Tuvalu

Official name: Tuvalu

Area: 26 square kilometers (10 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Unnamed location (5 meters/16 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern

Time zone: Midnight = noon GMT

Longest distances: Not available

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 24 kilometers (15 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Tuvalu is an island group consisting of nine coral atolls located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean region of Oceania, about equidistant from Hawaii and Australia. With a total area of about 26 square kilometers (10 square miles), the country is one-tenth the size of Washington, D.C.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Tuvalu has no outside territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

Tuvalu has a tropical climate with little seasonal variation. The annual mean temperature is 30°C (86°F), moderated by easterly trade winds that blow from March to November. Tuvalu is very wet. Annual rainfall averages more than 355 centimeters (140 inches). Westerly gales bring heavy rain from November to March. Although the islands lie north of the main cyclone belt, Funafuti was devastated by cyclones in 1894, 1972, and 1990.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Tuvalu (formerly the Ellice Islands) is one of the smallest and most remote countries on Earth. Located just south of the equator on the Pacific Tectonic Plate, Tuvalu consists of a cluster of nine low-lying coral islands, plus several islets. These remote atolls lie in a 595-kilometer-long (370-mile-long) chain extending over some 1,300,000 square kilometers (500,000 square miles) of ocean. Too remote and too small to develop a tourist industry, Tuvalu is ranked by the United Nations as among the least-developed countries.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Seacoast and Undersea Features

The South Pacific Ocean surrounds Tuvalu in a region that is known as Oceania. Oceania refers to the islands in the central and southern Pacific Ocean and its adjacent seas. The boundaries for the region are the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the southern tip of New Zealand.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Coral reefs on five islands enclose sizeable lagoons, including the very large unnamed lagoon of Funafuti. Funafuti and Nukufetau are the only islands with natural harbors for ocean liners.

Islands and Archipelagos

Tuvalu's islands are coral reefs on the outer arc of ridges formed by pressure from the Central Pacific Tectonic Plate against the ancient Australian landmass. All the islands are low lying with elevations no higher than 5 meters (16 feet). The main islands in the chain are Funafuti, Nanumea, Nanumanga, Niulakita (formerly uninhabited), Niuto, Nui, Nukufetau, Nukulailai, and Vaitupu.

Coastal Features

The Tuvalu islands are so low that if the sea level rises significantly in the twenty-first century, most of these islands will be completely submerged.

6 INLAND LAKES

There are no rivers, lakes, or streams on the islands. Five of the atolls do enclose sizable lagoons, but there is still no fresh water available other than rainfall that can be caught and stored.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

There are no rivers in Tuvalu.

8 DESERTS

There are no desert regions in Tuvalu.

DID YOU KNOW?

Tuvalu is located in a time zone that lies on the International Date Line. The International Date Line is an imaginary line on the earth's surface that generally follows the 180° meridian of longitude. This meridian is exactly halfway around (or on the opposite side of) the globe from the Prime Meridian, designated as 0° longitude. An international agreement stated that travelers crossing the line would also experience a change in dates. For instance, travelers who head east on a Saturday will end up on Friday as soon as they cross the line. If the party heads west across the line, it will move from Saturday to Sunday.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

Coconut plantations have replaced most of Tuvalu's indigenous vegetation of scrubby forest. Its soil is poor, however, and much of its vegetation has been cleared for fuel.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

There are no mountain or volcano regions on Tuvalu.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

There are no major caves or canyons in Tuvalu.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

There are no plateau regions on Tuvalu.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

Of all nine islands in Tuvalu, Funafuti is the only one with an airport: a single grass strip too small to support jet aircraft. There are no other major man-made features affecting the geography in Tuvalu.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Lane, John. Tuvalu : State of the Environment Report, 1993. Western Samoa: SPREP, 1993.

Mueller-Dombois, Dieter, and F. Raymond Fosberg. Vegetation of the Tropical Pacific Islands. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998.

Thaman, Randolph R. Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, and Tuvalu: A Review of Uses and Status of Trees and Forests in Land Use Systems with Recommendations for Future Actions. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1995.

Web Sites

Tuvalu Online. http://www.tuvaluislands.com (accessed May 6, 2003).

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