Observatory History
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The following history of the Samoa Observatory was obtained through the writings of the various station chiefs found in the Annual Reports as well as supplementary information from the current matai family. Note that ‘matai’ is the Samoan word equivalent to chief and will be found interchangeably throughout the history. The following information provides the significant changes, major events, and alterations to the observatory throughout the years.

Chronological History


August 12, final agreement reached between NOAA and Chief Iuli Togi for use of 26.70 acres of land. A 20 year lease agreement was signed.

The first major project was road construction. The original access was by an improved trail built by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1941. In September the road east of the trail was established by the American Samoa-Public Works Department with the actual single lane road construction completed by a private company. The road base is 4 inches of compacted coral with an asphalt surface.

In December the observatory construction contract was awarded with the Government of American Samoa acting as the contracting agent.

1975 In August the observatory construction was completed. NOAA's American Samoa Observatory was dedicated in November.
1976 An additional remote sampling structure, the EKTO building, was erected to house aerosol and surface ozone instrumentation. The prefabricated 8x8x16 ft building arrived in October and was completely assembled by November.
1977 The 42 ft sampling tower for the EKTO building was completed in February.
1978 A replacement generator was installed in May after the older generator failure in March. The new EKTO generator was equipped with a continuously operating resistance heater to prevent moisture buildup and slow down the internal corrosion process. The island power continues to be inconsistent with frequent power outages affecting the data acquisition. The Atmospheric Lifetime Experiment (ALE) for fluorocarbons, a cooperative with the Oregon Graduate Center, Beaverton, Oregon, added a small prefabricated building adjacent to the GMCC remote tower on the Ridge and referred to as the OGC building. Also documented were problems with the internal air conditioning within the main observatory building, causing complications for monitoring equipment in the building.
1979 Lease renegotiated. The principle change was a lump sum advance payment. The sum was intended for construction of a Samoan guest house for the Iuli family in Tula Village.
1980 Beginning of the SEAREX program (Sea-Air Exchange program) funded by NSF. Station premises modifications included 4 additional buildings and two walk up towers (60 and 42 ft) at the point, and one building on the ridge.
1981 SEAREX program completed August 1981.
1982 Preliminary plans began for a photovoltaic system and replacement of the central air conditioning system within the main building. The central air conditioning system will have modified ductwork. A lightening strike on March 28th hit the top level of the remote sampling tower on the ridge. Equipment downtime and repair ranged from a few days to a few months. Station housing repairs were conducted including removing vegetation adjacent to the house, replacing rotted roofing shingles and supports. The houses were also repainted.
1983 In February, construction of the Photovoltaic System began. Chief Iuli Togi passed away in September. Village deliberations were needed to select a new Iuli Matai. and Chief Va’a Iuli was selected.

A new remote EKTO sampling building, was erected adjacent to the ridge sampling tower. Two buildings were removed to erect the new building, the original OGC building and a SEAREX building. The new EKTO building was 16’ x 20’ with a separate room for the gas chromatograph.

The Photovoltaic system officially went on line 15 February, 1984.

The second renegotiations began for the lease. Renegotiations occur every 5 years as required by the signed agreement. The lease was resigned with the assistance of High Chief Salanoa and with GMCC’s Jim Watkins present. Jim Watkins helped establish the initial lease agreement.


Reorganization of Observatory. Roof resurfaced with epoxy paint. UPS system added to the instruments in the main building. Shingles stained and water catchments drained and cleaned.

On 31 March an electrical fire destroyed the NOAA Chief’s housing unit #T-6. The vacant NOAA house #T-7 was cleaned for occupation. Significant improvements were made to both houses. In March the badly rusting Datsun pickup was replaced with a new Toyota four wheel drive truck.


In February of 1986 a grounding problem was solved by rewiring the EKTO building. Additional outlets and breakers were installed as well as an hardwired UPS. The motor/pump grounds were isolated and a grounding rod established. In August a heavy copper cable was laid to connect the EKTO and Observatory grounding rods, reducing the signal noise between the two buildings.

In April, a lightening strike interrupted observations followed by island utility blackouts in May and June. The lightening strike occurred on 22 April. A bolt struck a tree 10m from the Observatory and the ground charge entered the nearby buried cable effecting both the Main building and the EKTO building on the ridge. The station personnel in the building during the strike were unhurt. After the downpour eased the station personnel inspected the damage. A 6” deep groove was found where the lightening entered the ground. Damaged equipment included all CAMS boards, the photovoltaic controller, the Dasibi ozone monitor and communications board, the standby generator control relay, and the telephones.

From May through June the island power utility lost 70% of it’s generating capacity forcing the island to scheduled rotating blackouts. Schools and businesses were closed. The television and radio stations were shut down for over a month. The observatory continued with fairly normal operations until 16 June when the radiator ruptured and a head cracked on the standby generator. The replacement parts were still available on island and the generator was running three days later. By July the power utility was fully functioning.

At the end of the year a new Ford van was purchased.

1987 On January 17th, a hundred year hurricane devastated the Manua islands. Tutuila Island was spared. In May a 24’ square carport was constructed. In April the stations main AC was replaced. The solar photovoltaic system entered its fourth year with a few of the 60 battery cells beginning to fail. Replacements were ordered. In December a sump pump was installed in series with the observatory pressure pump to eliminate the occasional priming problems.
1988 Housing unit #T-11 was upgraded. A two-car carport was constructed and an outdoor storage building erected. as well as minor interior remodeling. In May the Observatory main AC unit was repaired, two new batteries were installed in the photovoltaic system, the Dobson dome repainted and the EKTO UPS was repaired after 4 months down. Also in May several severe power surges began. Power outages increased towards the year’s end.

On 28 February, Chief Va’a Iuli died in an automobile accident while in California. The monthly lease checks were put in an escrow account pending the selection of the next Iuli Matai.
1989 Housing units were remodeled, targeting the kitchens, bathrooms, and living-room windows and termite damage repaired. New furniture was purchased. For the observatory new power lines were installed at the point to help remedy recurring power outages, surges and brownouts. Trees were trimmed to clear the horizon for the solar instruments. The installation of new CO2 lines began in late October and the EKTO building was renovated. The generator failed during November and a new battery along with cables were installed to correct the problem. The hardwood posts surrounding the main building were revarnished.
1990 Hurricane Ofa hit American Samoa February 2 - 4, moving at a slow rate of 5-6 mph with sustained winds of 65-75 mph and gusts of 100 mph. The observatory damage included loss of the walk up tower at Matatula Point, the two point buildings and their contents, the stair railings, the carport and shingles on the main building. The backup generator failed during the hurricane due to bad fuel but the photovoltaic system maintained power to the meteorological and solar instruments. The station housing sustained damage to the roofing shingles and garages. The repair work post-hurricane included construction of a concrete building at the point with a concrete roof. The support posts to several sections of the stairs required replacement along with the stairway railings. Repair-work was slow in progress.

One of the station vehicles was involved in an accident later in the year, flipping off the road. No injuries to personnel were reported, but the vehicle was beyond repair. A 1986 Dodge pickup was purchased as a replacement and arrived at the end of November.


The effects of Mt. Pinatubo were observed as stratospheric haze on July 16. Hurricane Val hit Tutuila Island from December 7 – 10th. The hurricane’s eye passed over the southern end of the island with winds as high as 116mph recorded at the observatory. The most significant damage was to the CO2 sampling mast at the point. The mast was severed by the winds 2.5 m above ground surface. Other damage included the door and roof of the storage building, the thermometer shelters, windows in the main building, the tipping-bucket rain gauge and the shelter that contained the high-volume sampler operated by EML. Later problems detected included leaks in the EKTO building and generator problems linked to the radiator and water in the fuel system.

Installation of a NWS tower near the EKTO building was completed in September. It was noted that the location is not good for wind speed and direction under certain conditions.

The photovoltaic system batteries continue to decline. A charge equalization procedure was attempted to fully and equally charge the batteries. It improved the condition of most batteries. A breakdown of the backup generator occurred during the end of the year and a complete overhaul was completed.

A new Iuli Matai was chosen for Tula village, Iuli Tela Vanini., and the rent payments were made directly from the station chief.


Hurricane Val damage continues to be repaired. The backup generator again required radiator replacement. The starter and the injectors had failed and were replaced. The photovoltaic system was disconnected in August because the batteries failed to hold a charge. New batteries were requested, but due to high cost they were not ordered. The island power was also unreliable due to hurricane damage.

A minor problem occurred with the lease agreement due to payments delayed by the mail in March and April. The Tula Chief threatened to change the locks on the observatory. The April payment arrived in time to dissuade the action.


A burglary occurred at the observatory building, taking the safe containing cash and paperwork. The perpetrators were caught but the stolen property never recovered. A new safe was cemented to the floor.

Two hurricanes were near Tutuila, yet with only minor damages incurring at the observatory. The two observatory vehicles, the Ford van and Toyota truck, were nearing 100,000 miles and both required constant maintenance. Process to replace the truck began at the end of the year. Power from the utility remains inconsistent and frequent blackouts occur. The frequent blackouts required a high demand of generator backup power and a generator overheating problem developed. The last overheating occurrence caused $12,000 worth of repairs. These repairs included a modification to prevent radiator water loss.

Major remodeling of T-7 was conducted by the Environmental Engineer and family, greatly improving the appearance.

1994-1995 A modem router was installed for the SMO local area network internet access. In November 1995 construction of a new concrete building began to replace the degrading EKTO building.. Both observatory vehicles were replaced with new trucks, a Toyota and a Nissan. The backup generator continued to function well through the frequent blackouts.
1996-1997 In December 1996 the new remote concrete building was completed. The emergency generator was given a tune up and reported in good condition after 20 years of operation. The housing units continue to be repaired but termite damage is incessant. In 1996 matai Iuli Tela Vanini passed away. Village deliberations began for a new matai.
1998-1999 Bluesky Communications Tower completed in May 1999 and used by the observatory to replace walk up tower for meteorological instruments and cooperative projects.

Major station cleanup occurred. A new Dobson dome was installed and painted. The roof sealed with weatherproof paint and the Plexiglas windows replaced with hurricane glass. The old meteorological tower was dismantled and removed with the sampling intakes on the tower relocated to the new Bluesky Communications Tower. Those systems moved include the HATS and AGAGE intake lines, the meteorological wind and temperature sensors and the Miami Sea-Air Exchange Experiment South Pacific Aerosol Network (SEASPAN) filter system. A Local Area Network was created at the observatory using 10-base-T cabling enabling data exchange and network operations.

In 2001 the old carport was demolished and replaced with space for three vehicles. The new carport roof was used as the location for the revitalized photovoltaic (PV) array. The PV array was rehabilitated by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy/American Samoa Government’s Territorial Energy Office. Through the Territorial Energy Office (TEO) and the American Samoa Community College, manpower and technical supervision was supplied and the PV was erected. Its potential is to provide 30% of the stations daytime power requirements. Internet connections were investigated and an agreement was established through the Pan-Pacific Education and Communication Experiments by Satellite (PEACESAT) program. Anticipated date of connection during 2002.

Finally, the houses were gutted and remodeled. The Station Chief’s house, (T-7) was completed by contractors while the Station Engineer’s house was remodeled by the Engineer. Two new Ford Ranger trucks were purchased to replace the older Toyota and Mitsubishi Trucks.

In August a new matai was selected, Iuli Taumafai Barber. Offical paperwork completed in early 2002.


In April a fiber optic line was laid to the observatory by ASCTA (American Samoa Telecommunications Authority). An outgoing internet connection existed for the observatory, but access by the PI’s to their instruments was delayed until router access was obtained through ASCTA and a firewall installed. The desired connection was obtained in August.

Maintenance and repair continues to the observatory. The spalling on the roof overhang has been evaluated, money has been obtained to repair the stairway to the point, and the observatory interior has been repainted. The steel bracing for the CO2 tower was replaced by Duane Kitzis with stainless steel due to the excessive corrosion.

May 7th – 10th the Joint 25th Meeting of the AGAGE Scientists and Special Meeting of NOAA-CMDL Scientists was held in American Samoa. Over 20 participants came to the meetings and toured the observatory.

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