The original people of Tanna were Melanesians who migrated here hundreds of years ago. During the following centuries, the inhabitants evolved to be the Tannan tribes whose descendants still live on the island.
Voyager Captain Cook first sighted land at Tanna in August 1774. William Hodges’ painting “Landing at Tanna” is in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Dr Hawkesworth was accompanying the crew and other scientists for a voyage on HMS Resolution. The doctor wrote a first-hand account describing their incredible adventure and mentioned their arrival on Tanna:
“Cook’s landing party approaching the beach, the captain holding the fronds of a palm in his right hand and the barrel of a musket in his left. At the extreme left, a party of Tanan men brandishing clubs and spears, and another similar party at centre…..”
19th-century traders and missionaries arrived on Tanna. Their idea was to change the ways of all the island people, both economically and religiously. However, the Tannese stuck to their traditions fervently. Still today, there are fewer Christians here than on Vanuatu’s other islands.
Tanna has exceptionally fertile land. Consequently, excellent Tanna coffee is exported worldwide. Other produce from the island includes kava, coffee, coconut, copra, and exotic fruits. In recent years, successful tourism affects the island’s economy. Tourists from around the globe visit to witness traditional culture (many of the indigenous people still wear the tribal dress), and of course the spectacle of the volcano. To preserve cultural integrity, only local people are permitted to act as tourist guides.
There is a choice of relatively basic accommodation on the island. Therefore, many of the island’s visitors choose to charter a yacht to enjoy the excellent sailing conditions. Certainly, it’s the best way to explore everything that Vanuatu´s islands have to offer.
Claims to fame
Some of the Tannan tribes believe in “Cargo Cult” which is the belief that to create wealth you have to attract it by extensive building, as a grand gesture. Moreover, they consider HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to be a god!
The film Tanna is set on the island and was nominated for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 89th Academy Awards. The movie tells the true story of a couple who decided to marry for love, rather than obey their parents’ wishes.