An atoll with a land area of one square mile, Palmerston is the only true atoll in the southern Cook group. It consists of six sandy motu (islets) scattered around a coral reef and surrounding a lagoon about seven miles across. When Captain Cook landed on Palmerston on June 16, 1777, the island was then uninhabited. Cook named the island in honor of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Palmerston. Tradition has it that an ancient name for the island was Avarau, meaning "two hundred harbors." In 1863 a ship's carpenter and barrelmaker (cooper) named William Masters arrived from Manuae with two Polynesian wives and annexed the island. He shortly added a third wife and from this harem he propagated a large family and settled in firmly as virtual king and autocrat of the community until his death in 1899. Palmerston's current population of 50 is descended from him and his three Polynesian wives. Masters is said to have originated from Gloucestershire and the island's population speak excellent English with a distinct Gloucestershire accent. William's descendants now spell their name "Marsters."
Currency in Cook Islands: New Zealand dollar (NZD)