Kiribati Historical Geography

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Gilbert Islands

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

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

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.