The Story of Goat Island, Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa
The story of Goat Island is an unsettled one. Some people believe that it was named because it was shaped like a goat. This one is easy enough to dispel because an old map of the harbor definitely shows Goat Island, and it wasn't shaped like a goat. Not in the slightest.
The most credible cause for the name was the presence of a "goat" on the island, along with the Officer's Club and so on. Navy personnel that I've spoken to from that time period confirm the presence of a goat. Great, but where did that goat come from?
Here is where the stories differ. Modern retellings place the origin of the goat as coming from Manu'a. The story I heard from an old Navy, retired enlisted sailor who is also a native of the islands and who enlisted from here way back when. I wish I could recall his name, but we only met in passing.
His story about how the goat came to be on that little island in our harbor is this.
The Navy shifted out its local commander and with the arrival of the new commander were the usual changes that result from a change in leadership. My source claimed that one of the more unusual requests by the new commander was that a goat be retrieved from Aunu'u, where he'd heard there were goats, so that when his wife settled in he'd be able to surprise her with goats milk for her pantry.
The order went out, and sailors rowed to Aunu'u and retrieved a goat and set it to roam on the island our in the harbor. For obvious reasons, this meant that the goat didn't have to be watched too closely as it was unlikely that it would decide to take a long walk off a very short pier.
Not long after, the new station commander was ready to spring his surprise on his wife. During dinner he asked that someone go and milk the goat and bring the fresh milk to the table. The order went out and someone ran down and went out to the island, and then came back... without the milk. Sheepishly, he returned to inform the commander that the sailors sent to Aunu'u had retrieved a "he" goat instead of a she-goat.
The error was corrected, and a she-goat was placed on station on the island, and the island earned the name of Goat Island as a result.
I suspect long after the commander and his wife left Tutuila's Navy Station a goat remained on the island for no reason more than tradition and the fact that it kept the grass clipped short.
Leastwise, this is the story I heard about how Goat Island received is name. Could be the old man was pulling my chain, but I doubt it.
Many people ask what in the world goats were doing so far away from their native homelands. The answer is simple. During the seafaring heyday, sailors would release goats on remote islands as emergency resupply and food. The animals would breed and subsequently sailing vessels could replenish their food stores by stopping and hunting goats on these various remote islands.
From an ecological point of view, it is easy to imagine the damage goats can do when they go feral, as they compete with a lot of different native species on many of these islands.
If you're wondering whatever happened to all of the goats in Samoa, all I can offer up as an explanation is that my recent, modern ancestors probably had a really good recipe for goat.