Ask Us: Which are the origins of Ontong Java Atoll?

A historical maritime chart of the Ontong Java Atoll. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Abel Tasman found the atoll and named it Ontong Java on March 22, 1643.

Ontong Java is the first island in the Solomon Islands, it was sighted by Alvaro de Medana in February 1568, and it is part of Malaita Province.

The Ontong Java Atoll consists of the northernmost islands of Malaita Province and has received quite a few names throughout history. In the book Straight Through: Magellan to Cook & the Pacific, the authors suggest that Abel Tasman named it Ontong Java because the island reminded him of Java. In 1791, an Englishman named Lord John Hunter changed its name to Lord Howe Atoll.

Following a German scientific expedition in 1908-1910, the island was given a third name. Ethnographers Ernst Sarfert and Hans Damm claimed that both Ontong Java and Lord Howe were wrong and called it Luangiua in their book Luangiua and Nukumanu, published in 1931.

Jack London first referred to the islands as Oolong, but later described the atoll in Mauki, one of his short-stories: “Nobody ever comes to Lord Howe, or Ontong-Java as it is sometimes called. Thomas Cook & Son do not sell tickets to it, and tourists do not dream of its existence.”

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