Butaritari (previously known as Makin, Pitt Island, Taritari Island, or Touching Island) is an atoll located in the Pacific Ocean island nation of Kiribati.
Three kilometers to the northeast is Makin. Butaritari was called Makin Atoll by the U.S. military, and Makin was then known as Makin Meang or Little Makin to distinguish it. Now that Butaritari has become the preferred name for the larger atoll, speakers tend to drop the qualifier for Makin.
Butaritari atoll has a land area of 13.6 km² and a population of 4,625 as of 2012.
The causeway connecting Tanimaiaki and Keuea
The atoll is roughly four-sided and nearly 30 km across in the east west direction, and averages about 15 km north to south. The reef is more submerged and broken into several broad channels along the west side. Small islets are found on reef sections between these channels. The atoll reef is continuous but almost without islets along the north side. In the northeast corner, the reef is some 1.75 km across and with only scattered small islet development. Thus, the lagoon of Butaritari is very open to exchange with the ocean. The lagoon is deep and can accommodate large ships, though the entrance passages are relatively narrow.
The south and southeast portion of the atoll comprises a nearly continuous islet, broken only by a single, broad section of interislet reef. These islets are mostly between 0.2 and 0.5 km across, but widen in the areas where the reef changes directions. Mangrove swamps appear well developed in these latter areas as well as all along the southern lagoon shore. Narrow islets are somewhat characteristic of Kiribati atolls running east-west.
Bikati and Bikatieta islets occupy a corner of the reef at the extreme northwest tip of the atoll, bordering what may be a second small lagoon to the north of the main lagoon. Larger Bikati (2 by 0.5 km) harbors a village. The main village is Butaritari, population approximately 2,000.
Butaritari, Keuea, Kuma, Tanimaiaki, Tekabetete
It is one of the lushest of the "outer islands" due to good rainfall. Typical annual rainfall is about 4 m, compared with about 2 m on Tarawa Atoll and 1 m in the far south of Kiribati. Rainfall on Butaritari is enhanced during an El Niño.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Fanny Vandegrift Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne visited Butaritari from 14 July 1889 to early August. At this time Nakaeia, was the ruler of Butaritari and Makin, atolls, his father being Tebureimoa and his grandfather being Tetimararoa. Nakaeia was described by Stevenson as “a fellow of huge physical strength, masterful, violent … Alone in his islands it was he who dealt and profited; he was the planter and the merchant” with his subjects toiling in servitude and fear.
Nakaeia allowed two San Francisco trading firms to operate, Messrs, Crawford and Messrs. Wightman Brothers, with up to 12 Europeans resident on various of the atolls. The presence of the Europeans, and the alcohol they traded to the islanders, resulted in periodic alcoholic binges that only ended with Nakaeia making tapu (forbidding) the sale of alcohol. During the 15 or so days Stevenson spent on Butaritari the islanders were engaged in a drunken spree that threatened the safety of Stevenson and his family. Stevenson adopted the strategy of describing himself as the son of Queen Victoria so as to ensure that he would be treated as a person who should not be threatened or harmed.
Any possible Guano Islands Act claim by the United States to Butaritari and Little Makin was renounced in the 1970s. The islands were visited as part of the United States Exploring Expedition in 1841.