Atafu, formerly known as the Duke of York Group is a group of 42 coral islets within Tokelau in the south Pacific Ocean. Covering 2.5 km, it is the smallest of the three islands that constitute Tokelau, and is composed of an atoll surrounding a central lagoon, which itself covers some 15 km. The atoll lies some 800 kilometres south of the equator.
The reef which connects the islands of the atoll is shallow enough that it is possible to walk between the islands at low tide. This also means that there is no boat passage to the lagoon, although the ocean becomes deep very close to the reef. This allows for good anchorage, but also makes for rough seas close to the reef. The flatness of the atoll and its location within the tropical cyclone belt has led to damage to island properties on occasions, and Atafu’s existence may become endangered if sea levels rise due to global warming.
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Atafu lies in the Pacific hurricane belt. In January 1914, a massive storm demolished the church and most of the houses on the islands, and wiped out many of the coconut palms.