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Samoa - Geography

Western Samoa comprises the westernmost islands of the Samoan archipelago, located in the heart of Polynesia. Its nearest neighbors are other island nations: Tokelau to the northeast, the Cook Islands to the east, Tonga to the south, and Fiji to the southwest. New Zealand lies 2,900 km to the south and northern Australia 4,700 km to the west. Samoa is located about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the South Pacific.

The country is composed of two large volcanically formed islands, Upolu and Savai'i and several smaller ones, most of which are uninhabited. It has a land area of 2,934 sq. km which is about the same size as the state of Rhode Island. The climate is characterized by wet and dry seasons and little variation in temperature. The main island of Upolu is home to nearly three-quarters of Samoa's population and its capital city of Apia.

Samoa is located south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. The total land area is 1,097 square miles, consisting of the two large islands of Upolu and Savai'i, which account for 99 percent of the total land area and eight small islets. About 80 percent of all land is customary land, owned by villages, with the remainder either freehold or government owned. Customary land can be leased.

The type of volcano that formed these Islands are called shield volcanoes. This type of volcano usually built almost entirely of fluid lava flows. They are named for their large size and low profile, resembling a warriors shield. Then the hot spot calms down for a while, perhaps a million years or so. During this peaceful interval, the Pacific Plate keeps marching onward, so when the hot spot acts up again, it forms a new volcanic island rather than building upon the previous one.

In other words, the hot spot stays in one place but the plate keeps moving. The islands generally lie in a straight line that is oriented in the direction the plate is moving. The new islands form on the eastern end of the chain, so the islands become progressively older as you move westward. For that reason, the islands in Western Samoa are about one million years older than the islands in American Samoa.

The newest volcanic eruption in American Samoa island chain is forming about thirty miles east of Tau Island, but it will probably be another few hundred years before this sub-surface volcano, named Vailuluu, breaks the sea surface (in 2005 it was 1800 feet below the surface and growing).

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