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Flag of Tuvalu

Tuvalu (/tˈvɑːl/ (About this sound listen) too-VAH-loo or /ˈtvəl/ TOO-və-loo), formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. It comprises three reef islands and six true atolls spread out between the latitude of to 10° south and longitude of 176° to 180°, west of the International Date Line. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. Tuvalu has a population of about 10,837 people (2012). The total land area of the islands of Tuvalu is 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi).

The first inhabitants of Tuvalu were Polynesians. The pattern of settlement that is believed to have occurred is that the Polynesians spread out from Samoa and Tonga into the Tuvaluan islands, with Tuvalu providing a stepping stone to migration into the Polynesian Outlier communities in Melanesia and Micronesia.

In 1568 Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to sail through the archipelago. In 1568 during his first voyage he sighted Nui and during his second voyage in 1595 he sailed past Niulakita. In 1819 the island of Funafuti was named Ellice's Island; the name Ellice was applied to all nine islands. The islands were declared a British Protectorate by Captain Gibson of HMS Curacoa in 1892; then administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories; and from 1916 to 1974 as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony.

The result of the Ellice Islands self-determination referendum, 1974 was that the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony ceased to exist on 1 January 1976 and the separate British colonies of Kiribati and Tuvalu came into existence. Tuvalu became fully independent within the Commonwealth on 1 October 1978. On 17 September 2000 Tuvalu became the 189th member of the United Nations.

Selected article

NASA orbital photo of Niutao

Niutao is a reef island in the northern part of Tuvalu with a population of about 600 in 2012. A fringing reef surrounds the whole island, which makes local fishing and transport into and out of the island difficult. The island is 1.6 kilometres (0.99 mi) long by 0.5 kilometres (0.31 mi) wide in size.

According to their oral history Niutaoans believe that their ancestors came from Samoa during the 12th or 13th century in a canoe captained by a man called Mataika. (More...)

Selected biography

Lady Naama Maheu Latasi was influential in setting up the headquarters for the Girl Guides Association of Tuvalu in Funafuti following the creation of Tuvalu at the termination of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony. She was appointed the first Tuvalu Girl Guides Commissioner. She stood for election in the constituency of Nanumea in 1989 and was elected to the Parliament of Tuvalu. Lady Latasi served as Minister of Health, Education and Community Services in the first Government of Prime Minister Bikenibeu Paeniu. She served in Parliament from 1989 to 1997. She was married to Sir Kamuta Latasi, a former Prime Minister of Tuvalu. Lady Latasi died in 2012.


Selected picture

Ocean side of Funafuti atoll showing the storm dunes, the highest point on the atoll.

Cyclone Bebe, which passed through the Tuvaluan islands in October 1972, submerged Funafuti and eliminated 90% of structures on the island. The storm surge created a wall of coral rubble along the ocean side of Fongafale and Funafala that was about 10 miles (16 km) long, and about 10 feet (3.0 m) to 20 feet (6.1 m) thick at the bottom.

Because of the low elevation, the islands of Tuvalu are vulnerable to the effects of tropical cyclones and by the threat of current and future sea level rise. The highest elevation is 4.6 metres (15 ft) above sea level on Niulakita.

Did you know?

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  • A traditional sport played in Tuvalu is kilikiti, which is similar to cricket.

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