Solomon Islands (archipelago)

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For the country of the same name, see Solomon Islands.
Solomon Islands
New georgia pol89.jpg
The Solomon Islands archipelago, with the Solomon Islands nation in beige and Bougainville (part of Papua New Guinea) in dun. (Click to enlarge)
Location South Pacific
Major islands Bougainville, Guadalcanal

The Solomon Islands are a Melanesian archipelago in the South-Western Pacific Ocean, northeast of Australia. The archipelago forms the territory of the Solomon Islands nation with the exception of several islands in the northwest, that form the territory of the Papua New Guinean Autonomous Region of Bougainville.


The Solomon Islands consist of both volcanic islands of varying activity and coral atolls. Bougainville is the largest island in the archipelago.


The climate of the islands is tropical, however temperatures do not greatly fluctuate due to the heat sink of the surrounding ocean. Daytime temperatures are normally 25 to 32 degrees Celsius and 13 to 15 °C at night. From April to October (the Dry Season), the Southeast trade winds blow, gusting at times up to 30 knots (55 km/h) or more.

November to March is the wet season, caused by the northwest monsoon, and is typically warmer and wetter. Cyclones arise in the Coral Sea and the area of the Solomon Islands, but they usually veer toward Vanuatu and New Caledonia or down the coast of Australia.


It is believed that Papuan-speaking settlers began to arrive around 30,000 BC from New Ireland. It was the furthest humans went in the Pacific until Austronesian speakers arrived c. 4000 BC also bringing cultural elements such as the outrigger canoe.[1]

It is between 1200 and 800 BC that the ancestors of the Polynesians, the Lapita people, arrived from the Bismarck Archipelago with their characteristic ceramics.[2] Most of the languages spoken today in the Solomon Islands derive from this era, but some thirty languages of the pre-Austronesian settlers survive (see East Papuan languages).

The first European to visit the islands was the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, coming from Peru in 1568. The people of Solomon Islands had engaged in headhunting and cannibalism before the arrival of the Europeans.[3]

Missionaries began visiting the Solomons in the mid-19th century. They made little progress at first, because "blackbirding" (the often brutal recruitment of laborers for the sugar plantations in Queensland and Fiji) led to a series of reprisals and massacres. In 1885, the Germans declared a protectorate over the Northern Solomon Islands, while the evils of the labor trade prompted the United Kingdom to declare a protectorate over the southern Solomons in June 1893, the British Solomon Islands Protectorate.

In 1900, under the Treaty of Berlin (1899), the Germans transferred a number of their Solomon Islands to the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. The remaining German Solomon Islands at the extreme northwest of the archipelago fell to Australia early on in the first world war, and after the war the League of Nations formally mandated those islands to Australia along with the rest of German New Guinea. German New Guinea then became Australian New Guinea.

Australian New Guinea was administered separately from the neighbouring Territory of Papua until the year 1949 when the two territories were formally united into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea became independent from Australia in the year 1975 as the modern state of Papua New Guinea. The German Solomon Islands that were retained by Germany after the Treaty of Berlin (1899), nowadays belong to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, which is a part of Papua New Guinea.


The population of the Solomons is mostly Melanesian, although minority Polynesian and Micronesian communities exist. There has also been a large influx of Chinese immigrants.


Many Melanesian languages (predominantly of the Southeast Solomonic group) and Polynesian languages are native to the area. Immigrant populations speak Micronesian languages. English is an official language in both areas of the archipelago.


The predominant religion on the islands is Christianity, with most belonging to the Protestant Church of Melanesia.


Governance of the Solomon Islands archipelago is split between the state of Solomon Islands and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. Both countries are constitutional monarchies and Commonwealth realms. Bougainville is considering independence from Papua New Guinea.

See also[edit]


Coordinates: 8°00′S 159°00′E / 8.000°S 159.000°E / -8.000; 159.000