Tuesday, July 12, 2005

History of Tuvalu

History of Tuvalu. This is a brief history of an Oceania island nation that you might not have heard much about before. Although not the most eventful of places, there is some history here including the forced abduction of some natives to labor in Peru and the use of the island as a base in World War Two.

You might see domain names with the extension of .tv. This is the top level domain name assigned to this island. Mind you, almost all of the uses of the extension are by non-residents.

Wikedpia notes that, "Tuvalu is an island nation located in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its name means 'Eight Standing Together' in Tuvaluan. With the exception of tiny Vatican City, it is the independent nation with the fewest inhabitants. Due to their low elevation (5 meters, or 14 feet maximum), the islands that make up this nation are threatened by any future sea level rise. The population may evacuate during the next decades to New Zealand, or Niue, a small Pacific island (independent but associated with New Zealand) that isn't threatened by sea level rise, but does have decreasing population."

I am not sure about the rising sea level claims as that is probably tied to the global warming debate. Climate and weather are tough to predict long term and it is yet to be seen if global warming is actually going to happen. If it does, and sea levels rise, this small island nation is doomed.

From the site:

The Spanish were the first Europeans to see the islands in the 1500s. However, in 1819 an American ship captain, De Peyster, named the main island in the group Ellice's Island after a British politician who owned the cargo aboard his ship. In 1841, the U.S. Exploring Expedition commanded by Charles Wilkes visited three of Tuvalu's islands and welcomed visitors to his ships. Other early interactions with the outside world were far less benign--in 1863, hundreds of people from the southern islands were kidnapped when they were lured them aboard slave ships with promises that they would be taught about Christianity. Those islanders were forced to work under horrific conditions in the guano mines of Peru.

Eventually, the islands came under Britain's sphere of influence as the Pacific was divided up in the late 19th century. The Ellice Islands were administered by Britain as part of a protectorate (1892-1916) and as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony (1916-74).

During World War II, several thousand American troops were in the islands. Beginning in October 1942, U.S. forces built airbases on the islands of Funafuti, Nanumea, and Nukufetau. Friendly cooperation was the hallmark of relations between the local people and the troops, mainly U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy SeaBees. The airstrip in the capital of Funafuti, originally built by the U.S. during the war, is still in use, as is the "American Passage" that was blasted through Nanumea's reef by SeaBees assisted by local divers.

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