Random American Samoa Facts
Random American Samoa Facts

42 Fun Facts about American Samoa

By Tayja Kuligowski, Junior Writer
Published September 10, 2017
  • American Samoa is classified as an unincorporated, unorganized territory of the United States. Basically, this means American Samoa enjoys diplomatic and military protection from the US, but not all of the provisions and protections of the US Constitution apply.[22][23]
  • The American Samoa island of Tutuila has the largest concentration of fast food restaurants and is the biggest purchaser of fast food in the entire South Pacific.[4]
  • The American Samoa airline, Samoa Air, instituted a pay-by-weight system for passengers in 2013. The system requires passengers to stand on a scale with their luggage, with the resultant individual weights determining how much airfare they will pay.[5]
  • In 1966, the United Nations offered American Samoa the chance to unite with the Independent States of Samoa as an independent country, but the majority of the people voted to remain a territory of the United States.d[4]
  • In the 1960s, the United States spent large sums of money to build schools, streets, houses, a hospital, and 2 tuna canneries to assist in improving the living conditions of the American Samoa islands.[4]
  • Interesting Junior Seau Fact
    Junior Seau was one of the most famous Americans of Samoan heritage ever to play in the NFL
  • American Samoa has earned the nickname "Football Island," as the islands produce more American football players than anywhere else in the world. A young male from American Samoa is 56 times more likely to play in the NFL than a young male in the United States. Currently, 30 players in the NFL are from American Samoa, and over 200 American Samoans play Divisional NCAA Football.[14][15]
  • Tuna canneries employ about 80% of the working population of American Samoa. An employee of a tuna cannery makes about $4,300 per year on average. The other 20% are employed by the US government or in agriculture.[2][14]
  • About 93% of American Samoa's exports is canned tuna, and 100% of the exports go to the United States.[17]
  • American Samoa consists of five volcanic islands (Tutuila, Aunu'u, and the Manu'a islands of Ofu, Olosega, and Ta'u) and two coral atolls (Rose and Swains atolls).[6][19]
  • The entire territory of American Samoa consists of 117,500 square miles (30,400 square km), which is about the size of Oregon or New Zealand. However, only 76.1 square miles (197 square km), or 0.1% of the territory, is actually dry land.[6]
  • American Samoa has a population of 54,343 for the year 2015. The capital city of Pago Pago on Tutuila island has 48,000 people alone, making up about 88% of the total population.[17]
  • As an unincorporated territory of the United States, American Samoa citizens classify as US Nationals, not US citizens. Most US Nationals consist of citizens of American Samoa.[1][22]
  • The National Park of American Samoa was established by congress in 1988, but was not officially leased to the National Park Service until 1993 when village chiefs signed a 50-year lease enabling the Park Service to manage rainforest, beach, and coral reef on the islands of Tutuila, Ta'u, Ofu, and Olosega.[10]
  • To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.

    - Jeanne Moreau

  • About half of the people living in American Samoa were born there, with most immigrants coming from the Independent States of Samoa. Over 128,000 people of American Samoan descent live outside of American Samoa, mostly in the mainland of the United States.[6]
  • The islands of Samoa formed over millions of years as the result of volcanic activity. The Pacific plate that the Samoa volcano occurs on moves 3 inches per year to the West towards China, which means that in about 1,000,000 years, American Samoa will have moved 50 miles closer to the Asian continent.[6]
  • Rose Atoll of American Samoa has sunk back into the ocean under the weight of old lava and coral. At one time, the atoll most likely held rainforests and life like the other Samoan islands.[11]
  • The National Park of American Samoa is one of the most remote national parks in the United States, with only 5,000 visitors in 2015. In contrast, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks had over 4 million visitors apiece in 2015.[12][21]
  • American Samoa houses the greatest marine biodiversity of any site in the United States, with over 250 species of coral and 930 species of fish, which is twice the number of fish species found in Hawaii.[6][16]
  • The first European to explore American Samoa was Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen, who stopped to trade with the islanders in 1721 during his quest to search for Terra Australis Incognita, the mythical Great Southern Continent.[11]
  • American Samoa is located 2,300 miles south of Hawaii, making it the most southern point in the United States. Due to its central location near the Equator, American Samoa has earned the nickname, the "heart of Polynesia."[10][11]
  • I'a sa, the Samoan name for sea turtle, means "sacred fish." In Samoan folklore, sea turtles are said to have the power to save fishermen lost at sea by bringing them safely to shore.[6]
  • Samoa Turtle Fact
    In American Samoa, turtles hold a cultural and traditional importance

  • American Samoa has such a wide diversity of fish, that if you were to dive around the reefs once a week, in theory you could see a new fish species every dive for 18 years.[6]
  • One of the world's largest corals, a type of boulder coral, resides off the coast of American Samoa's Ta'u island. The coral is over 15 feet tall and thought to be hundreds of years old.[6]
  • About 30% of the plant species found on the islands of American Samoa are endemic to the archipelago. American Samoa also houses 35 species of native birds.[12]
  • Bats are the only native species of mammals found in American Samoa. All three of the species found on the island are considered threatened or endangered due to loss of habitat and hunting. Until the 1980s, thousands of bats were shipped out to other countries such as Guam, as they are considered a delicacy in many of the Pacific Islands.[11][22]
  • The Samoan flying fox (Pteropus samoensis) is one of only 3 mammal species found in American Samoa, and is only found in Samoa and Fiji. They are active both day and night, and have a 3 foot wingspan, which is about the wingspan of an owl.[6][10]
  • American Samoa is home to one of the oldest Polynesian cultures in the world, thought to be settled around 1000 B.C. by Protopolynesians from the west via Indonesia, Fiji, and Vanuatu. These early settlers are commonly known as the Lapita.[8][17]
  • In 1768, French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville named the islands of Samoa the "Navigator Islands," as he found the people to have great navigational skills for sailing and trading with nearby islands.[11]
  • In the early 19th century, Europeans began settling in American Samoa. Most of these settlers consisted of escaped convicts from the Australian continent and sailors who had "jumped ship" from whaling boats.[11]
  • American Samoa's waters were used as a splash landing for US astronauts during the moon landings in the 60s and 70s. A small American Samoa flag was sent to the moon on one of the missions, and later presented along with three moon rocks to American Samoa by US President Richard Nixon.[18]
  • Weather stations detect rain 300 days out of 365 each year in American Samoa.[6]
  • American Samoa Weather Fact
    Expect rain at any time in American Samoa

  • During the deadly worldwide outbreak of influenza in 1918, the United States enforced strict quarantine regulations in American Samoa, protecting the islands and the people from the disease. New Zealand, however, who at the time held control of the Independent State of Samoa, did not enforce a quarantine, resulting in the death of 8,500, or 22% of the population in the western Samoan islands.[11]
  • On September 29, 2009 an earthquake struck near the islands of American Samoa, causing a tsunami that would wipe out acres of land and kill more than 30 people.[16]
  • About 78.3% of the American Samoa islands consist of rainforest. However, due to destruction from cyclones and logging practices, 80% of the rainforest cover in American Samoa has been removed.[11][17]
  • Samoa means "Sacred Earth" in the Samoan language.[10]
  • Most American Samoans are bilingual, speaking Samoan, English, Tongan, and other Pacific Islander languages.[17]
  • After the birth of a child in American Samoa, it is a tradition to bury the afterbirth near the family home in order to link the child to the place and community. In the same respects, when a person dies, the body is often returned to their place of birth for burial.[11]
  • Sā hour in American Samoa consists of setting aside an hour of time in the evening or morning for prayers to be said or heard. It is considered disrespectful in many villages to participate in any other activities during Sā.[11]
  • Interesting Samoan Obesity Fact
    The tiny Samoan islands have one the highest rates of obesity rates in the world
  • About three fourths of the American Samoa population is considered obese, which is the highest rate in the world. Elevated obesity rates are even occurring in newborns, and type 2 Diabetes is prevalent in 1 out of 5 American Samoans.[13]
  • Fa'asamoa, or the Samoa way of life, still dominates the way American Samoans live. Villages center around the family, and the Matai, family chief, dictates the community activities. In addition, 90% of American Samoa land is communally owned by the Samoan families.[8][17]
  • Inside of a Fale, a traditional Samoan house, it is customary to sit on the floor cross-legged before speaking, eating, or drinking. Sitting with your legs stretched out is considered rude, unless you first cover them with a mat.[22]
  • American Samoa has strict visitation guidelines, requiring visitors to present a valid passport, a return or onward ticket for leaving the islands, and sufficient funds to support the stay. Visas are required for non-US citizens or nationals, and citizens of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, or the UK automatically receive a 30-day permit to stay in the islands. Any other international visitor is required to apply for an entry visa.[3][9]
  • Important Dates[1][4][7][8][11][12][20]
    DateEvent
    1000 BCThe Lapita settle in present day American Samoa
    1722Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen is the first European to explore Samoa
    1768French explorer arrives in the islands of Samoa, calling them the Navigator Islands
    1787French explorer Jean-Francois de Galaup Comter de la Perouse and crew has a dispute with Samoan natives, resulting in 12 French and 39 Samoan deaths
    1791Samoans attack the British ship, Pandora
    1800sFirst Europeans begin to settle in Samoa
    1830Christian missionaries arrive in Samoa
    1880sSamoa is split between Britain, Germany, and the United States
    1889The Berlin Treaty establishes Samoa as an independent nation ruled by a foreign-appointed Samoan King, with administrative consul from Britain, the United States, and Germany
    December 1899Britain, the US, and Germany revoke the Berlin Treaty, Germany annexes Western Samoa and Britain withdraws for control in other Pacific islands
    April 17, 1900High Chiefs of Tutuila cede territory to the United States; American Samoa administration given to the US Navy
    August 29, 1914New Zealand annexes Western Samoa from Germany
    1918A worldwide outbreak of deadly influenza skips American Samoa
    1940US Marines use America Samoa as a training area and rear staging area for the US Military
    1951Administration of American Samoa passes to the US Department of the Interior
    1954Van Camp Seafood Company of California opens first cannery in American Samoa
    1960American Samoa creates their first constitution with Bill of Rights
    January 1,1962Western Samoa gains independence from New Zealand as an independent country
    1966American Samoa votes to remain a territory of the United States rather than uniting with the Independent States of Samoa
    October 31, 1988US Congress establishes the National Park of American Samoa
    199318 American Samoa villages sign an official 50-year lease for the National Park of Samoa to the National Park Service
    1997Western Samoa changes name to Independent State of Samoa
    2009US President George W. Bush establishes 3 national monuments in American Samoa
References

1"American Samoa." Encyclopedia.com. 2016. Accessed: February 10, 2016.

2"American Samoa." One World Nations Online. 2016. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

3"American Samoa." US Department of the Interior. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

4Brillat, Michael. South Pacific Islands. Munich, Germany: Nelles Verlag, 2001.

5Collis, Helen. "American Samoa's Battle against Obesity as 95 percent of the Nation Are Declared Overweight." Daily Mail. Updated July 8, 2013. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

6Craig, P. "Natural History Guide to American Samoa." National Park Service. 2009. Accessed: February 19, 2016.

7"Cultural History of American Samoa." American Samoa Historic Preservation Office. 2016. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

8"Facts about American Samoa." USA Today. Accessed: February 19, 2016.

9"General Information." American Samoa Visitor's Bureau. 2015. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

10Guide to National Parks of the United States. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2012.

11Lay, Graeme. Samoa. Auckland, New Zealand: Pasifika Press, Ltd., 2000.

12"National Park of American Samoa: Fact Sheet." National Park Service. Updated February 19, 2016. Accessed: February 19, 2016.

13Orenstein, David. "Obesity in Samoa: a Global Harbinger?" Brown University. February 16, 2014. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

14Sonny, Julian. "Inside Football Island: How Samoa Is Breeding the World's Best Football Stars." Elite Daily. April 1, 2014. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

15Steinberg, Leigh. "How Can Tiny Samoa Dominate the NFL?" Forbes. May 21, 2015. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

16The Ten Best of Everything: National Parks. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2011.

17"The World Fact Book." Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed: February 9, 2016.

18"Things to Do." American Samoa Visitor's Bureau. 2015. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

19Thompson, Linda. Exploring the Territory of the United States. North Mankato, MN: Britannica, 2014. PDF e-book.

20"Timeline American Samoa and Samoa." Timelines of History. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

21"Visitation Historic and Top 10 Sites 2015." National Park Service. 2015. Accessed: February 23, 2016.

22"Visitor Guide." National Park of American Samoa. January 2015. Accessed: February 19, 2016.

23Wendt, Albert. "American Samoa." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2016. Accessed: February 22, 2016.

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