Surface sediment samples were collected from 5 pristine coastal areas and 1 potentially contaminated coastal site on Tutuila, the main island of American Samoa, an isolated island group in the South Pacific Ocean. Samples were analysed for total element analysis (15 elements) and mineralogy. The results indicated no evidence of trace element contamination at any site, including Pago Pago Harbour. Inter-site variations could be explained assuming the sediments consisted predominantly of coralline sand and rubble with varying quantities of basaltic materials derived from local catchments. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.