Capital City Origins ~ Oceania
First published: Tuesday December 14th, 2021
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- Port Moresby. Papua New Guinea.
- Ngerulmud. Palau.
- Palikir. Federated States of Micronesia.
- Majuro. Marshall Islands.
- Yaren. Nauru.
- South Tarawa. Kiribati.
- Funafuti. Tuvalu.
- Honiara. Solomon Islands.
- Port Vila. Vanuatu.
- Canberra. Australia.
- Suva. Fiji.
- Apia. Samoa.
- Nuku'alofa. Tonga.
- Wellington. New Zealand.
Our next continent in this blog series is Oceania. Consisting mainly of island nations, unless you count Australia as a continent in it's own right, although it definately looks like an island. It is surrounded by water after all and surely that is the definition of an island. Another controversy to add to the "Cyprus Debate".
Many of the countries in this region are relatively new, compared to the ancient lands of Europe and Asia at least. There are also several overseas territories in the region, American Samoa, Niue, and Pitcairn to name a few. But of course, these don't concern us...at the moment. I may do a series on overseas territories at some point in the future, but not yet. It's just one idea that's tumbling around in my head.
So, lets set sail for our island expedtion around the South Pacific, starting in Papua New Guinea with it's coastal capital, Port Moresby.....
Port Moresby. Papua New Guinea.
The city was founded in an area that had been inhabited by the Motu-Koitabu people for centuries prior to the arrival of the British Royal Navy Captain John Moresby in 1873. There was considerable trade with other nations already in place, mostly trading pots for sago, and logs for canoes. These were used for taking merchandise on long and dangerous journeys throughout the region.
You may be thinking that the city is named after John Moresby, given that he was the first westerner to arrive there. However that is wrong, he named it in honour of his father, Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Fairfax Moresby.
PORT MORESBY = MORESBY'S PORT
Ngerulmud is the world's least populated capital city with a population of around 270 people. It replaced the previous capital of Koror City in 2006 folowing investment from Taiwan in a bid to secure relations between the two countries and to secure diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.
The name Ngerulmud was in use for the area prior to the building of the city. The last part of the name, mud is the Palauan word for the Keyhole Angelfish. The whole name means "place of fermented angelfish". In the past local women climbed a nearby hill to offer these fish to the gods.
NGERULMUD = PLACE OF FERMENTED ANGELFISH
Palikir. Federated States of Micronesia.
Firstly, may I apologise for the lack of a decent picture of Palikir. There just aren't any out there that can be used on JetPunk. Sorry.
The city was declared the capital in 1989, ten years after the country's independence from the United States. With an average annual rainfall of 5200 mm or 205 inches, Palikir is the wettest capital city in the world.
I wasn't very hopeful when I couldn't find a useable picture, and so it has proved. Once again, thwarted by a city's origins. I have emailed the Dept of Archives in FSM so we await their reply.
PALIKIR = ? (Unless you know better obviously)
Majuro. Marshall Islands.
The Marshall Islands have had a chequered history. First settled over 2,000 years age by Austronesian ancestors of the indigenous Marshallese people, then taken over by the German Empire in 1885, followed by the Japanese and Americans. The country became independent in 1986.
The name Majuro comes from the Marshallese word majro meaning "atoll".
MAJURO = ATOLL
Although technically not the capital, as Nauru doesn't have an official capital, it is often refered to as such. The city was originally known as Makwa meaning "underground lake" due to the source of water for the island that is situated beneath the area.
Incidently, Nauru may derive from the Nauruan word Anaoero meaning "I go to the Beach".
I can only find one reference to the word Yaren's history. A Nauruan to English translation website states that Yaren means "district", although I'm not sure if this is true or the website is just stating that Yaren is a district of Nauru. Oh well..
YAREN = DISTRICT (For want of a better explanation)
South Tarawa. Kiribati.
South Tarawa is part of the Tarawa atoll in Kiribati. The other part strangely enough is called North Tarawa. There is a bridge connecting the two parts, whereas other islands are not connected by road. Although some are in shallow enough waters that it is possible to walk at low tide.
Obviously the South in the name is self explanatory, but the Tawara part needs a little more research.
In Kiribati mythology, Tawara is the earth, karawa the sky and marawa the ocean named by Nareau the god spider. However, Tawara is an Old Gilbertese form of Te Rawa meaning "passage" refering to the unusual gap in the atoll that allows ships to enter the lagoon.
SOUTH TARAWA = SOUTH OF THE PASSAGE
Funafuti is actually the name of the entire atoll rather than a city. The main town is known as Senala having around 1,200 inhabitants.
The nation of Tuvalu has around 11,000 people in as such is one of the smallest nations on earth. The airport doubles as a sports ground and games are sometimes interupted by incoming flights.
The name Funafuti derives from the Tuvaluan word Funa meaning "Chief"
FUNAFUTI = CHIEF FUTI
Honiara. Solomon Islands.
Situated on the island of Guadalcanal, which, as you may know, was the site of a major battle during World War 2 between the US and Japan, Honiara became the capital in 1952 as part of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. The nation became independent in 1978.
The name Honiara derives from the Guadalcanal languages and comes from the phrase nagho ni ara which roughly translates as "place of the east wind".
HONIARA = PLACE OF THE EAST WIND
Port Vila. Vanuatu.
The area around Port Vila has been occupied for centuries, pottery has been found that dates back to the 13th century BC. The first Europeans to sight the islands were the Portugese and the name of the capital comes from that language.
Port Vila has also been in the hands of the British and French and at one time was divided between the two. However the name retained it's Portugese roots. Vila is Portugese for "town" So the name means Port Town
PORT VILA = PORT TOWN
Unusual in Australia is the fact that Canberra is a planned city. It sits within it's own territory, the Australian Capital Territory and is built on land that has been inhabited by the indigenous people for at least 21,000 years. It was decided that a new capital would be built after Sydney and Melbourne couldn't agree which city would become the capital.
There are several theories about the city's etymology. The most popular is that it derives from the Ngunnawal dialect word Kambera meaning "Meeting Place". However, another theory states that it means "woman's breasts" the aboriginal name for the two nearby mountains !
Yet another hypothesis is that the name derives from the native word canberry meaning "cranberry".
I'm gonna go with the most popular, although I do like "woman's breasts" Sorry that sounds wrong, ah well!
CANBERRA = MEETING PLACE
It was decided to make Suva the capital of Fiji in 1877 after the previous capital Levuka proved to be too restrictive. The move went ahead in 1882 onto land that was originally sold to an Australian company on the promise that they would pay off Fiji's debts to the United States. Suva was a small village at that time.
The name Suva derives from the mound on which the Temple of Ro Vonu stood. The temple held a sacred stone that was reveered by the natives of Fiji.
SUVA = TEMPLE MOUND
Apia was originally a small village from which the capital took it's name. The harbour was the scene of a naval standoff in 1889 between seven ships from Britain, the US, and Germany. Despite an approaching typhoon, none of the ships would leave the harbour for fear of "losing face". Eventually all but one ship sank, the British cruiser Calliope, that left the port and rode out the storm. In total almost 200 sailors perished in the harbour.
The etymology of the name Apia is unknown, although one website I found states it is of Hawaiian origin and means "God is my father". In view of the lack of any other information....
APIA = GOD IS MY FATHER
Following the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1777, there have been many religions that have sent missionaries to Tonga. The country eventually becoming mainly Christian by 1842. Nuku'alofa has been the capital since 1875 when the Declaration of the Constitution was formalised.
Nuku'alofa comes from two Tongan words nuku and alofa meaning "abode" and "love" respectively.
NUKU'ALOFA = ABODE OF LOVE
Wellington. New Zealand.
Wellington has been the capital of New Zealand since 1865, it was not defined by legislation but rather by convention. All the government departments were founded in the city and have remained there ever since. Wellington is also home to national institutions such as the National Museum, the National Archives and the National Library.
It's name comes from Arthur Wellesley, who was the first Duke of Wellington and the victor at the Battle of Waterloo. His title came from the Somerset town of Wellington in the UK.
WELLINGTON = Named after the Duke of Wellington.
Yet another continent completed, only the Americas left now. Although that means all the smaller nations of the Caribbean as well.
I have enjoyed this sail around the Pacific, with it's paradise-like nations on tropical islands. Although there have been spells in history on some of them that leaves a bit to be desired, riots in Nuku'alofa in 2006 that destroyed the city's central business district is one that comes to mind. Typhoons and earthquakes are natures way of reminding people that life is fragile in many of these countries.
So, what next ? A long sail across the South Pacific Ocean to Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) on the southern tip of South America beckons, the next blog post will cover that continent. I can here MG17 from here....yay Brazil finally he arrives !!
Just a quick fact for you MG, although you probably already know this, Belo Horizonte means "Beautiful Horizon" and Minas Gerais means "General Mines" ...
there that should keep him quiet for a while ! ...oops did I say that out loud. (Sorry MG, just a little banter, no offence meant mate!)
Oh yeah, Oceania, the continent. Pretty self explanatory really. It's constituent countries are all islands in an Ocean. so its named after ....wait for it.....an Ocean!....yeah, I know it's hard to believe but it is. Honestly. I promise you. An Ocean. Who'd have thought it aye.
OCEANIA = OCEAN LANDS
Anyway, that's it for now, I've gone on long enough. I have a cold so the medication may be affecting me, I think. My excuse, I'm sticking to it.
See you all in Patagonia next time.
More people to my Brazil Travel group lol
Palikir aside, amazing addition to the series! "Port Town" is a very interesting name to give to your port/town...
And Ngerulmud one is really funny lol
Just a suggestion, it's your blog.
I presume you weren't on North Sentinel Island when you were in the Andaman Islands ?
And just as you said, it is forbidden to venture close to the island.