Origin of name
The island was called Nutiran (pronounced Nusiran, echoing "New Zealand") by the Gilbertese colonists, likely because this was where the New Zealand surveyors camped when the first working party arrived in 1938. However, one early resident said this was because the Norwich City, the wreckage of which was on the reef flat nearby, was understood to have come from New Zealand.
Geography and history
The lagoon clearly once penetrated deeply into Nutiran. The area later filled in to become a mudflat, which is a marshy mix of mud, sand and bird guano on which a crust forms under dry conditions. It is riddled with land crab burrows and is not easy to walk upon, moreover when wet. Near the lagoon, Nutiran merges with a straightforward sandbar which may sometimes be either exposed or submerged, partially blocking the inner end of Tatiman Passage.
Nutiran was the site of John Arundel's failed coconut planting project in the 1890s, which left ruins of structures with corrugated iron roofs noted by survivors of the Norwich City wreck in the late 1920s (J. Thomas, First Officer, SS Norwich City). [This article had claimed that the New Zealand Survey had also seen the remnants of structures from the Arundel era, but we have not been able to trace the source of that claim.]
North of the mudflat/sandbar, the island reaches its highest point on Nutiran at about 15 meters, on a ridge beginning near the northwest cape and running down the east side of the island. The northern end of this ridge is solid shelving coral along with coral rubble. Further south it seems to be mostly rubble. The Nutiran ridge is fairly heavily wooded with buka (pisonia grandis). The fringe of the mudflat is covered by a small coconut forest. A coral shelf forms the east edge of the mudflat, behind which is thick scaevola, fronting a thin forest of buka. On the west, where land was cleared and planted in the late 1940s and 1950s, there is much more coconut forest, extending out to merge with scaevola in the relative lowlands along the shore.
TIGHAR conducted cursory archaeological surveys on Nutiran on Niku I (1989), targeted on the mudflat/sandbar area, the buka forest north, east and west of the mudflat along with the scaevola-laden lowlands along the western (lee) shore. A much more intensive survey was conducted in the lowlands during Niku IIIIP (1999) and the reef flat fronting Nutiran on the island's lee side has been intensively inspected on several occasions, notably during Niku IIII (2001) and Niku V (2007). The reef face has undergone inspection and metal detection by divers, down to about 45 meters.
References and notes
- WPHC Archives. Phoenix Islands District, G.&E.I.C.:- Annual Reports
on. 1946-1949. WPHC 9/11 F10/18/2 Appendix X photo 10.