List of islands of Tuvalu

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Tuvalu consists of nine separate islands,[1] six of which are atolls and three are reef islands. Since an atoll typically consists of several islets, there is a total of more than 124 islands and islets. Each island is surrounded by a coral reef. Tuvalu's small, scattered group of atolls have poor soil and a total land area of only about 26 square kilometres (10 square miles) making it the fourth smallest country in the world. Over 4 decades, there had been a net increase in land area of the islets of 73.5 ha (2.9%), although the changes are not uniform, with 74% increasing and 27% decreasing in size. The sea level at the Funafuti tide gauge has risen at 3.9 mm per year. The rising sea levels are identified as creating an increased transfer of wave energy across reef surfaces, which shifts sand, resulting in accretion to island shorelines.[2]

Islands of Tuvalu[edit]

The islands of Tuvalu are spread out between the latitude of to 10° south and longitude of 176° to 180°, west of the International Date Line.[3]

The name, Tuvalu, means "eight standing together" in Tuvaluan.

The reef islands have a different structure to the atolls, and are described as reef platforms as they are smaller tabular reef platforms that do not have a salt-water lagoon,[4] although they have a completely closed rim of dry land, with the remnants of a lagoon that has no connection to the open sea or that may be drying up as the result of coral debris filling the lagoon.[5] For example, Niutao has two lakes, which are brackish to saline; and are the degraded lagoon.

The smallest island, Niulakita, which is the 9th island in the Tuvaluan archipelago, was not continuously inhabited. From the late 19th century it had been in private ownership. It was bought by the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony administration in 1944. The administration gave people from Vaitupu permission to settle Niulakita. However, in 1949 a later administration decided to have Niulakita settled by the community from Niutao, which was considered to be overpopulated. The removal of the Vaitupuans was controversial.[6] Niulakita is a separate local government district but it is administered as part of Niutao. Niulakita is represented in the Parliament of Tuvalu by the members of the constituency of Niutao.

Islands of Tuvalu Islands of Tuvalu represented on the flag
Atoll/Island Main
(c. 2012)
Min. number
of islets
Number of
Funafuti Vaiaku 2,40 277 6,025 30 9 8°31′S 179°13′E / 8.517°S 179.217°E / -8.517; 179.217
Nanumea Nanumea 3,87 22 544 5 2 05°41′S 176°09′E / 5.683°S 176.150°E / -5.683; 176.150
Nui Tanrake 2,83 17 542 21 4 07°13′29″S 177°09′37″E / 7.22472°S 177.16028°E / -7.22472; 177.16028
Nukufetau Savave 2,99 145 536 33 2 08°00′S 178°22′E / 8.000°S 178.367°E / -8.000; 178.367
Nukulaelae Fangaua 1,82 43 324 15 2 09°22′52″S 179°51′08″E / 9.38111°S 179.85222°E / -9.38111; 179.85222
Vaitupu Asau 5,60 10 1,555 9 7 07°28′S 178°41′E / 7.467°S 178.683°E / -7.467; 178.683
Nanumanga Tonga 3,00 3,00 481 51) 2 06°20′S 176°25′E / 6.333°S 176.417°E / -6.333; 176.417
Niulakita Niulakita 0,40 0,40 27 1 1 10°45′S 179°30′E / 10.750°S 179.500°E / -10.750; 179.500
Niutao Kulia 2,53 2,53 606 41) 2 06°06′S 177°16′E / 6.100°S 177.267°E / -6.100; 177.267
Tuvalu Vaiaku 25,44 520 10,640 124 34  
1) main island plus islets in landlocked lagoon

At least 11 islands are inhabited, expanded over the biggest isles of the nine atolls, plus two islands in Funafuti. Tuvalu has ISO 3166-2 codes defined for 1 town council (Funafuti) and 7 island councils. Niulakita, which now has its own island council, is not listed is not listed as it is administered as part of Niutao.

Royal Society of London investigation of the formation of coral reefs at Funafuti[edit]

An expedition (Funafuti Coral Reef Boring Expedition of the Royal Society) under Professor William Sollas of Oxford University, conducted by the Royal Society of London carried out drilling on the coral reef at Funafuti in 1896, 1897 and 1898.

HMS Penguin, under the command of Captain Arthur Mostyn Field, delivered the 1896 expedition to Funafuti in the Ellice Islands, arriving on 21 May 1896, and returned to Sydney on 22 August 1896.[5] From 1896 to 1899 the Penguin was under the command of Captain Arthur Mostyn Field and her surveying work included further voyages to Funafuti atoll to deliver the expeditions of the Royal Society in 1897 and 1898.[7] The surveys carried out by the Penguin resulted in the preparation of the Admiralty Nautical Chart 2983 for the islands.[8]

The Royal Society of London were investigating the formation of coral reefs and whether traces of shallow-water organisms could be found at depth in the coral of Pacific atolls. Three expeditions used drilling equipment to take core samples of the coral reef. A goal of the expeditions was to drill down to confirm that the coral material was located on a base of volcanic rock. This investigation followed the work on the structure and distribution of coral reefs conducted by Charles Darwin in the Pacific. However, the geologic history of atolls is more complex than Darwin (1842) and Davis (1928) envisioned.[9]

First expedition (1896)[edit]

The expedition was led by Professor William Johnson Sollas of the University of Oxford and included Professor Edgeworth David and Walter George Woolnough of the University of Sydney.[10]

Second expedition (1897)[edit]

The expedition was led by Professor Edgeworth David of the University of Sydney (that included George Sweet as second-in-command, and Walter George Woolnough).[11]

Third expedition (1898)[edit]

The expedition was led by Alfred Edmund Finckh of the University of Sydney.[12][13]

Results of the Royal Society expeditions[edit]

The purpose of the expedition was to attempt to settle the question as to the formation of coral atolls. The first expedition experienced defects in the boring machinery and the bore penetrated only slightly more than 100 feet (approx. 31 m). The second expedition reached a depth of 557 feet (170 m). The third expedition was successful in carrying the bore to 1,114 feet (340 m).[14][15] The results provided support for Charles Darwin's theory of subsidence;[16] in which there are four stages in development of coral reefs: a volcanic island forms, is surrounded by a fringing coral reef, as it subsides slowly a wide barrier reef forms, then after it has sunk below sea level the coral continues to grow forming a circular atoll. However, the geologic history of atolls is more complex than Darwin (1842) and Davis (1920 & 1928) envisioned.[9]

Structure of Funafuti atoll[edit]

Funafuti atoll

The average depth in the Funafuti lagoon (Te Namo) is about 20 fathoms (36.5 metres or 120 feet).[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Maps of Tuvalu".
  2. ^ Paul S. Kench, Murray R. Ford & Susan D. Owen (9 February 2018). "Patterns of island change and persistence offer alternate adaptation pathways for atoll nations". Nature Communications. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Maps of Tuvalu". Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  4. ^ Paul S. Kench, Murray R. Ford & Susan D. Owen (9 February 2018). "Patterns of island change and persistence offer alternate adaptation pathways for atoll nations (Supplementary Note 1)". Nature Communications. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  5. ^ a b Hedley, Charles (1896). "General account of the Atoll of Funafuti" (PDF). Australian Museum Memoir. 3 (2): 1–72. doi:10.3853/j.0067-1967.3.1896.487.
  6. ^ "Foua Tofiga". Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  7. ^ Admiral Sir Arthur Mostyn Field (1855–1950) from
  8. ^ Admiralty Nautical Chart 2983. United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO).
  9. ^ a b Dickinson, William R. (2009). "Pacific Atoll Living: How Long Already and Until When?" (PDF). GSA Today. 19 (3): 4–10. doi:10.1130/GSATG35A.1.
  10. ^ Dr. Alfred Edmund Finckh (11 September 1934). "TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. p. 6. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  11. ^ David, Mrs Edgeworth, Funafuti or Three Months On A Coral Atoll: an unscientific account of a scientific expedition, London: John Murray, 1899
  12. ^ Cantrell, Carol. "Finckh, Alfred Edmund (1866–1961)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  13. ^ K. A. Rodgers and Carol Cantrell. "Alfred Edmund Finckh 1866-1961: Leader of the 1898 Coral Reef Boring Expedition to Funafuti" (PDF). Historical Records of Australian Science, Volume 7, Number 4, pp. 393–403. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  14. ^ The Funafuti Coral-Boring Expedition, Address by Professor David (PDF). The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 December 1897.
  15. ^ "TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 11 September 1934. p. 6. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  16. ^ "CORAL FORMATION". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 10 December 1897. p. 5. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  17. ^ a b Coates, A. (1970). Western Pacific Islands. H.M.S.O. p. 349.

External links[edit]