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Tabiteuea Kiribati2.jpg
Satellite photograph of Tabiteuea (NE top)
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates Coordinates: 1°21′S 174°48′E / 1.350°S 174.800°E / -1.350; 174.800
Archipelago Gilbert Islands
Area 40.33 km2 (15.57 sq mi)
Highest elevation 3 m (10 ft)
Capital Utiroa
Former capital Buariki
Population 4,993 (2010 Census)
Pop. density 123.8 /km2 (320.6 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups I-Kiribati 99.7%
Drawing of a native of the island, showing his distinctive conical headdress; drawn by Alfred Thomas Agate

Tabiteuea, formerly Drummond's Island, is an atoll in the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati, farther south of the Tarawa Atoll. The atoll consists of two main islands: Eanikai in the north, Nuguti in the south, and several smaller islets in between along the eastern rim of the atoll. The atoll has a total land area of 38 km2 (15 sq mi), while the lagoon measures 365 km2 (141 sq mi). The population numbered 4,899 in 2005.

While most atolls of the Gilbert Islands correspond to local government areas governed by island councils, Tabiteuea, like the main atoll Tarawa, is divided into two:

  • Tabiteuea North has a land area of 26 km2 (10 sq mi) and a population of 3,600 as of 2005, distributed among twelve villages (capital Utiroa)[1]
  • Tabiteuea South has a land area of 12 km2 (4.6 sq mi) and a population of 1,299, distributed among six villages (capital Buariki).[2]


"Tabiteuea" is Gilbertese for "land of no chiefs"; the island is traditionally egalitarian. In the late 1800s, the two islands were the site of a religious war when the populace of Tabiteuea North converted to Christianity and, led by a Hawaiian pastor called Kapu who had assembled a "hymn-singing army on a crusade", invaded and conquered Tabiteuea South, which had maintained traditional religious practice.[3]

The Battle of Drummond's Island occurred during the United States Exploring Expedition in April 1841 at Tabiteuea, then known as Drummond's Island. After one sailor from sloop USS Peacock, was captured by the islanders, the US party decided on exacting redress for the incident. Twelve islanders were killed in the fighting and others were wounded.[4]

During the US Civil War, the Confederate States Navy steamer CSS Shenandoah visited the island on March 23, 1865 in search of United States whalers, but the whalers had fled the area. Captain James Waddell described the islanders as "of copper colour, short of statue, athletic in form, intelligent and docile" and were "without a stitch of clothing".[5]

Tabiteuea Post Office opened around 1911 and was renamed Tabiteuea North around 1972. Tabiteuea South Post Office opened on 13 September 1965.[6]

A drawing by Alfred Thomas Agate featuring a warrior of Drummond Island in 1841


  1. ^ "12. Tabiteuea North" (PDF). Office of Te Beretitent - Republic of Kiribati Island Report Series. 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "13. Tabiteuea South" (PDF). Office of Te Beretitent - Republic of Kiribati Island Report Series. 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  3. ^ MACDONALD, Barrie, Cinderellas of the Empire: Towards a history of Kiribati and Tuvalu, 2001, ISBN 982-02-0335-X, p.38
  4. ^ Ellsworth, Harry A. (1974). One Hundred Eighty Landings of United States Marines 1800 to 1934. Washington D.C.: US Marines History and Museums Division. pp. 72–74. 
  5. ^ WADDELL, James C.S.S. Shenandoah: The Memoirs of Lieutenant Commanding James I. Waddell, 1996, ISBN 1-55750-368-0, p.143
  6. ^ Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Premier Postal Auctions. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 

Exhibit: The Alfred Agate Collection: The United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 from the Navy Art Gallery