Geology

Is Mangaia the oldest Pacific island?

Is Mangaia the oldest Pacific island?

Gerald McCormack
First published CI News (04 June 2020 condensed) and CI Herald (10 June 2020 in full)

Mangaia aerial view

Mangaia showing central hills surrounded by forested, uplifted fossil-reef or makatea. Photo: Ewan Smith

In the Quarantine Quiz (Cook Islands News 29 May 2020) the oldest island in the Pacific was listed as Mangaia at 18 million years (Ma). This idea gained popularity with the 2010 publication entitled “Tangi ke – Welcome to Mangaia – The oldest island in the Pacific”, by the Mangaia Historical and Cultural Society and the University of the South Pacific.

It is simply not true, there are many islands in the Pacific much older, and, within the Cook Islands, all the Northern Atolls are more than twice as old as Mangaia.

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