Fatu-Ma-Futi, American Samoa

Big Picture Portfolio, #2

Lovers Turned to Islands, Futu Ma Futi, South Pacific
These rocks, or “sea stacks,” rise up out of the ocean on the southern coast of Tutuila in American Samoa near the entrance to the stunning Pago Pago harbor. Folks have been sailing by for a long time and at some point a legend was born around these rocky spires in the surf, which their name reflects today.



What: Fatu-Ma-Futi, two small offshore islands (Fatu pictured) associated with an ancient coastal village and an oral legend

Where: Off the southern Coast of Tutuila, American Samoa, South Pacific

Notable Date(s): Episodic coastal presence from ~ 1400 BP

See Addison et al. (2008)

Culture(s): Polynesian

Seen As: Prominent place, landscape, seascape



A legend says that Fatu and Futi were lovers who tried to sail to Tutuila (modern day American Samoa) from Upolu (modern day Independent Samoa). They almost made it, but their boat floundered and they expired in the waves just before making it ashore.

Turned to rocks where they passed, their remains stand in the surf and the swell to this day, highly visible from both the coastal road as well as on the way in and out of magnificent Pago Pago harbor.


This is a special place on Tutuila for me, for a reason considerably less awe-inspring than the legend above. It’s special because it is along this stretch of coast that one can get away from the dogs!

Dogs sometimes seem like they’re everywhere on this island, doing their thing, and they can interfere with your thing if you’re not careful. A walk is a better idea with a big stick (or rocks at a minimum) in hand, and running… well running is often not such a good idea.

But along this glorious coastline, the dogs do not interfere. A fine route with seasalt for the face and breezes for the hair, Fatu-Ma-Futi glorious in most any conditions.




  1. Just returned from American Samoa and took a beautiful photo of this island while there. There are a lot of dogs on the island, but I only ever found one aggressive and it was a mother when I stumbled upon her puppies. The rest of the dogs, though malnourished and bruised, never seemed to even pay attention to the people. I’ve emailed an animal protection agency about getting to American Samoa and spay and neutering the dogs that are there and maybe provide them with some medical attention. If they spay and neuter the dogs, it till greatly cut down the stray dog population once they’re not longer able to reproduce. That said, I actually met some very nice dogs on the island. I fell in love with American Samoa and made lfie long friend there and cannot wait for my return next year.

    • Should Be Digging says:

      Hey Wil welcome back! Glad you enjoyed the dogs of American Samoa. Don’t get me wrong, I also had my favorite dogs there and I enjoyed my stay immensely. But yes, spaying and neutering programs for the canines (which I believe have happened in the past) wouldn’t hurt. To your return trip being just as great as your first.

  2. I was laughing at your dog portion. It’s true we have too many stray dogs on the island, but I guess it makes us memorable along with all our potholes. Fatu ma Futi is definitely one of my favorite scenes driving to and from the town area along the coast. By the way, Pongo-Pongo is spelled Pago Pago. =) Where did you get your legend from? I don’t think I’ve heard that version. I’ve been told a different one. The downsides of having our Samoan legends passed down orally instead of being written. Nice post.

    • Should Be Digging says:

      Hi Lisi – thanks for your comment (and the edit!) I think we’ve got you beat here on O’ahu for potholes, even if I can run down the street and attract fewer dogs!

      I heard the legend casually from folks I met in ‘Ili’ili while living there for a few months. It would have been good to record someone telling it but didn’t! What is the version you have heard? It would be cool to know how the legend varies, and to know what some of the older folks around recall.

      The great thing about oral traditions (even if they can shift around a bit) is that they require us to talk to each other!

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