Cook Islands - Geography & Geology
south of the equator, some 1000 km southwest of Tahiti and 3500
km northeast of New Zealand, the Cook Islands
are situated in the heart of the South Pacific Ocean. A total of
15 islands and atolls encompassing a land
area of just 241 sq km, the Cook Islands is spread out over 2 million
sq km of ocean (that’s roughly the size of India!).
Forming part of Polynesia, this island nation is divided into two
groups; the Northern Group of islands, all coral atolls, and the
Southern Group of islands, all of which have volcanic origins. Penrhyn
Island, Nassau, Pukapuka, Manihiki, Rakahanga and Suwarrow are all
part of the Northern Group, while Rarotonga, Ma’uke, Mitiaro,
Aitutaki, Mangaia, ‘Atiu, Palmerston
Island, Manuae, and Takutea form the Southern Group. Manuae,
Suwarrow and Takutea are all uninhabited islands, with Suwarrow
designated as a national park. Rarotonga is the largest
of the Cook Islands, while Aitutaki
is the smallest island.
For geologists and those interested in geology, this island group is a wonderful place to visit, as here you can find nearly every type of oceanic island. Rarotonga is a high volcanic island, while Aitutaki is known as an ‘almost atoll.’ ‘Atiu, Ma’uke, Mitiaro and Mangaia are all classified as raised atolls and have an amazing geographic topography, with Rakahanga, Manuae, Palmerston, Manihiki, Penrhyn, Suwarrow and Pukapuka all known as lagoon atolls. Both Takutea and Nassau are classified as sand cays.
The Southern Group of Cook Islands is actually a continuation of the Austral Islands chain of French Polynesia that was created from molten lava that escaped from a fissure in the earth’s crust. The Northern Group of coral islands are fascinating to visit mainly because they lie so low that during a storm or cyclone, waves can wash right across them.
With a climate similar to Hawaii, the Cook Islands are blessed with good weather throughout the year. However, do keep in mind that since this country is located in the southern hemisphere the seasons are reversed, with January being summer time and July and August winter months. Cyclone season here runs from November through to March.