10 Lost Islands


Tuanaki — A Place of Feasting and Dancing

Cook Islands map
This map of the Cook Islands shows Mangaia in the lower right, but Tuanaki is not present. Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

In the 1840s, a man named Soma from the South Pacific's Cook Islands told missionaries that he'd visited an island called Tuanaki while working on the crew of a ship. He described having gone ashore to explore the island at the behest of his somewhat fearful captain, who gave him a sword to protect himself in case the inhabitants turned out to be hostile.

But when Soma found the locals, they turned out to be utterly convivial. "We don't fight, we only know how to dance," they told him. Eventually he brought the captain ashore, and they stayed for six days, feasting and returning to the ship laden with pork, yams, bananas, coconuts and other food. Soma recalled that island's residents had an living arrangement, in which men and women dwelled in separate houses [source: Maretu].

Soma said Tuanaki was located a day's journey, or about 62 miles (100 kilometers), from the island of Mangaia. The island was thought to be about half a square mile (1.3 square kilometers) [source: Nunn].

The missionaries were eager to visit Tuanaki. But on two separate voyages, in 1844 and again in 1856, they were unable to find it. Maybe it sank beneath the ocean, or perhaps Soma simply made up the whole story. However since other informants of the time also mentioned Tuanaki, some people think it really did exist [source: Nunn].