The Gilbert Islands (Gilbertese: Tungaru; formerly Kingsmill or King's-Mill Islands) are a chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii. They form the main part of Kiribati ("Kiribati" is the Kiribati rendition of "Gilberts").
|Area||281.10 km2 (108.53 sq mi)|
|Largest Island settlement||Tarawa (pop. 45,989)|
The atolls and islands of the Gilbert Islands are arranged in an approximate north-to-south line. As the crow flies it is approximately 420 nautical miles (780 km) between the northernmost island, Makin, and the southernmost, Arorae. In a geographical sense, the equator serves as the dividing line between the northern Gilbert Islands and the southern Gilbert Islands. The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) considers the Gilberts wholly within the South Pacific Ocean, however.
Another method of grouping the Gilbert Islands is by former administrative districts, the Northern, Central, and Southern Gilberts (Tarawa once was a separate district as well).
A group of the southern Gilberts is called the Kingsmill Group, a name that in the 19th century applied to all of the Gilberts.
In official north-south order (grouped by former administrative districts), the islands and atolls are:
|Atoll / Island||Main
|Land area||Lagoon area||Pop.
|km2||sq mi||km2||sq mi|
|Former district of the northern Gilberts|
|Former district of the Central Gilberts|
|Former district of the Southern Gilberts|
|Gilbert Islands||Tarawa||281.10||108.5||1,866.5||720.7||83,382||117+||156||3°23'N to 2°38S|
172°50' to 176°49'E
|1) part of Kingsmill Group proper
Source for land areas: Kiribati 2005 Census Report
The Northern Gilberts (mweang) geographically and traditionally encompass Butaritari, Makin, Marakei, Abaiang (literally northland) and Tarawa. They have unique tonal accents with differences particularly noted amongst Butaritari and Makin inhabitants. Traditionally, Butaritari and Makin were ruled by a chief who lived on Butaritari Island. This chief had all the powers and authority to make and impose decisions on the Islanders, a system very different from the Southern Gilbert Islands where power was wielded collectively by the unimwane or old men of the island.
The northern Gilberts have a greater mean rainfall in comparison to the southern and central Gilberts allowing cultivation of a wider crop range. Butaritari and Makin supply most of the bananas sold in Kiribati. The cultivation of taro or babai (Colocasia esculenta) has been historically easier in the northern Gilberts due to a higher water table and regular rainfall.
The Central Gilberts or nuka have traditionally included Maiana, Abemama, Kuria and Aranuka. However, the latter three are considered the main islands that have unique historical and cultural characteristics which distinguish the Central Gilberts from the north and south.
The islands had been inhabited by Micronesians for several millennia (at least 2,000 years, probably 3,000).
In 1788 Captain Thomas Gilbert in Charlotte and Captain John Marshall in Scarborough crossed through Abemama, Kuria, Aranuka, Tarawa, Abaiang, Butaritari, and Makin without attempting to land on the atolls.
In 1820, the islands were named the Gilbert Islands or îles Gilbert (in French) by Adam Johann von Krusenstern, a Baltic German Admiral of the Russian Czar after the British Captain Thomas Gilbert, who crossed the archipelago in 1788. French captain Louis Duperrey was the first to map the whole Gilbert Islands archipelago. He commanded La Coquille on its circumnavigation of the earth (1822–1825).
Many whaling ships called at the islands in the 19th century. The first recorded visit was by the Ann & Hope which called at Nikunau in December 1799.
Two ships of the United States Exploring Expedition, USS Peacock (1828) and USS Flying Fish (1838), under the command of Captain Hudson, visited many of the Gilbert Islands (then called the Kingsmill Islands or Kingsmill Group in English). While in the Gilberts, they devoted considerable time to mapping and charting reefs and anchorages.
A British protectorate was first proclaimed over the Gilberts by Captain Davis of HMS Royalist (1883) on 27 May 1892. British official Arthur Mahaffy visited the Islands in 1909. He noted that the "villages are kept in admirable order and the roads are scrupulously clean." A hospital was on each island, as well. The conduct of W. Telfer Campbell, the resident commissioner of the Gilberts was criticised as to his legislative, judicial and administrative management (including allegations of forced labour exacted from islanders) and became the subject of the 1909 report by Arthur Mahaffy. In 1913 an anonymous correspondent to the New Age journal described the mis-administration of W. Telfer Campbell and questioned the partiality of Arthur Mahaffy as he was a former colonial official in the Gilberts.
In Mahaffy's 1909 report to the British Government he described the missionaries or Protectorate staff then resident in the Gilbert Islands.
At the outbreak of World War II, about 78% of the native population were said to be Christians. This group was divided mainly into two denominations: Congregationalists (43%) and Roman Catholics (35%). The rest of the population were largely semi-pagan agnostics; they did not adhere to the Christian faith, nor did they retain much of their beliefs in their own ancient gods.
Native diet during this time consisted mainly of fish, coconuts, pandanus fruit, babai (swamp taro), chicken, and some pork. Housing for Europeans employed in the island was simple: constructed of European and native materials and generally of the bungalow type. Mahaffy described the native clothing as being of "shocking shape" and "atrocious color," and that the style was changing into "kilt(s) of leaves or fine woven mats."
In the early to mid 20th century the principal source of income for Gilbert islanders was from working on the production of phosphate from the deposits on Banaba (Ocean Island), an island to the west of the Gilbert Islands. In addition, coconut palms were cultivated on some of the islands. All labor was supervised by the British and every effort was made to see that the wages and living conditions were fair and adequate. Sanitary inspections by the British did much to improve the general living conditions on most of the islands.
Mahaffy noted in 1909 that "extreme poverty is virtually unknown," and that most people on the island owned their own land. Residents paid taxes, with the majority of taxes going back into the community, and a small portion going to the Protectorate.
Judged to be about 84% literate, the Gilbertese responded readily to the colony's educational efforts. All education in the islands came under the supervision of the Colonial Education Department whose aims were to educate native boys for employment in government and commercial work, and to standardize the level of education throughout the colony. The bulk of the education was provided by the missions, which maintained all the village schools and trained the native school teachers.
With the availability of European-style medical care life improved. The Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme sought to provide an outlet through the development of three uninhabited atolls in the Phoenix Islands and was the last attempt at human colonization within the British Empire.
The Gilbert (and Ellice) Islanders had a strong set of beliefs of their own, pre the Christian missionaries; they had a strong foundation myth, involving trees and the two genders. Their ancestors, they said, had been white skinned and red haired and came from elsewhere, perhaps the West (possibly coinciding with the outward spread of Homo sapiens from Africa and elsewhere). As might be expected, they gave power to the natural forces and gave them names and godly characteristics (sun, moon, etc.) but believed in one spirit god, a bit similar to the god of Genesis, in that he/she seemed to have power over dark and light and so on, and was pretty much invisible. They had a strong belief in behaving properly to their ancestors, and especially their parents, and had well-developed community rules for courtesy to others. Read A Pattern of Islands, by Arthur Grimble, who worked in these islands and on Banaba, for the Colonial Administration, from just before the First World War to the mid thirties, or thereabouts. It is a remarkable, informative, funny and warm-hearted account of these people and their religion. Other religions on the islands figure slightly, and there are remarkable stories of adventures, bravery, political machinations, etc. Probably out of print, but second hand copies are available I think, I have two, and the illustrations are delightful.
On 17 August 1942, 221 U.S. Marines of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion raided Makin from two submarines. The raid was intended by the Americans to confuse the Japanese about US intentions in the Pacific, a feint to draw Japanese attention away from the planned invasion route through the Solomons. It is instead believed to have alerted the Japanese to the strategic importance of the Gilbert Islands and led to their reinforcement and fortification. Marines captured during this operation were subsequently summarily executed by the Japanese, in gross violation of the laws of war. The 19 Marines who died were left behind for the villagers to bury. In 1999, a Marine Honor guard was sent to recover the bodies and found them after a villager showed them where to dig. All were exhumed and were taken to the United States.
Tarawa and Abemama were occupied in force by the Japanese in September 1942 and during the next year garrisons were built up on Betio (Tarawa Atoll), and Butaritari (Makin Atoll). Only nominal forces were placed on other islands in the Gilberts.
On 20 November 1943, the United States Army and U.S. 2nd Marine Division landed on Makin and Tarawa, initiating the battles of Makin and Tarawa, in which the Japanese were defeated. The Gilbert Islands were then used to support the invasion of the Marshall Islands in February 1944.
The Gilbert and Ellice Islands became autonomous in 1971. From 1976 to 1978, the Ellice Islands were separated, and the Gilberts became the Gilbert Islands colony, which issued stamps under that name. In 1979, the Gilberts opted for independence, becoming the independent nation of Kiribati. The Ellice Islands became the independent nation of Tuvalu.
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The baurua was a traditional sailing proa of the Gilbert Islands. They are considered to have been the most sophisticated of the Austronesian sailing vessels. A 100-foot baurua was built in 1939.Beru Island
Beru Island is an island in the Kingsmill Group of the South Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean, part of the Republic of Kiribati. Beru was previously known as Eliza, Francis Island, Maria, Peroat, Peru Island or Sunday.Butaritari
Butaritari is an atoll in the Pacific Ocean island nation of Kiribati. The atoll is roughly four-sided. The south and southeast portion of the atoll comprises a nearly continuous islet. The atoll reef is continuous but almost without islets along the north side. Bikati and Bikatieta islets occupy a corner of the reef at the extreme northwest tip of the atoll. Small islets are found on reef sections between channels on the west side. The lagoon of Butaritari is deep and can accommodate large ships, though the entrance passages are relatively narrow. It is the most fertile of the Gilbert Islands, with relatively good soils (for an atoll) and high rainfall. Butaritari atoll has a land area of 13.49 km2 (5.21 sq mi) and a population of 4,346 as of 2010. During World War II, Butaritari was known by US forces as Makin Atoll, and was the site of the Battle of Makin. Locally, Makin is the name of a separate atoll three kilometers to the northeast of Butaritari.Gilbert and Ellice Islands
The Gilbert and Ellice Islands were a British protectorate from 1892 and colony from 1916 until 1 January 1976, when the islands were divided into two colonies which became independent nations shortly after. A referendum was held in December 1974 to determine whether the Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands should each have their own administration. As a consequence of the referendum, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony ceased to exist on 1 January 1976 and the separate countries of Kiribati and Tuvalu came into existence.Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign
The Gilbert and Marshall Islands Campaign were a series of battles fought from November 1943 through February 1944, in the Pacific Theater of World War II between the United States and Japan. They were the first steps of the drive across the central Pacific by the United States Pacific Fleet and Marine Corps. The purpose was to establish airfields and naval bases that would allow air and naval support for upcoming operations across the Central Pacific. Operations Galvanic and Kourbash were the code names for the Gilberts campaign that included the seizures of Tarawa and Makin. Operations Flintlock and Catchpole were aimed at capturing Japanese bases at Kwajalein, Eniwetok, and Majuro in the Marshall Islands.Kiribati
Kiribati (), officially the Republic of Kiribati (Gilbertese: Ribaberiki Kiribati), is a sovereign state in Micronesia in the central Pacific Ocean. The permanent population is just over 110,000 (2015), more than half of whom live on Tarawa Atoll. The state comprises 32 atolls and reef islands and one raised coral island, Banaba. They have a total land area of 800 square kilometres (310 sq mi) and are dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres (1.3 million square miles).
Their spread straddles both the equator and the 180th meridian, although the International Date Line goes round Kiribati and swings far to the east, almost reaching the 150°W meridian. This brings the Line Islands into the same day as the Kiribati Islands. Kiribati's easternmost islands, the southern Line Islands, south of Hawaii, have the most advanced time on Earth: UTC+14 hours.
Kiribati became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979. The capital, South Tarawa, which is now the most populated area, consists of a number of islets, connected by a series of causeways. These comprise about half the area of Tarawa Atoll.
Kiribati is a member of the Pacific Community (SPC), Commonwealth of Nations, the IMF, and the World Bank, and became a full member of the United Nations in 1999.Kiribati Red Cross Society
Kiribati Red Cross Society was founded in 1965. It has its headquarters in Bairiki, Kiribati.Makin (islands)
Makin is the name of a chain of islands located in the Pacific Ocean island nation of Kiribati. Makin is the northernmost of the Gilbert Islands, with a population (in 2010) of 1,798.Marakei
Marakei is a small atoll in the North Gilbert Islands. The central lagoon consists of numerous deep basins and surrounded by two large islands which are separated by two narrow channels. The atoll covers an area of approximately 40 km².Micronesia
Micronesia ((UK: , US: ); from Greek: μικρός mikrós "small" and Greek: νῆσος nêsos "island") is a subregion of Oceania, composed of thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It has a close shared cultural history with two other island regions: Polynesia to the east and Island Melanesia to the south; as well as the wider Austronesian peoples.
The region has a tropical marine climate and is part of the Oceania ecozone. There are five main archipelagos—the Caroline Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Line Islands, the Mariana Islands, and the Marshall Islands—along with numerous outlying islands.
Politically, the islands of Micronesia are divided between six sovereign nations: the Caroline Islands are divided between the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia, the latter often shortened to "FSM" or "Micronesia" and not to be confused with the overall region; the Gilbert Islands and the Line Islands comprise the Republic of Kiribati, except for three of the Line Islands that are United States territories (Palmyra Atoll being noteworthy as the only current incorporated U.S. Territory); the Mariana Islands are in union with the United States, divided between the U.S. Territory of Guam and the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; Nauru is a fully sovereign nation, coextensive with the island of the same name; and the Republic of the Marshall Islands is coextensive with that island group. Also noteworthy is Wake Island, which is claimed by both the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the United States, the latter having actual possession under immediate administration of the United States Air Force.
Human settlement of Micronesia began several millennia ago. There are competing theories about the origin(s) and arrival of the first Micronesians. The earliest known contact with Europeans occurred in 1521, when Spanish ships landed in the Marianas. The term "Micronesia" is usually attributed to Jules Dumont d'Urville's use of it in 1832, but Domeny de Rienzi had used the term a year previously.Nonouti
Nonouti is an atoll and district of Kiribati. The atoll is located in the South Gilbert Islands, 38 km north of Tabiteuea, and 250 km south of Tarawa. The atoll is the third largest in the Gilbert Islands and is the island where the Catholic religion was first established in Kiribati, in 1888.Onotoa
Onotoa is an atoll and district of Kiribati. It is situated in the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean, 65 km (40 mi) from Tamana, the smallest island in the Gilberts. The population of Onotoa in the 2010 census was 1,519.The atoll is similar to many other atolls in the Gilbert Islands with its continuous line of islets and islands on the eastern side. The western side consists of a submerged reef which surrounds the islet filled lagoon.Subdivisions of Kiribati
In Kiribati, there are no more official subdivisions but it is possible to divide Kiribati geographically into three groups of islands:
Phoenix Islands.Kiribati was divided into 6 districts until independence:
Northern Gilbert Islands
Central Gilbert Island
Southern Gilbert Islands
Line IslandsFour of the former districts (including Tarawa) lie in the Gilbert Islands, where most of the islands' population lives. Only three of the Line Islands are inhabited, while the Phoenix Islands are uninhabited apart from Kanton (31 people) and have no representation. Banaba itself is sparsely inhabited now (295 people in 2010). There is also a representative non-elected of the Banabans relocated to Rabi Island in the nation of Fiji.Tabiteuea
Tabiteuea, formerly Drummond's Island, is an atoll in the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati, farther south of the Tarawa Atoll. The atoll consists of two main islands: Eanikai in the north, Nuguti in the south, and several smaller islets in between along the eastern rim of the atoll. The atoll has a total land area of 38 km2 (15 sq mi), while the lagoon measures 365 km2 (141 sq mi). The population numbered 4,899 in 2005, The islanders have customary fishing practices related to the lagoon and the open ocean.While most atolls of the Gilbert Islands correspond to local government areas governed by island councils, Tabiteuea, like the main atoll Tarawa, is divided into two:
Tabiteuea North has a land area of 26 km2 (10 sq mi) and a population of 3,600 as of 2005, distributed among twelve villages (capital Utiroa)
Tabiteuea South has a land area of 12 km2 (4.6 sq mi) and a population of 1,299, distributed among six villages (capital Buariki).Tamana, Kiribati
Tamana is the smallest island in the Gilbert Islands. It is accessible both by boat and by air with Air Kiribati and Coral Sun Airways (once a week; airport code: TMN)
Tamana is the second southern-most island in the Gilbert group and the smallest inhabited island in Kiribati. The island is approximately 6 km (4 mi) in length, 1 km (0.6 mi) at its widest point, and has a total land area of 4.73 km2 (1.83 sq mi). Tamana is a reef island with no lagoon.
The Island Council is located at Bakaakaa, the central village of the island and this is also where the rest of the Government facilities are located such as the CB radio for inter-island communication, the hardware store, and the fuel depot. The schools (Primary and JSS) and the Medical facilities are also located in the same village.Taneti Mamau
Taneti Mamau (born 16 September 1960) is an i-Kiribati politician who is the current President of Kiribati. He began his term on 11 March 2016.He was the single opposition candidate for the 2016 presidential election, where he was supported by the new coalition of the Tobwaan Kiribati Party. He received the support of the former president Teburoro Tito, the predecessor of Anote Tong (who was president for 12 years, the maximum authorised by the constitution). Mwamwau was re-elected a member of the Maneaba ni Maungatabu (parliament) in December 2015 in Onotoa, his hometown. Previously, he was the Finance Minister under President Tito.
He was installed as the Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific on 3 August 2018.Tarawa
Tarawa is an atoll and the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, in the central Pacific Ocean. It comprises North Tarawa, which has much in common with other, more remote islands of the Gilberts group; and South Tarawa, which is home to 56,284 people as of 2010 – half of the country's total population. The atoll was the site of the Battle of Tarawa during World War II.USS Gilbert Islands
USS Gilbert Islands (CVE-107) (ex-St. Andrews Bay) was a Commencement Bay-class escort carrier of the United States Navy.
She was launched on 20 July 1944 by the Todd-Pacific Shipyards in Tacoma, Washington. She was sponsored by Mrs. Edwin D. McMorries, wife of Captain Edwin D. McMorries, Surgeon at the Naval Hospital at Puget Sound Naval Yard, and commissioned on 5 February 1945 with Captain L. K. Rice in command.
She was reclassified as AGMR-1 on 1 June 1963, renamed USS Annapolis on 22 June 1963 and finally recommissioned on 7 March 1964.
|West of Gilberts|