Identification. Anuta is a volcanic island in the eastern Solomon Islands. Its inhabitants are physically, linguistically, and culturally Polynesian. The island's European name was bestowed in honor of a Mr. Cherry, who first sighted it from the HMS Pandora in 1791 while searching for the Bounty mutineers. Nukumairaro, meaning "land from below," is said to be an archaic name deriving from the fact that Anuta is "below" (i.e., to the east of) Tikopia, its nearest populated neighbor, about 112 kilometers distant.
Location. Anuta is at approximately 169° 50′ E and 11°40′ S. It is a small volcanic island, roughly circular, and three-quarters of a kilometer in diameter. Its southern portion is coastal flat; the northern part is covered by a hill, rising to a maximum altitude of 78 meters. The climate is tropical and may be divided into two seasons. The trade-wind season ( tonga ) lasts from mid-April to mid-October. It is relatively cool and dry, although the sky is frequently overcast, and a brisk wind blows constantly from the southeast quadrant. Weather during the monsoon season, or raki —mid-October through mid-April—is more variable. Periods of hot sun alternate with drenching rains. Winds may be calm for days at a time, but during this season Anutans also experience occasional devastating hurricanes.
Demography. The population at the time of European contact is unknown. In the early twentieth century, the Population numbered between 100 and 150 people. In March 1972 there were 162 people living on Anuta and 42 Anutans residing overseas, mostly on Tikopia and in the central Solomons. People return and depart with every ship. However, if one takes the resident population to be 160, population density is on the order of 1,000 persons per square kilometer, making Anuta one of the most densely populated islands in the Pacific. Between 1972 and 1988, the resident population rose to more than 200 people, with another 50 or so living overseas.
linguistic Affiliation. Linguists have classified Anutan (Anu) as a Nuclear Polynesian language, within the vast group of Austronesian languages. However, in contrast with the languages of other western Polynesian "outliers," Anu includes many words of Tongic origin. The extent to which this is due to direct Tongan contact as opposed to indirect borrowing via East Uvea is a matter for debate.