Samoa: rugged paradise in the South Pacific

By Dean Miller | July 17, 2015

Perched on a volcanic junction between two tectonic plates, Samoa is home to geological, natural and cultural wonders

The Samoan chain of volcanic islands in the central South Pacific, about 4000km north-east of Brisbane, is no stranger to natural disturbances that range from a relatively benign earthquake, to tsunamis. In the face of such challenges, the Samoan people have a resilience vital to their personal, cultural and spiritual survival. 

In fact, natural disasters are often turned into stories for cultural and spiritual learning. The 1125sq.km island of Savai’i is the largest shield volcano in the South Pacific. This type of volcano forms through a series of non-explosive eruptions that result in a low dome- or shield-shaped structure with a substantial cone at the summit.

Between 1905 and 1911, Savai’i’s Mt Matavanu erupted continuously and covered about 100sq.km of the land in lava, causing widespread destruction. Local lore has it that residents of a village near what is now Saleaula Lava Field, on the central north coast, were busy at work on Sundays when they should have been resting, and these actions enraged God.

As a result, the slow flow of molten rock that should have passed by their village turned, consuming it, even flowing directly through the door of their church, which stands covered in cooled lava to this day.