Natural Phenomenon: Cyclones


Strangely, early BSIP Annual Reports never mention cyclones and those in the 1920s said, 'Hurricanes are unknown'. This cannot have been true since the Solomon Archipelago is in the eastern rim of the Coral Sea, the area in which many cyclones form. As well, nineteenth-century shipping logs provide ample evidence of cyclones in the islands. Cyclones form in the Coral Sea, usually between November and April, and pass on to the archipelagos off New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and to eastern Australia. They increase in intensity as they travel and usually cause more damage as they progress away from the Solomon Islands. Onwards from the 1930s there are ongoing government records of cyclones striking the Solomon Islands and inflicting large-scale damage. The partial list below gives some indication of their ferocity and frequency.


Queensland labour trade ship Para was caught in a cyclone while returning to Australia on 9 February 1893. The ship had to 'hove to' for thirty-two hours. (Brisbane Courier, 22 Feb. 1893)


In February 1907, the Melanesian Mission's Ngorefou schoolhouse had to be rebuilt after it was dumped off its piles by a cyclone. (Hopkins 1907, 158)


A severe cyclone passed over Vanikolo on 10 December 1935. No one died, but all buildings were wrecked and blown out to sea, with the exception of the timber company manager's house and the store. MV Hygeia was totally wrecked at Nea, Makira without loss of life. On Utupua, about eighteen kilometres away, there was total devastation. (AR 1935 18)


A savage cyclone struck the Solomons in January 1952 and was accompanied by a storm surge. Retreating water left fish trapped on reefs and shores. The plantations in the Russell Islands, the principal centre of the copra industry, suffered extensive damage. The wartime wharf at Kukum, adjacent to Honiara, was swept away, which forced temporary repairs to the old wharf at Tulagi to allow vessels to load and unload. The Marist Mission stations at Tangarare and Avuavu, Guadalcanal were completely destroyed as were some large villages along that island's central coast. On over-populated Tikopia, food crops were so badly damaged that emergency supplies had to be sent in to prevent famine. (AR 1951-1952, 4-5; Kenilorea 2008, 272; Allan 1990, pt. 2, 133)


In June 1958 a cyclone formed unusually late in the year, causing rough seas. (Tedder 2008, 72)


In November 1966, Cyclone Angela swept the north and west of Malaita and passed on to the south and east coasts of Guadalcanal, bringing devastation and hardship. Hundreds of villages in north Malaita were destroyed, leaving some eight to ten thousand homeless, and coconut palm and cocoa trees ruined. Winds reached sixty to eighty knots and produced seas nine metres higher than normal. On Guadalcanal, 0.3048 metre of rain was recorded in Honiara in fifty-three hours, rivers burst their banks, bridges were washed away, and leaf buildings and food gardens were destroyed. Logs and tree trunks were washed down rivers and out to sea. The Solomon Islands branch of the Red Cross started an appeal and the British government provided $A90,000 as a token of sympathy. (AR 1966, 4-5)


In March 1967, a cyclone struck the Central Solomons, then tore through the Eastern District with high winds, most notably affecting Makira. The Nggela and Russell Islands were also affected, as was Malaita. The west coast of Guadalcanal, particularly the southwest corner, bore the full brunt of the storm. In Honiara, most seafront gardens were severely damaged, houses were flooded and the Lau fishing village at Kukum was flattened. The T. S. Ranadi Marine School buildings were destroyed and minor damage was caused to the Port Cruz wharves and the Point Cruz Yacht Club (q.v.). Several bridges on Guadalcanal were damaged or swept away. Electricity and power distribution systems in the capital were damaged. The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation was disrupted and its Pijin English news was delivered by the reader standing outside the transmitter building in the pouring rain. (NS 14 Apr. 1967)

In November 1967, Cyclone Annie swept through the Western Solomons, the eye passing directly over Gizo. Power poles were snapped, buildings destroying, and half the houses on Vella Lavella, Choiseul and Ranongga were destroyed along with many food gardens. The Gilbertese settlement on Wagina was flattened and the ocean inundated its gardens. The north coasts of Malaita and Isabel also faced gale force winds, and on Ontong Java one village was destroyed, as were 50 percent of the coconut trees on the forty-two islands of the southern part of the atoll and most of the gardens. (AR 1967, 5; NS 17 Nov. 1967)


When Cyclone Isa swept through the Protectorate in April 1970 it caused damage in all districts, but Malaita was hardest hit. The Sinalagu area recorded twenty-two inches of rain in forty-four hours. Bridges at Fiu and elsewhere on Malaita were damaged, as were plantations in the Russell Islands. There was flooding on Guadalcanal. (NS 30 Apr. 1970)


On 6 and 7 December 1971, Cyclone Ursula devastated Santa Ana and Santa Catalina Islands, felling most of the trees. The eastern end of Makira suffered extensive damage. An estimated 2,500 people were left homeless. (AR 1971, 5; NS 15 Dec. 1971)


Cyclones during 1972 damaged several areas of the Protectorate and destroyed swaths of forest and many coconut plantations. Cyclone Carlotta struck early in the year, then in late May and early June Cyclone Ida zigzagged down the 'Slot' (q.v.) causing devastation on every island. Timber reserves on Isabel were so hard hit that a leading timber company, Allardyce, had to close its operations there. The cocoa industry was also hurt and production declined sharply. Mature trees were destroyed and surviving ones were stripped of flowers and pods. (AR 1972, 5, 35, 46, 59; NS 15 June 1972; Webber 2011, 141; Melanesian Mission Broadsheet, special issue, Feb. 1972)


Cyclone David hit the Polynesian Outliers in the Eastern Outer Islands in April, affecting mainly Pileni, Matama and Nukapu. (SND 9 Apr. 1076)

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Published resources


  • Allan, Colin H., Solomons Safari, 1953-58 (Part II), Nag's Head Press, Christchurch, 1990. Details
  • Kenilorea, Peter, Tell It As It Is: Autobiography of Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Kenilorea, KBE, PC, Solomon Islands' First Prime Minister, Clive Moore, Centre for Asia-Pacific Area Studies, Academia Sinica, Taipei, 2008, xxxvi, 516 pp. pp. Details
  • Tedder, James L.O., Solomon Islands Years: A District Administrator in the Islands, 1952-1974, Tuatu Studies, Stuarts Point, NSW, 2008. Details
  • Webber, Roger, Solomini: Times and Tales from Solomon Islands, Troubador Publishing Ltd, Leicester, UK, 2011. Details


  • Solomons News Drum, 1974-1982. Details
  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details

Journal Articles

  • Hopkins, Arthur I., 'North Mala District. Southern Cross Log', Southern Cross Log, April 1907, p. 158. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Annual Reports (AR), 1896-1973. Details