Tuvalu (until 1975 - Ellis Islands) is a Pacific state in
Polynesia. The coastal strip is 21 km long. Tuvalu is located on 5
atolls and 4 islands of the Tuvalu archipelago. The islands are
scattered over 350 km; the distance between neighboring islands is
usually from 50 to 100 km. The total land area is 26 km². The
population of the country is 11 206 people. (2011, estimate). The
capital is Funafuti.
The islands of Tuvalu were discovered by
the Spanish navigator Alvaro Mendanya de Neuro in 1568. In 1892, the
archipelago became a British protectorate of Ellis Island, and in
1916 - part of the British colony of Gilbert Island and Ellis. In a
1974 referendum, the Polynesian population of the Ellis Islands
voted to secede from the Micronesian Islands of Gilbert
(subsequently Kiribati), and the following year the archipelago
became a separate British colony of Tuvalu. The islands gained
independence in 1978. Tuvalu is a member of the UN, the South
Pacific Commission and the Pacific Islands Forum.
The archipelago got its modern name only in 1975, and translated
from the Tuvalu language it means “eight standing together” (meaning
the eight traditionally inhabited islands of Tuvalu; the ninth -
Niulakita - was settled relatively recently). The European
discoverer of the islands, Alvaro Mendanya de Neira, called the
archipelago "Lagoon Islands", and in 1819 he received the name
"Ellis Islands", which was used for almost the entire colonial era.
The Polynesian state of Tuvalu is a cluster of atolls and islands
located in the Pacific Ocean just south of the equator. The capital
of the country, the city of Funafuti Atoll, is located 1,050 km
north of the city of Suva, the capital of Fiji, and 4,000 km
northeast of Sydney, Australia's largest city. The nearest
archipelagos are the Gilbert Islands, which belong to the Republic
of Kiribati and located northwest of Tuvalu, and the islands of
Wallis and Futuna, which lie to the southeast and belong to France.
The land area of Tuvalu is only 26 km², while the area
occupied by the lagoons is more than 494 km². The country is located
on 5 atolls (Nanumea, Nui, Nukulaelae, Nukufetau, Funafuti), 3
low-lying coral islands (Nanumanga, Niulakita, Niutao) and one atoll
/ reef island (Vaitupu), stretching 595 km from the north-west to
the southeast The largest island in the archipelago (based on land
area, not the water surface of the lagoon) is Vaitupu Atoll (5.09
km²), and the smallest is Niulakita (0.4 km²). All islands are
low-lying, and atolls mainly consist of several islets, or motu,
which are exposed to the negative effects of coastal abrasion
(mainly the western sides of the islands facing the ocean). The
highest point of the country reaches only 5 m.
northernmost island of Tuvalu is the Nanumea Atoll, and the
southernmost is Niulakita. The smallest distance between the two
islands of the archipelago is 67 km (Nukufetau / Vaitupu), and the
largest is 172 km (Nui / Vaitupu).