TheMinerva Reefs are a group of reefs located in the Pacific Ocean south of Fiji and Tonga. Thereefs were named after the whaleship Minerva, was wreckedon what became known as South Minerva after setting out from Sydneyin 1829. Many other ships would follow, for example theStrathcona, which was sailing north soon after completionin Auckland in 1914. In both cases most of the crew savedthemselves in whaleboats or rafts and reached the Lau group in Fiji. Ofsome other ships, however, no survivors are known.
TheTuaikaepau ('Slow But Sure'), a Tongan vessel on its wayto New Zealand, became famous when it struck the reefs on 7 July 1962. (This 15 mwooden vessel was built in 1902 at the same yard as theStrathcona). The crew and passengers survived by living inthe remains of a Japanese freighter. There they remained for 3months in miserable circumstances and several of them died. FinallyCaptain Tvita Fifita decided to get help. Without tools, he builta small boat from the wood left over from his ship. With this raft,named Malolelei ('Good Day'), he and a few of the strongercrew members sailed to Fiji in one week.
The reefsgained further notoriety in January 1972 in the Republic ofMinerva 'incident'. Subsequently, on 24February, Tonga laid claimto the Minerva Reefs and annexed them on 15June the same year. The move was recognised by the SouthPacific Forum in September. More recently Fiji has made it clearthat they do not recognize any maritime water claims by Tonga tothe Minerva Reefs under the UNCLOSagreements.
Both North and South Minerva Reefs are used as anchorages by yachtstraveling between New Zealand and Tonga or Fiji. While waiting forfavourable weather for the approximately 800-mile passage to NewZealand, excellent scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and clammingcan be enjoyed. North Minerva offers the more protected anchorage,with a single, easily negotiated, west-facing pass that offersaccess to the large, calm lagoon with extensive sandy areas. SouthMinerva's shape is similar to an infinity symbol, with its eastern lobepartially open to the ocean on the northern side. Due to the lowerreef and large entrance, the anchorage at South Minerva can berough at high tide if a swell is running. The lagoon also containsnumerous coral heads that must be avoided. While presenting anattractive area to wait out harsh weather occurring farther south,the Minerva reefs are not a good place to be when the weather isbad locally. This does not occur often, but it is important tomaintain awareness of the situation and put to sea ifnecessary.
Scuba diving the outside wall drop-offs at the Minerva Reefs isspectacular due to the superb water clarity and extensive coral,fish and other marine life. There are few suspended particles andthe visibility is normally in excess of 100 feet due to there beingno dry land at high tide. Of particular note are the numerous fancoral formations near the pass at North Minerva and the sharkbowl area located by the narrow dinghy pass on the western lobe ofSouth Minerva. The inside of the lagoon at South Minerva is alsohome to numerous giant clams. Divers at Minerva must be entirelyself sufficient, with their own compressor, and should also beaware that the nearest assistance is a multiple-day boat ride awayin Tonga. Due to the vertical drop off and water clarity, diversmust watch their depth carefully.
The surf that indicates the reef can just be seen in thebackground
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