The remote Territory of American Samoa is renowned for its scenic beauty, natural deep-water harbor and friendly people. American Samoa is the only United States possession in the southern hemisphere. It is located in the central South Pacific Ocean, 2,300 miles south south west of Hawaii and 1,600 miles east north east of New Zealand.
Deeded to the United States by the Samoan chiefs under a Treaty of Cession in 1900, it is the only American possession to gain US protectorate status without violent conflict. American Samoa is comprised of 7 islands of which 5 are volcanic and 2 are coral atolls.

The 5 volcanic islands, which are the major inhabited islands of American Samoa, are Tutuila, Aunu'u, Ofu, Olosega and Ta'u. Tutuila, the largest island, is the center of government and business. Aunu'u, a satellite of Tutuila, lies 1 mile off the coast. The 3 islands of Ofu, Olosega and Ta'u, collectively referred to as the Manu'a islands, lie 70 miles east of Tutuila. Swains atoll with a population of approximately 30 lies 240 miles north of Tutuila, and the uninhabited Rose Atoll is a national sanctuary preserve 180 miles to the east.

Sharp, steep inclines are the dominant feature of the main islands of American Samoa. Razor sharp cliffs are the result of tectonic uplifts and volcanic activity during the early formation period of the islands. These geographical features cloaked in dense vegetation are a marvel of natural beauty second to none throughout the Pacific. The total land area of American Samoa is approximately 76 square miles. The largest island, Tutuila is 53 square miles in size and is home to 92% of the territory's 65,000 residents. Tutuila's natural deep-water harbor gave the islands their strategic value over the past two centuries.

The people who live in the islands complement American Samoa's natural island beauty. They hail from a proud Polynesian seafaring people known as Samoans. American Samoans continue to maintain their strong links to a unique culture that is based on hospitality and a mutual respect for their fellow men and the environment. The local inhabitants continue to enjoy and practice cultural rights and traditions as guaranteed under the Deed of Cession with the United States.
Approximately 95% of the landmass is held under the traditional land tenure system and under the direct authority of the Samoan chiefs known as "matais". Under this system, traditional land cannot be purchased or sold and the current reigning chief from within the family unit has final say over the disposition of a family's holdings. This system ensures the passage of assets to future generations and serves as the catalyst in the preservation of the Samoan culture.

Rainfall averages 135 inches per year at the airport but varies greatly over short distances because of topography. Pago Pago harbor with its  Rainmaker Mountain located 9 miles north of the international airport receives approximately 200 inches annually while the crest of the islands receives well above 250 inches. In most years, the airport records about 300 days with a trace or more of rain and about 175 days with rainfall of 0.01 inches or more. Temperatures in the islands range between 73 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity ranges between 73 and 84 percent throughout the year. The 5 main islands of American Samoa exhibit rugged topographic relief. They rise precipitously from the ocean and are covered with dense vegetation. The maximum elevations for the major islands range between 1,621 to 2,142 feet. Deeply incised stream valleys radiating from the summit of each distinct volcanic cone provide natural drainage. Streams discharging at the heads of small embayments have developed small coastal plains. In total, only 34% or 16,695 acres of the land in American Samoa has a slope of 30 percent or less. Approximately 11,019 acres are located on Tutuila, primarily on the Tafuna-Leone Plain. With a population of about 54,000, the population density on the main island of Tutuila has reached an alarming 4.8 people per acre of arable land. American Samoa's annual population growth rate in 1954 was 1%. In 1990 the annual growth rate had reached 3.7%. With the exception of hurricane construction, approximately 200 residential homes are built annually. Villages continue to grow in size and limited agricultural land is fast being converted to residential lands to accommodate expansion.

Narrow sand and coral rubble beaches rim approximately 25% of the coastline wherever fringing reefs exist. Fringing reefs exist primarily on the calmer south shore of the islands and on average extend out to sea approximately 200 feet. Exposed to severe marine erosion, the north shore coasts of the islands are primarily steep volcanic cliffs that rise out of the ocean. Proximity to the reef and salt spray exposure creates a highly corrosive marine environment. This environment has caused the construction industry in the territory to seriously reevaluate materials utilized in construction. The expected useful life of standard metal guardrails is reduced by 50% as a result of the salt air environment.


@ 2002