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Tuesday 24th October
Tonga Facts
The Kingdom of Tonga consists of around 170 islands.

The highest point in Tonga is an extinct volcano (1,046 m) on the island of Kao.

The Ha'amonga'a Maui, thirty-two kilometers from Nuku'alofa, was built at the beginning of the thirteenth century. It consists of two upright pillars and a lintel. Today the trilithon is the gateway of an archeological reserve.

It is thought that the Ha'amonga may have been used to determine the longest and shortest day of the year.

Polynesia, which means many islands, is a name covering over a thousand islands between Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island. The Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Samoa, American Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Wallis and Futuna are in this grouping.

Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian who made the famous Kon-Tiki Expedition in 1947, thought that people might have migrated from South America to Polynesia. He built the famous raft Kon-Tiki and sailed from Peru across the Pacific to prove such a voyage was possible.

In 1990 the Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes tested the mitochondrial DNA of the Polynesian inhabitants of the Cook Islands (between Tonga and French Polynesia). It was concluded that the ancestors of the Cook Islanders came from Asia.

Dutch explorers were the first Europeans to visit Tonga in the early seventeenth century.

Captain James Cook, the British navigator, arrived in the archipelago in the 1770s.

Captain Cook named Tonga the Friendly Islands.

After being forced off the HMS Bounty by mutineers, William Bligh, the British captain, and his loyal crew set out for Tonga in an open boat (1789).

Only thirty-six of the islands of Tonga are inhabited.

Around two-thirds of Tonga's population lives on the main island of Tongatapu.

Queen Salote Tupou III (1900-65) visited Britain in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Tonga became a British Protectorate in 1900 and achieved independence in 1970.

The Kingdom of Tonga is a member of the the Commonwealth.

In September 2009 a tsunami caused by an earthquake in the Pacific (8.3-magnitude) killed more than one hundred people in Tonga, American Samoa and Samoa.

Tonga is a member of the University of the South Pacific in Suva (Fiji). Other members are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

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