Aitutaki. Cook Island. Polynesia. South Pacific Ocean. Aitutaki sacred place. Early Polynesian settlement. Traditional oral history says that Aitutaki was discovered by the Polynesian voyager Ru around 1000 years ago. It is believed Ru and his entourage of his wives, brothers, warriors and beautiful maidens had left their home island of Raiatea searching for new land and opportunities. Ru landed his double-hulled voyaging vaka (canoe) via the channel that runs between Ootu Beach and Akitua Island. Fascinating details about the lives of the early Polynesians who settled after Ru's discovery are slowly being revealed now in the archaeological excavations taking place on Aitutaki. Carbon datings from Paengariki marae (sacred site), the first site to be systematically excavated, reveal the marae was established around 1000A.D. Fieldwork has unearthed human remains as well as adzes and stone from slingshot. A 4-wheel drive tour operated by Ngaakitai Pureariki, who has been the trainee archaeologist and driving force behind these excavations, is a fascinating insight into island life long ago. Captain Bligh was here in 1789. Aitutaki's European discoverer was Captain William Bligh, on board the Bounty, on 11 April 1789. The famous mutiny took place just 17 days later as the ship was en route to Tonga. In 1821, the missionary John Williams came and left behind Papeiha and Vahapata, two newly converted missionaries from Tahiti, to begin the work of bringing Christianity to the Cooks. Williams returned two years later to find they had made remarkable progress and as a consequence Aitutaki became the first island of the Cooks to adopt Christianity. The CICC church here is the oldest in the country. During World War 2 several thousand American servicemen were stationed here to build the island's two long runways. They also created a series of inland tracks.