Kiribati Historical Geography
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The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) is an island nation covering a vast area of the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The islands straddling the equator and border the International Date Line to the east. North of Fiji and southwest of Hawaii.
Kiribati was formerly known as the Gilbert Islands and was named after the British Captain Thomas Gilbert, who sighted the islands in 1788. The name Kiribati is derived from the local pronunciation of "Gilberts".
Kiribati consists of about 32 atolls and one island, Banaba. The groups of islands being:
- Banaba (or Ocean Island): an isolated volcanic island between Nauru and the Gilbert Islands
- Gilbert Islands: made up of 16 atolls located some 930 miles (1,500 km) north of Fiji.
- Line Islands: made up of 8 atolls and one reef, located about 2,050 miles (3,300 km) east of the Gilbert Islands. These include Kirisimati, or Christmas Island, which is the largest coral atoll.
- Phoenix Islands: made up of 8 atolls and coral islands located some 1,100 miles (1,800 km) south-east of the Gilbert Islands. The only inhabited island is Canton (Kanton or Abariringa) with 41 residents in 2005.
The population in 1995 was about 80,000.
Gilbert Islands[edit | edit source]
The Gilbert Islands lie south of the Marshall Islands and north of Tuvalu. Tarawa is the most populous island. The climate is equatorial. There are no rivers, but most islands enclose a lagoon. The islands are:
Abaiang, Abemama, Aranuka, Arorae, Beru, Butarituari, Kuria, Little Makin, Maiana, Marakei, Nikunau, Nonouti, Onotoa, Tabiteuea, Tamana and Tarawa are geographically connected. Banaba, a mined-out phosphate rock island, is nearby and is included politically in the chain.
Line Islands[edit | edit source]
Formerly known as the American Islands. They are a group of islands in the central Pacific Ocean, south of Hawaii, between the equator and 6°N, and about 160°W.
Kiritimati (Christmas Island), Tabuaeran, Palmyra Atoll and their attendant islets belong to the USA. They are so named because they were frequented for their guano by traders from the United States. Guano and mother-of-pearl shells are the principal articles of export. Kiritimati is probably the largest atoll in the Pacific (it is about 90 miles in circumference).
Currently there are about 5,300 people on Kiritimati, 1,800 on Tabuaeran, and 2,000 on Teraina (formerly Washington Island) for a total of 9,100 on the Kiribatese portion.
Malden, Starbuck Island, Flint Island, Vostok Island and Caroline Island, which form the Southern Line Islands, are all uninhabited.
The American Islands in this group, Jarvis Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Kingman Reef are all usually uninhabited.
The Line Islands form the time zone with the latest time in the world, UTC + 14, with the same time of the day as Hawaii, but one day ahead, and even 25 hours ahead of some other islands in Oceania.
Phoenix Islands[edit | edit source]
The chain includes Kanton (or Abariringa), Enderbury Island, Rawaki (formerly Phoenix), Manra (formerly Sydney), Birnie, McKean, Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner) and Orona (formerly Hull). Previously uninhabited, Orona, Manra and Nikumaroro islands were colonized with people from the overcrowded Gilbert Islands between 1938 and 1940. By 1963, the three settlements had failed and the entire population was moved to the Solomon Islands. These three islands now have virtually no permanent population.
- "Phoenex Islands" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Islands (accessed 31 December 2008).