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Maneapa and airport in Funafuti atoll, Tuvalu.jpg
Maneapa and airport on Funafuti atoll, Tuvalu
Aerial image of Funafuti atoll
Map of Funafuti.jpg
Map of the atoll
Tuvalu location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location of Funafuti atoll in Tuvalu
Coordinates: 08°31′S179°12′E / 8.517°S 179.200°E / -8.517; 179.200 Coordinates: 08°31′S179°12′E / 8.517°S 179.200°E / -8.517; 179.200
Country Tuvalu
  Total2.4 km2 (0.9 sq mi)
  Density2,600/km2 (6,800/sq mi)
ISO 3166 code TV-FUN

Funafuti is an atoll and the capital of the island nation of Tuvalu. [1] [2] It has a population of 6,320 people (2017 census), [3] making it the country's most populous atoll, with 60.15 per cent of Tuvalu's population. It consists of a narrow sweep of land between 20 and 400 metres (66 and 1,312 feet) wide, encircling a large lagoon (Te Namo) 18 km (11 miles) long and 14 km (9 miles) wide. The average depth of the Funafuti lagoon is about 20 fathoms (36.5 metres or 120 feet). [4] With a surface area of 275 square kilometres (106.2 sq mi), it is by far the largest lagoon in Tuvalu. The land area of the 33 islets around the atoll of Funafuti totals 2.4 square kilometres (0.9 sq mi); taken together, they constitute less than one per cent of the total area of the atoll. Cargo ships can enter Funafuti's lagoon and dock at the port facilities on Fongafale.


The capital of Tuvalu is sometimes said to be Fongafale or Vaiaku, but, officially, the entire atoll of Funafuti is its capital, [5] since it has a single government that is responsible for the whole atoll.


Tuvalu Meteorological Service station, Fongafale Tuvalu Meteorology Service.jpg
Tuvalu Meteorological Service station, Fongafale

The largest island is Fongafale. The island houses four villages and community meeting places. The Funafuti Falekaupule is the local council, with the Kaupule as the executive of the Falekaupule. [6] On Fongafale, the Funafuti Kaupule is responsible for approvals of the construction of houses or extension to an existing buildings on private land and the Lands Management Committee is the responsible authority in relation to lands leased by Government. [7] The installed PV capacity in Funafuti in 2020 was 735 kW compared to 1800 kW of diesel (16% penetration). [8]

Tausoa Lima Falekaupule is the traditional meeting house on Funafuti. Tausoalima means "hand of friendship" and Falekaupule means "traditional island meeting hall." There is the Vaiaku Langi Hotel, and other guesthouses as well as homes, constructed both in the traditional manner, out of palm fronds, and more recently out of cement blocks. The most prominent building on Funafuti atoll is the Fētu'ao Lima (Morning Star Church) of the Church of Tuvalu.

Other sites of interest are the remains of Japanese aircraft that crashed on Funafuti during World War II. The airfield was constructed during World War II. It was adapted to serve as the Funafuti International Airport, which serves both as the airstrip for the flights from Fiji as well as providing a place for sporting and other recreational activities.

Offices of the Tuvalu Telecommunications Corporation Office of Tuvalu Telecom.jpg
Offices of the Tuvalu Telecommunications Corporation
Main street of Funafuti. Main street of Funafuti.jpg
Main street of Funafuti.

A major sporting event is the "Independence Day Sports Festival" held annually at Fongafale on 1 October. The most important sports event within the country is arguably the Tuvalu Games, which are held yearly since 2008, with teams coming to Funafuti from the outer islands to compete in the games. [9] Football in Tuvalu is played at club and national team level. The Tuvalu national football team trains at the Tuvalu Sports Ground on Funafuti and competes in the Pacific Games and South Pacific Games.

The Parliament of Tuvalu or Palamene o Tuvalu is located on Fongafale, together with the offices of the government departments and the government agencies, including the Tuvalu Telecommunications Corporation, National Bank of Tuvalu, Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau, Tuvalu Meteorological Service, Tuvalu National Library and Archives and the Tuvalu Media Department that operates Radio Tuvalu. The police service has its headquarters and the jail on Fongafale. The High Court of Tuvalu is also located on Fongafale.

The Princess Margaret Hospital, the only hospital in Tuvalu, is located on Fongafale.

Villages on Funafuti

Vaiaku Lagi Hotel Vaiaku Lagi Hotel.jpg
Vaiaku Lagi Hotel

Below is a list of the individual villages of the atoll, with each atoll's population according to the 2012 census: [3] by islet:

Aerial view of Tengako peninsula and Fongafale, Funafuti atoll, looking south Tuvalu view.jpg
Aerial view of Tengako peninsula and Fongafale, Funafuti atoll, looking south
Tengako peninsula, Funafuti atoll, looking south Northern Funafuti.jpg
Tengako peninsula, Funafuti atoll, looking south

Central Fongafale islet

Additional Fongafale islets

Islets off the Tengako peninsula in the north:



Funafuti Marine Conservation Area

In June 1996, the Funafuti Conservation Area was established along the western rim of the reef, encompassing six islets. It has an area of 33 km2 (12 square miles), containing 20 per cent of the reef area of Funafuti. The land area of the six islets in the conservation area is 8 ha (20 acres). Below is a list of the islets in the conservation area, in order from north to south, with their estimated areas in hectares:

The Funafuti Conservation Area is located 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) across the lagoon from the main island of Fongafale, and is accessed by boat.

Islands in Funafuti

There are at least 29 islets in the Funafuti atoll. [1] The largest is Fongafale, followed by Funafala. At least three of these islets are inhabited: Fongafale (the main island) in the east, Funafala in the south, and Amatuku in the north.

Passages of Funafuti Atoll

The atoll has several passages leading into its lagoon. The degree to which they are navigable varies. The passes are listed below, in roughly clockwise order, starting in the south, with Fongafale islet. The first two islets on the list are in the southern part of the Funafuti Atoll. [10]


The Funafuti atoll's lagoon (Te Namo in Tuvaluan) is 24.5 km (15¼ miles) long, north to south, and 17.5 km (10¾ miles) wide, east to west, and has an area of 275 km2 (106 sq. mi.), making it by far the largest lagoon in the nation of Tuvalu. It is about 52 metres (28 fathoms) deep in some places, but only 6 metres (3¼ fathoms) deep in other places (because it has several submerged rocks and reefs along its bottom, some of which are that close the surface). The deepest basin is in the northern part of the lagoon (the maximum recorded depth is 54.7 metres [30 fathoms]), while the southern part of the lagoon has a very narrow, shallow basin. [11]


Funafuti has a tropical rainforest climate (as defined by the Köppen climate classification system). Because it experiences frequent cyclones, it is not considered to have an equatorial climate. The town has no dry season: It sees an extraordinary amount of rainfall throughout the year. Funafuti has an average of about 3,500 millimetres (140 in) of precipitation annually, and no month in which less than 200 millimetres (7.9 in) rain falls. As is common in many areas with a tropical rainforest climate, the temperature varies little during the year: Average daily temperatures hover around 28 °C (82 °F) year-round.

Climate data for Funafuti
1981–2000 for temperature mean; 1936–2000 for temperature extremes; 1951–1990 for average precipitation; 1947–1990 for average precipitation days; 1961–1990 for average relative humidity; 1978–1990 for mean daily sunshine hours
Record high °C (°F)33.8
Average high °C (°F)30.7
Daily mean °C (°F)28.2
Average low °C (°F)25.5
Record low °C (°F)22.0
Average precipitation mm (inches)413.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)201920191819191816181719223
Average relative humidity (%)82828282828283828181808182
Mean monthly sunshine hours 179.8161.0186.0201.0195.3201.0195.3220.1210.0232.5189.0176.72,347.7
Mean daily sunshine hours
Source: Deutscher Wetterdienst [12]


Woman on Funafuti; photo by Harry Clifford Fassett (1900), American photographer H-C-Fassett-Ellice-Is-1900.jpg
Woman on Funafuti; photo by Harry Clifford Fassett (1900), American photographer

The founding ancestor of the people of Funafuti is said to have come from Samoa. [13] [14] The name of one of the islets, Funafala, means 'the pandanus of Funa' ("Funa" is a word meaning "chief" and is also found in the name of the atoll Funafuti). [15]

The first European to visit Funafuti was Arent Schuyler de Peyster. He was an American from New York, and captain of the armed brigantine or privateer vessel Rebecca, which was sailing under British colours. [16] [17] In May 1819, de Peyster passed through the southern Tuvalu waters, and sighted Funafuti. He named it Ellice's Island, after an English politician, Edward Ellice, who was the member of parliament for Coventry and the owner of the Rebecca's cargo. [18]

In 1841, the United States Exploring Expedition, led by Charles Wilkes, visited Funafuti. [19] The United States claimed Funafuti based on the 1856 Guano Islands Act, and maintained this claim until 1983, when a treaty of friendship, concluded in 1979, went into effect.

In the 1850s, John (Jack) O'Brien became the first European to settle in Tuvalu. He became a trader on Funafuti and married Salai, the daughter of Funafuti's paramount chief. [20] with his name continuing on Funafuti. [21] Alfred Restieaux, a native of England, lived and worked as a trader on Funafuti from July 1881 until about 1888 or 1889. [22] [23]

In 1882, members of the US Fish Commission visited Funafuti to investigate the formation of coral reefs on Pacific atolls, sailing there on the USFC Albatross. During that visit, Harry Clifford Fassett, the captain's clerk and a photographer, took pictures of people, communities, and scenery in Funafuti. [24]

Thomas Andrew, a photographer, visited Funafuti around 1885–86. [25]

In 1892, Captain Davis of the HMS Royalist provided a report describing the traders and trading activities he observed on each of the islands he visited. Davis identified Jack O'Brien as a trader on Funafuti, [26] and O’Brien was also reported to be living on the atoll in 1896. [27]

In 1894, Count Rudolph Festetics de Tolna, his wife Eila (née Haggin), and her daughter Blanche Haggin visited Funafuti aboard the yacht Le Tolna. [28] [29] The Count spent several days photographing men and woman of Funafuti. [30]

There is a site on Funafuti called Darwin's Drill, where boreholes were drilled in 1896, 1897 and 1898, by the Royal Society of London, as part of a scientific investigation designed to find out whether traces of shallow-water organisms could be found deep down in the coral. It was intended as a test of Charles Darwin's theory of coral atoll formation. [31] [32] Professor Sollas, the leader of the 1896 expedition, published a report on the study of the atoll. [33] Professor Edgeworth David of the University of Sydney was a member of the 1896 expedition, and the leader of the 1897 expedition. [34] [35] Photographers on the expeditions recorded people, communities and scenes at Funafuti. [36]

The population of Funafuti during the years 1860 to 1900 is estimated to have been between 280 [37] and 300 people. [38] The Funafuti Post Office opened around 1911. [39]

During the Pacific War (World War II) the Ellice Islands were used as a base to prepare for the subsequent seaborn attacks on the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati) that were occupied by Japanese forces. [40] The United States Marine Corps landed on Funafuti on 2 October 1942. [41] On Funafuti the islanders were shifted to the smaller islets so as to allow the American forces to build an airfield (now Funafuti International Airport), a 76-bed hospital and the naval bases and port facilities on Fongafale islet [42] [43]

Cyclones of 1883 and 1972

George Westbrook, a trader based on Funafuti, recorded a tropical cyclone that struck Funafuti on 23–24 December 1883. At the time the cyclone struck, he was the lone inhabitant of Fongafale, because Tema, a Samoan missionary, had taken everyone else to Funafala to work on erecting a church. The cyclone destroyed the buildings in Fongafale, including the church and the trading stores belonging to George Westbrook and Alfred Restieaux. Little damage occurred at Funafala, however, and the peoplereturned to rebuild at Fongafale. [44] [45]

Ocean side of Funafuti atoll showing the storm dunes, the highest point on the atoll. Ocean side Funafuti.jpg
Ocean side of Funafuti atoll showing the storm dunes, the highest point on the atoll.

In 1972, Funafuti lay in the path of Cyclone Bebe during the 1972–73 South Pacific cyclone season. Bebe was a pre-season tropical cyclone that hit the Gilbert, Ellice, and Fiji island groups. [46] The cyclone system was first spotted on 20 October. It intensified and grew in size through 22 October. At about 4 p.m. on Saturday the 21st, sea water bubbled through the coral on the airfield and rose to a height of about 5 feet (1.5 m). Cyclone Bebe continued to ravage the area through Sunday 22 October. The Ellice Islands Colony's ship Moanaraoi, which was in the lagoon, survived. However, three tuna boats were wrecked. Waves broke over the atoll. Five people died: two adults and a 3-month-old child were swept away by waves, and two sailors who had been in the wrecked tuna boats were drowned. [47] Cyclone Bebe knocked down 90% of the area's houses and trees. The storm surge created a wall of coral rubble along the ocean side of Fongafale and Funafala that was about 10 miles (16 km) long, and was about 10 feet (3.0 m) to 20 feet (6.1 m) thick at the bottom. [47] [48] [49] [50] The storm surge also destroyed or contaminated the area's sources of fresh drinking water.

Educational institutions

Water storage tanks installed at Fetuvalu High School Fetuvalu High School on Funafuti atoll, Tuvalu.jpg
Water storage tanks installed at Fetuvalu High School

Four tertiary institutions on Funafuti offer technical and vocational courses: Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute (TMTI), Tuvalu Atoll Science Technology Training Institute (TASTII), Australian Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) and University of the South Pacific (USP) Extension Centre. [51]

There are two junior schools, the Seventh Day Adventist Primary School and Nauti Primary School, which has a register of more than 900 pupils and is the largest primary school in Tuvalu (45 per cent of the total primary school enrolment). [52]

The Church of Tuvalu operates Fetuvalu Secondary School. [53] [54] The University of the South Pacific (USP) [55] Extension Centre on Funafuti operates the Augmented Foundation Programme for sixth form students who pass their Pacific Secondary School Certificate (PSSC) so that the students can enter tertiary education programmes outside of Tuvalu. The Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute (TMTI) is located on Amatuku motu (islet).


Funafuti International Airport ( IATA : FUN, ICAO : NGFU) is located on Fongafale.

Fiji Airways, the owner of Fiji Airlines (trading as Fiji Link) operates air transport services three times per week (on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) between Suva and Funafuti. The flights originate in Nadi, and use ATR 72-600 aircraft, which can carry up to 68 passengers.

In addition, Air Kiribati operates one flight a week to Funafuti, using a Bombardier Dash 8 100 series aircraft, which can carry up to 35 passengers. [56]

Fongafale has port facilities and two passenger/cargo ships, Nivaga III and Manu Folau, which make roundtrips between Fongafale and the outer islands about once every three or four weeks, and also travel between Suva, Fiji, [57] and Funafuti about three or four times a year.

In 2015 the Japanese government donated a ship, the Nivaga III, to Tuvalu, to replace the Nivaga II, which had served Tuvalu since 1989. [58]


Funafuti is one of the eight constituencies in Tuvalu, and elects two members of parliament. In the 2019 general election, Kausea Natano and Simon Kofe were re-elected to parliament. [59]

Funafuti constituency results
Non-partisan Kausea Natano Symbol confirmed.svg 35527.2
Non-partisan Simon Kofe Symbol confirmed.svg 37428.6
Non-partisan Tuafafa Latasi34926.7
Non-partisan Soloseni Penitusi15812
Non-partisan Luke Paeniu705.3

Prominent local people

Funafuti beach (2013) Funafuti banner Beach.jpg
Funafuti beach (2013)

See also

External sources

Related Research Articles

Tuvalu Country in the Polynesian subregion of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean

Tuvalu is an island country in the Polynesian subregion of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean. Its islands are situated about midway between Hawaii and Australia. They lie east-northeast of the Santa Cruz Islands, northeast of Vanuatu, southeast of Nauru, south of Kiribati, west of Tokelau, northwest of Samoa and Wallis and Futuna, and north of Fiji. Tuvalu is composed of three reef islands and six atolls. They are spread out between the latitude of 5° and 10° south, and between the longitude of 176° and 180°. They lie west of the International Date Line. Tuvalu has a population of 10,507. The total land area of the islands of Tuvalu is 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi).

Geography of Tuvalu Overview of the geography of Tuvalu

The Western Pacific nation of Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellice Islands. It is situated 4,000 kilometers (2,500 mi) northeast of Australia and is approximately halfway between Hawaii and Australia. It lies east-northeast of the Santa Cruz Islands, southeast of Nauru, south of Kiribati, west of Tokelau, northwest of Samoa and Wallis and Futuna and north of Fiji. It is a very small island country of 26 km2 (10 sq mi). Due to the spread out islands it has the 38th largest Exclusive Economic Zone of 749,790 km2 (289,500 sq mi).

History of Tuvalu Aspect of history

The first inhabitants of Tuvalu were Polynesians, so the origins of the people of Tuvalu can be traced to the spread of humans out of Southeast Asia, from Taiwan, via Melanesia and across the Pacific islands of Polynesia.

Nanumea Atoll in Tuvalu

Nanumea is the northwesternmost atoll in the Polynesian nation of Tuvalu, a group of nine coral atolls and islands spread over about 400 miles (640 km) of Pacific Ocean just south of the equator and west of the International Date Line. Nanumea is 4 km2 (1.5 sq mi) with a population of 512 people.

Fongafale Island in Funafuti, Tuvalu

Fongafale is the largest of Funafuti's islets in Tuvalu. It is a long narrow sliver of land, 12 kilometres long and between 10 and 400 metres wide, with the South Pacific Ocean and reef on the east and the protected lagoon on the west. The north part is the Tengako peninsula, and Funafuti International Airport runs from northeast to southwest on the widest part of the island, with the village and administrative centre of Vaiaku on the lagoon side.

Nukufetau Atoll in Tuvalu

Nukufetau is an atoll that is part of the nation of Tuvalu. The atoll was claimed by the US under the Guano Islands Act some time in the 19th century and was ceded in a treaty of friendship concluded in 1979 and coming into force in 1983. It has a population of 597 who live on Savave islet. In 1951 the school that was located on Motumua islet was transferred to Savave and became the government primary school for Nukufetau. It was named the Tutasi Memorial School in honour of its predecessor.


Tepuka is an island eighteen kilometers west of Fongafale, in the northwest of Funafuti, the main atoll of the Oceanian nation of Tuvalu. Te puka, or Pouka, is the name of a tree - Hernandia peltata.

Funafala is an islet of Funafuti, Tuvalu that is inhabited by five families, with a church also located on the islet. Funafala means 'the pandanus of Funa', the name of a chief, after whom also the group has been named Funafuti.

Fualopa is an islet of Funafuti, Tuvalu. It is part of the Funafuti Conservation Area, established in 1996 with the aim of preserving the natural fauna and flora of the area.Fualopa hosts a breeding colony of black noddy.

Funamanu is a small narrow island that is part of Funafuti atoll in Tuvalu. It is a motu (islet) or very small island and is located 2.6 miles southwestward of the southwest tip of Funafuti. The islet is known to be covered in coconut trees which grow 70 feet high. Te Ava Pua Pua is the passage through the reef, with a least depth of 12.7 metres, between the islets of Funamanu to the north and Fale Fatu to the south, in the southeast of Funafuti atoll.

Pukasavilivili Islet in Tuvalu

Pukasavilivili or Tepuka Vili Vili is an islet of Funafuti, Tuvalu.

Te Afualiku is an islet of Funafuti, Tuvalu.

Tepuka Vili Vili

Tepuka Vili Vili or Tepuka Savilivili is an islet of Funafuti, Tuvalu.

1972–73 South Pacific cyclone season Tropical cyclone season

The 1972–73 South Pacific cyclone season ran year-round from July 1 to June 30. Tropical cyclone activity in the Southern Hemisphere reaches its peak from mid-February to early March.

Climate change in Tuvalu Emissions, impacts and responses of Tuvalu related to climate change

Climate change in Tuvalu is particularly threatening for the long-term habitability of the island state of Tuvalu. This is because the average height of the islands is less than 2 metres (6.6 ft) above sea level, with the highest point of Niulakita being about 4.6 metres (15 ft) above sea level. Between 1971 and 2014, during a period of global warming, Tuvalu islands have increased in size, according to aerial photography and satellite imagery. Over four decades, there was a net increase in land area in Tuvalu of 73.5 ha (2.9%), although the changes were not uniform, with 74% of land increasing in size and 27% of land decreasing in size. The sea level at the Funafuti tide gauge has risen at 3.9 mm per year, which is approximately twice the global average.

The Funafuti Conservation Area is a marine conservation area covering 33 square kilometers of reef, lagoon and motu (islets) on the western side of Funafuti atoll in Tuvalu. The marine environment of the conservation area includes reef, lagoon, channel and ocean; and are home to many species of fish, corals, algae and invertebrates. The islets are nesting sites for the green sea turtle and Fualopa hosts a breeding colony of black noddy.

Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) on Funafuti atoll in Tuvalu is the only hospital in the country, and the primary provider of medical services for all the islands of Tuvalu. The hospital is located about 1.3 kilometres north from the centre of Funafuti on Fongafale islet.

Cyclone Bebe

Severe Tropical Cyclone Bebe, also known as Hurricane Bebe, was a pre-season storm during October 1972 in the South Pacific Ocean that severely affected Fiji, the Ellice Islands, and the Gilbert Islands.

Coral reefs of Tuvalu List of coral reefs in Tuvalu

The coral reefs of Tuvalu consist of three reef islands and six atolls, containing approximately 710 km2 (270 sq mi) of reef platforms. The islands of the Tuvalu archipelago are spread out between the latitude of 5° to 10° south and longitude of 176° to 180°, west of the International Date Line. The islands of Tuvalu are volcanic in origin. On the atolls, an annular reef rim surrounds the lagoon, and may include natural reef channels. 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, although they may have a completely closed rim of dry land, with the remnants of a lagoon that has no direct connection to the open sea or that may be drying up.


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