The fourth largest island in the Cooks group, Mitiaro is of volcanic origin. Standing in water 14,750 feet deep (4500 m) it is four miles (6.4 km) across at its widest point. It is surrounded by the belt of fossilised coral -- makatea -- between 20 and 40 feet high (6 to 9 m) characteristic of islands in the southern group. The centre is almost flat, quite swampy and contains two freshwater lakes teeming with eels (itiki) and the imported tilapia from Africa where it is known as bream. Beaches are limited but there are crystal clear pools ideal for a cooling swim in the subterranean limestone caves and the beach at low tide abounds in interesting marine life.Mitiaro is definitely a place for visitors who like peace and quiet and a chance to read those big books they have always promised themselves they would finish! The unfortunate islanders had a pre-European history of harassment and subjugation by the warlike Atiuans and suffered greatly from this. When the ubiquitous ex-ironmonger-turned-missionary, John Williams arrived to convert the Mitiaroans on June 20 1823 the population was fewer than 100.