands," leaves as Finau plans to kill him.
1781   Spaniard Francisco Mouelle discovers Vava'u.
1789   Mutiny on the bounty takes place off Ha'afeva in Ha'apai Group.
1798   First missionaries land in Ha'apai Group during Tongan wars; two are killed, and the rest flee to Australia.
1806   Chief Finau II captures the Port au Prince, slays all its crew except young will Mariner, who becomes the chief's favourite, later writes a book about his adventures.
1823   Wesleyan missionaries settle on Lifuka in Ha'apai Group; Chief Taufa'ahau begins his rise to power.
1831   Taufa'ahau converts to Christianity, names self George, with missionary help launches wars against his rivals.
1845   Taufa'ahau conquers all of Tonga, proclaims self King George.
1860   Rev. Shirley Baker arrives, exercises influence over Tonga for next 30 years.
1862   King George I frees commoners, makes his chiefs "Nobles of the Realm," establishes Privy council, gives land to every male.
1875   King George I adopts Constitution including "Sabbath-is-sacred" clause, essentially shutting Tonga down on Sunday.
1890   Under Treaty of Berlin, Great Britain establishes protectorate over Tonga, kicks out Rev. Baker, straightens out kingdom's finances.
1893   King George I dies, ending reign of 458 years. King George II assumes throne.
1900   King George II turns Tonga's foreign affairs over to Great Britain, preventing further colonial encroachments.
1918   King George II dies, Queen Salote begins 47-year reign during which Tonga remains a backwater.
1953   Queen Salote comes to world attention by going bareheaded during rainstorm at coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London.
1965   Queen Salote dies; new King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV begins opening Tonga to tourists.
1967   King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV crowned among pomp and circumstance; International Dateline Hotel opens.
1970   King ends treaty with Great Britain. Tonga resumes own foreign affairs.
1989   Commoner members of Parliament begin push for more accountability from king's government.
1990   Passport scandal rocks the government.
1992   Pro-democracy conference calls for new elections.
1993   New elections bring same old results.
 
Impressions
The good natured old Chief interduced me to a woman and gave me to understand that I might retire with her, she was next offered to Captain Furneaux but met with a refusal from both, tho she was neither old nor ugly, our stay here was but short.
-- Capt. James Cook, 1773
 
Nature, assisted by a little art, no where appears in a more flourishing state than at this Isle.
-- Capt. James Cook, 1773
 
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Tonga Postcards and Picture Galleries

Pacific Islands Radio Stations

Jane's Oceania Travel Page
 
 (E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 26th January 2009) 
 
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