Espiritu Santo

Espiritu Santo[a] (UK: /ɛˌspɪrɪtuː ˈsæntoʊ/,[1] US: /- ˈsɑːntuː, - ˈsɑːntoʊ/[2][3][4]) is the largest island in the nation of Vanuatu, with an area of 3,955.5 km2 (1,527.2 sq mi) and a population of around 40,000 according to the 2009 census.[5]

Espiritu Santo
Nickname: Santo
Espiritu Santo (29281946255)
Vanuatu - Espiritu Santo
Map of Espiritu Santo
LocationSanma Province, Vanuatu
Coordinates15°15′S 166°50′E / 15.250°S 166.833°ECoordinates: 15°15′S 166°50′E / 15.250°S 166.833°E
ArchipelagoNew Hebrides
Area3,955.5 km2 (1,527.2 sq mi)
Highest elevation1,879 m (6,165 ft)
Highest pointMount Tabwemasana
Largest settlementLuganville (pop. 10,738)
Population39,606 (2009)
Ethnic groupsNi-Vanuatu


The island belongs to the archipelago of the New Hebrides in the Pacific region of Melanesia. It is in the Sanma Province of Vanuatu. The town of Luganville, on Espiritu Santo's southeast coast, is Vanuatu's second-largest settlement and the provincial capital. Roads run north and west from Luganville, but most of the island is far from the limited road network. Around Espiritu Santo lie a number of small islands and islets; among them are: Dany Island, Araki, Elephant Island, Sakao, Lataroa, Lataro, Thion, Malohu, Malwepe, Malvapevu, Malparavu, Maltinerava, Oyster Island, Tangoa, and Bokissa.

Vanuatu's highest peak is the 1879 metre (6165 foot) Mount Tabwemasana in west-central Espiritu Santo.

In 1998, Espiritu Santo hosted the Melanesia Cup.


Champagne Beach
Champagne Beach, North Santo
Champagne Beach Vanuatu
Local children

A Spanish expedition led by Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, established a settlement in 1606 at Big Bay on the north side of the island. Espiritu Santo takes its name from Queirós, who named the entire island group La Austrialia [sic][6] del Espíritu Santo in acknowledgment of the Spanish king's descent from the royal House of Austria, and believing he had arrived in the Great Southern Continent, Terra Australis. During the time of the British–French Condominium, Hog Harbour, on the northeast coast, was the site of the British district administration, while Segond, near Luganville was the French district administration.[7]

Men serving on Espiritu Santo WWII
ID check at the entrance to the base during World War II

During World War II, particularly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the island was used by American naval and air forces as a military supply and support base, naval harbor, and airfield. In highly fictionalized form, this was the locale of James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, and of the following Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific. The presence of the Americans later contributed to the island's tourism in scuba diving, as the Americans dumped most of their used military and naval equipment, and their refuse, at what is now known as "Million Dollar Point".[8] A shipwreck off Espiritu Santo, that of the SS President Coolidge, is also a popular diving spot. The SS President Coolidge was a converted luxury liner that hit a sea mine during the war and was sunk.

Between May and August 1980 the island was the site of a rebellion during the transfer of power over the colonial New Hebrides from the condominium to the independent Vanuatu. Jimmy Stevens' Nagriamel movement, in alliance with private French interests and backed by the Phoenix Foundation and American libertarians hoping to establish a tax-free haven, declared the island of Espiritu Santo to be independent of the new government. The "Republic of Vemerana" was proclaimed on May 28. France recognized the independence on June 3. On June 5, the tribal chiefs of Santo named the French Ambassador Philippe Allonneau the "King of Vemerana", and Jimmy Stevens became the Prime Minister. Luganville is renamed Allonneaupolis. Next, negotiations with Port-Vila failed, and from July 27 to August 18, British Royal Marines and a unit of the French Garde Mobile were deployed to the Vanuatu's capital island, but they did not invade Espiritu Santo as the soon-to-be government had hoped. The troops were recalled shortly before independence. Following independence, Vanuatu, now governed by Father Walter Lini, requested assistance from Papua New Guinea, whose army invaded and conquered Espiritu Santo, keeping it in Vanuatu.


Best Point, South Santo

Espiritu Santo, with many wrecks and reefs to be explored, is a very popular tourist destination for divers. Champagne Beach draws tourists with its white sand and clear waters. The "Western Side" of the island contains many caves which can be explored, and cruise ships often stop in at Luganville.

The local people make their living by supporting the tourist trade, by cash-crop farming, mostly copra, but also some cocoa beans and kava, as well as peanuts, or by subsistence farming and fishing.

Most of the people are Christians. The largest church groups on the island are the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Church of Melanesia (Anglican). Also active are the Apostolic Church, the Church of Christ, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and others. However, in many villages, particularly in Big Bay and South Santo, the people are "heathen", a term that in Vanuatu has no pejorative connotation — it simply denotes someone who has not embraced Christianity. Customary beliefs of a more modern sort are found among followers of the Nagriamel movement based in Fanafo.

For almost all of Espiritu Santo's people, custom plays a large part in their lives, regardless of their religion. The chief system continues strongly in most areas.

The people of Santo face some health problems, especially malaria and tuberculosis. Although there is a hospital, most local people consult either their own witch doctor or medical clinics set up by western missionaries. Kava is the popular drug of the island, although alcohol is becoming more prevalent. With the rising number of adults using alcohol, there is a rising crime rate, especially involving violence toward women, and tribal warfare.

Economy and infrastructure

Luganville is the only true town on the island; the rest of the island is dotted with small villages. From Luganville, three "main roads" emerge. Main Street leaves the town to the west and winds along the south coast of the island for about 40 km ending at the village of Tasiriki on the southwest coast. Canal Road runs along the southern and eastern coasts of the island, north through Hog Harbor and Golden Beach, ending at Port Olry. Big Bay Highway splits off from Canal Road near Turtle Bay on the east coast, runs generally west to the mountains, and then it leads north to Big Bay. The international airport is about five km east of the center of Luganville. Numerous rivers run to the coastline from the mountains of the island. The Sarakata River is the largest one, and it runs through Luganville.

Many people on Espiritu Santo still rely on subsistence farming for their food. The villages on the island are mostly self-sufficient with their own vegetable gardens, chickens, and pigs. Taros and yams are commonly grown in these gardens, and these are mainstays of the local diet.

Espiritu Santo is home to a number of cattle farms (including the famous Belmol Cattle Project, originally established by French settlers), and the island exports much of its beef to Japan, Australia, and other Pacific countries.

Besides beef, tinned fish, and rice bought in town, Espiritu Santo has many foods that locals take for granted, and that tourists enjoy as delicacies. Among these are sweet pineapples, mangoes, island cabbage, flying foxes, and coconut crab, as well as local nuts such as natapoa and the sweet fleshy-fruit nouse. There is a market in Luganville where local food such as manioc, taro, yam, and cabbage; and other freshly grown island staples are sold. Several small supermarkets such as LCM, Unity Shell, and Au bon Marche sell groceries and many packaged goods.


The island of Espiritu Santo is home to all of Vanuatu's endemic birds, including the Santo mountain starling, a species restricted entirely to Espiritu Santo. Two protected areas have been established to safeguard the island's biodiversity; the Loru Conservation Area on the east coast and the Vatthe Conservation area near Big Bay in the north.

The Loru Rainforest Protected Area is situated in the lowland rainforests of Espiritu Santo. Established in 1993 by Chief Caleb Ser, the 220-hectare reserve supports a rich variety of Vanuatu's bird, bat, and plant life, as well as a diverse range of marine species in the two-kilometre stretch of fringing reef.[9]


  1. ^ From the Spanish Espíritu Santo [esˈpiɾitu ˈsanto], "Holy Spirit", usually called just Santo.


  1. ^ "Espiritu Santo". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Espíritu Santo". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Espiritu Santo". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Espiritu Santo". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  5. ^ 2009 Census Summary release final Archived December 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine - Government of Vanuatu
  6. ^ Estensen, M. (2006) Terra Australia Incognita; The Spanish Quest for the Great South Land. Allen & Unwin, Australia ISBN 978-1-74175-054-6
  7. ^ "Luganville". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-10-23.
  8. ^ "Diving Santos". Vanuatu Online. Retrieved 2007-10-23.
  9. ^ "Tourist Information - Vanuatu Protected Areas Initiative / Loru Rainforest and Environment Centre".

External links

Media related to Espiritu Santo at Wikimedia Commons

Amblong language

Amblong is an Oceanic language spoken in the south of Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.

Aore language

Aore is a recently extinct Oceanic language spoken on Aore Island, just off Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.

Archdiocesan Shrine of Espiritu Santo

Espiritu Santo Parish, now known as the Archdiocesan Shrine and Parish of Espiritu Santo, is a Roman Catholic parish belonging to the Archdiocese of Manila that is located along Tayuman Street corner Rizal Avenue, Santa Cruz, Manila, Philippines. It was declared an Archdiocesan Shrine by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle on June 8, 2014, the Solemnity of the Pentecost. Rev. Fr. Wilmer R. Rosario, JCD is the present parish priest and rector of the church, succeeding Rev. Msgr. Albert G. Salonga, PC, who has been its parish priest from 1998 to 2015.

Espiritú Santo Fault System

The Espíritu Santo Fault (Spanish: Falla de Espíritu Santo) is a dextral oblique strike-slip fault in the department of Antioquia in northwestern Colombia. The fault has a total length of 124.4 kilometres (77.3 mi) and runs along an average northeast to southwest strike of 033.9 ± 5 in the Central Ranges of the Colombian Andes. Estimated activity took place around 500 years ago.

Espíritu Santo antelope squirrel

The Espíritu Santo antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus insularis) is a species of antelope squirrel in the family Sciuridae. It is endemic to Mexico, where it is known only from the island of Espíritu Santo in the Gulf of California. The species was originally described by Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman in 1909 as a subspecies of the white-tailed antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus leucurus), a wide-ranging species in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. In 1938, Arthur H. Howell elevated the subspecies to full species status, on the basis of slightly larger skull proportions and the absence or reduction of the third upper premolar. Studies of DNA and chromosomes have variously suggested close relationships with Harris's antelope squirrels (A. harrisii) or other

subspecies of white-tailed antelope squirrel. A 2007 comparison of DNA and morphological traits suggested the differences between Espíritu Santo squirrels and those on the Baja California peninsula and other islands were not enough to warrant distinct species but rather a subspecies of white-tailed antelope squirrels. Since 2008 the IUCN has similarly recognized the Espíritu Santo antelope squirrel as a subspecies of white-tailed antelope squirrel.

Iglesia del Espíritu Santo, Havana

The Iglesia del Espíritu Santo at #161 Calle Acosta was built in 1635 on the corner of the corner of Calles Cuba and Acosta by a fraternity of Afro-Cuban ex slaves. The Espíritu Santo contains some notable paintings including a seated, post-crucifixion Christ on the right wall, and catacombs. It is considered one of the oldest temples in Havana and it is said that its main interest lies essentially in the simplicity or simplicity of the beautiful stone construction.

Ignacia del Espíritu Santo

Ignacia del Espíritu Santo Juco, also known as Mother Ignacia (February 1, 1663 – September 10, 1748) was a Filipino Religious Sister of the Roman Catholic Church.

She was known for her acts of piety and religious poverty and founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, the first native Filipino female congregation with approved pontifical status in what is now the Republic of the Philippines.Mother Ignacia del Espíritu Santo was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

Languages of Vanuatu

Vanuatu has three official languages, English, French, and Bislama, a creole language derived from English. Bislama is the first language of many urban ni-Vanuatu, that is, the residents of Port Vila and Luganville. It is the most common second language elsewhere in the Vanuatu islands. It is similar to Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea, and other nearby creoles.

In addition, there are over one hundred local languages spread over the archipelago. Vanuatu is the country with the highest density of languages per capita in the world: it currently shows an average of about 1760 speakers for each indigenous language, and went through a historical low of 565; only Papua New Guinea comes close. Some of these languages are very endangered, with only a handful of speakers, and indeed several have become extinct in recent times. Generally however, despite the low numbers for most of the indigenous languages, they are not considered especially vulnerable for extinction.In recent years, the use of Bislama as a first language has considerably encroached on indigenous languages, whose use in the population has receded from 73.1 to 63.2 percent between 1999 and 2009.Out of the three official languages, Bislama is the most spoken in Vanuatu, followed by English, and lastly French.

Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga

Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, also known as Aranama Mission or Mission La Bahia, was a Roman Catholic mission established by Spain in 1722 in the Viceroyality of New Spain—to convert native Karankawa Indians to Christianity. Together with its nearby military fortress, Presidio La Bahia, the mission upheld Spanish territorial claims in the New World against encroachment from France. The third and final location near Goliad, Texas is maintained now as part of Goliad State Park and Historic Site.

Morouas language

Morouas (Moruas) is an Oceanic language spoken in central Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.

Navut language

Navut is an Oceanic language spoken in central Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.

Nokuku language

Nokuku (Nogugu) is an Oceanic language spoken in the north of Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.

Nuevo Laredo Cathedral

The Catedral Del Espiritu Santo is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nuevo Laredo. It is located at Paseo Colon Avenue in the heart of the midtown Nuevo Laredo. The first bishop to sit here was Ricardo Watty Urquidi. As of 2000, the cathedral was the mother church for 800,000 Catholics in the diocese.

Piamatsina language

Piamatsina is an Oceanic language spoken in the north of Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.

Roria language

Roria is an Oceanic language spoken in central Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.

Sanma Province

Sanma is a province located in the Northern part of the nation of Vanuatu, occupying the nation's largest island, Espiritu Santo, which is located approximately 2,500 km northeast of Sydney, Australia.


The name Sanma is derived from the initial letters of the main islands of (Espiritu) SANto and MAlo.

Tasmate language

Tasmate is an Oceanic language spoken in the north of Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.

Tutuba language

Tutuba is an Oceanic language spoken in Vanuatu on the southeast tip of Espiritu Santo Island and on Tutuba Island offshore.

Vunapu language

Vunapu is an Oceanic language spoken in northern Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.

Provinces of Vanuatu
Islands and islets


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