Line Islands

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Coordinates: 2°00′S156°30′W / 2°S 156.5°W / -2; -156.5


Line Islands
Native name:
Teraina Islands
KI Line islands.PNG
Kiribati location map.svg
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Line Islands
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Line Islands
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 2°00′S156°30′W / 2°S 156.5°W / -2; -156.5
Total islands11
Area503.28 km2 (194.32 sq mi)
Administrative divisionNone
Largest Island settlement Kiritimati (pop. 6,447)
Status Unincorporated (Kingman Reef, and Jarvis Island)
Incorporated (Palmyra Atoll)
Map of Kiribati CIA WFB.png

The Line Islands, Teraina Islands or Equatorial Islands (in Gilbertese, Aono Raina) are a chain of atolls (with partially or fully enclosed lagoons) and coral islands (with a surrounding reef). Kingman Reef is largely submerged and Filippo Reef is shown on some maps, although its existence is doubted. The islands were formed by volcanic activity and are located in the central Pacific Ocean, south of the Hawaiian Islands. The 11 islands stretch for 2,350 kilometres (1,460 miles) in a northwest–southeast direction, making it one of the longest island chains of the world. Eight of the islands form part of Kiribati, while the remaining three (Kingman Reef, Palmyra Island and Jarvis Island) are United States territories grouped with the United States Minor Outlying Islands. Only Kiritimati and Tabuaeran atolls and Teraina Island have a permanent population.

The International Date Line passes through the Line Islands. The Line Islands that are part of Kiribati are in the world's farthest forward time zone, UTC+14:00. The time of day is the same as in the U.S. state of Hawaii (UTC-10.00), but the date is one day ahead. The time is 26 hours ahead of some other islands in Oceania such as Baker Island, which uses UTC−12:00.


Most 18th-century visitors to these isles overlooked the tell-tale signs of former Polynesian settlement. This is true of Captain Cook, who landed on Kiritimati (Christmas Is) in 1777, and Captain Fanning during his visits to Teraina (Washington Is) and Tabuaeran (Fanning Atoll) in 1798. Archaeologists have since identified remains of coral marae platforms and/or village complexes on all three, as well as on Malden, Millennium Atoll and Flint Island. These remains are dateable as far back as the 14th century, and show that the inhabitants of the Line Islands were more than just castaways. [1]

Whaling ships were regular visitors to the islands in the 19th century, in search of water, wood and provisions. The first recorded visit was by the whaler Coquette to Christmas Island (Kiritimati) in 1822. [2] The islands of Fanning and Washington were annexed as part of the British Colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in 1916, [3] followed in 1919 by the similar annexation of Christmas Island. [4] However, these annexations were contested by the government of the United States, citing its Guano Islands Act of 1856, which allowed for very wide-ranging territorial claims. The latter claims persisted until relinquished under the Treaty of Tarawa, which recognised Kiribati's sovereignty over the majority of the Line Islands chain. In the meantime, the Line Islands featured briefly in biennial reports furnished by the Colony's resident commissioner to the Colonial Office and Parliament in London (e.g., see the 1966 and 1967 report [5] ).

The group is geographically divided into three subgroups; The Northern, Central, and Southern Line Islands. The Central Line Islands are sometimes grouped with the Southern Line Islands. The table below lists the islands from North to South.

List of atolls, islands and reefs

Atoll/Island/Reef Area (km²)Population [6] CoordinatesStatus
Island Lagoon
Northern Line Islands (Fanning's Group)
Kingman Reef 0.01 [6] 600 6°24′N162°24′W / 6.400°N 162.400°W / 6.400; -162.400 (Kingman Reef) U.S. territory (unincorporated)
Palmyra Atoll 3.9 [6] 84 5°52′N162°6′W / 5.867°N 162.100°W / 5.867; -162.100 (Palmyra Atoll) U.S. territory (incorporated)
Teraina (Washington Island) [7] 9.55 [8] 2*1,155 [8] 4°43′N160°24′W / 4.717°N 160.400°W / 4.717; -160.400 (Teraina) part of Kiribati
Tabuaeran (Fanning Island) [9] 33.73 [8] 1102,539 [8] 3°52′N159°22′W / 3.867°N 159.367°W / 3.867; -159.367 (Tabuaeran) part of Kiribati
Kiritimati (Christmas Island) [10] 388.39 [8] 217.61 [8] [11] 5,115 [8] 1°53′N157°24′W / 1.883°N 157.400°W / 1.883; -157.400 (Kiritimati) part of Kiribati
Central Line Islands
Jarvis Island 5 [6] 0 0°22′S160°03′W / 0.367°S 160.050°W / -0.367; -160.050 (Jarvis Island) U.S. territory (unincorporated)
Malden Island 39.313*0 4°01′S154°59′W / 4.017°S 154.983°W / -4.017; -154.983 (Malden Island) part of Kiribati
Filippo Reef 1.50 5°30′S151°50′W / 5.500°S 151.833°W / -5.500; -151.833 (Filippo Reef) outside EEZ
(existence uncertain)
Starbuck Island 16.24*0 5°37′S155°56′W / 5.617°S 155.933°W / -5.617; -155.933 (Starbuck Island) part of Kiribati
Southern Line Islands
Caroline Island 3.766.30 9°57′S150°13′W / 9.950°S 150.217°W / -9.950; -150.217 (Caroline Island) part of Kiribati
Vostok Island 0.240 10°03′43″S152°18′46″W / 10.06194°S 152.31278°W / -10.06194; -152.31278 (Vostok Island) part of Kiribati
Flint Island 3.20.01*0 11°26′S151°48′W / 11.433°S 151.800°W / -11.433; -151.800 (Flint Island) part of Kiribati
Line Islands503.28422.428,813

* The lagoon areas marked with an asterisk are contained within the island areas of the previous column because they are, unlike in the case of a typical atoll, inland waters completely sealed off from the sea.

Kiritimati is the largest atoll in the world in terms of land area. The islands were annexed by the UK in 1888 with a view to laying the Pacific cable, with Tabuaeran (then Fanning Island) as a relay station. The cable was laid and was operational between 1902 and 1963 except for a short period in 1914.

Copra and "Petfish" are the main export products (with seaweed).

Time zone realignment

Following a 1995 time zone realignment, Caroline Island (red dot at far east of map) became the easternmost land west of the International Date Line. DateLine-with-Caroline-Island.PNG
Following a 1995 time zone realignment, Caroline Island (red dot at far east of map) became the easternmost land west of the International Date Line.

On December 23, 1994, the Republic of Kiribati announced a change of time zone for the Line Islands, to take effect December 31, 1994. This adjustment effectively moved the International Date Line over 1,000 kilometers (620 mi) to the east within Kiribati, placing all of Kiribati on the Asian or western side of the date line, despite the fact that Caroline's longitude of 150 degrees west corresponds to UTC−10 rather than its official time zone of UTC+14. Caroline Island now is at the same time as the Hawaiian Islands (Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time Zone), but one day ahead. [12] This move made Caroline Island both the easternmost land in the earliest time zone (by some definitions, the easternmost point on Earth), and one of the first points of land which would see sunrise on January 1, 2000 — at 5:43 a.m., as measured by local time.

The stated reason for the move was a campaign promise of Kiribati President Teburoro Tito to eliminate the confusion of Kiribati straddling the Date Line and therefore being constantly in two different days. However, Kiribati officials were not reluctant to attempt to capitalize on the nation's new status as owners of the first land to see sunrise in 2000. [13] Other Pacific nations, including Tonga and New Zealand's Chatham Islands, protested the move, objecting that it infringed on their claims to be the first land to see dawn in the year 2000. [14]

In 1999, in order to further capitalize upon the massive public interest in celebrations marking the arrival of the year 2000, Caroline Island was officially renamed Millennium Island. Although uninhabited, a special celebration was held on the island, featuring performances by Kiribati native entertainers and attended by Kiribati president Tito. [15] Over 70 Kiribati singers and dancers traveled to Caroline from the capital Tarawa, [16] accompanied by approximately 25 journalists. The celebration, broadcast by satellite worldwide, had an estimated audience of up to one billion viewers. [15]

Related Research Articles

Kiribati Country in the western Pacific Ocean

Kiribati, officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an independent country in the central Pacific Ocean. The permanent population is just over 110,000 (2015), more than half of whom live on Tarawa atoll. The state comprises 32 atolls and one raised coral island, Banaba. They have a total land area of 811 square kilometres and are dispersed over 3.5 million km2 (1.4 million sq mi).

History of Kiribati Historical development of Kiribati

The islands which now form the Republic of Kiribati have been inhabited for at least seven hundred years, and possibly much longer. The initial Austronesian peoples’ population, which remains the overwhelming majority today, was visited by Polynesian and Melanesian invaders before the first European sailors visited the islands in the 17th century. For much of the subsequent period, the main island chain, the Gilbert Islands, was ruled as part of the British Empire. The country gained its independence in 1979 and has since been known as Kiribati.

Geography of Kiribati

Kiribati consists of 32 atolls and one island scattered over all four hemispheres in an expanse of ocean equivalent in size to the continental United States. The islands lie roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia in the Micronesian and Polynesian regions of the South Pacific. The three main island groupings are the Gilbert Islands, Phoenix Islands, and Line Islands. On 1 January 1995 Kiribati moved the International Date Line to include its easternmost islands and make it the same day throughout the country.

Kiritimati Atoll in Line Islands, Kiribati

Kiritimati or Christmas Island is a Pacific Ocean coral atoll in the northern Line Islands. It is part of the Republic of Kiribati. Its Gilbertese name is the rendition of the English word "Christmas" according to its sounds, in which the combination ti is pronounced s, and the name is thus pronounced.

Malden Island Island in the central Pacific Ocean

Malden Island, sometimes called Independence Island in the nineteenth century, is a low, arid, uninhabited atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, about 39 km2 (15 sq mi) in area. It is one of the Line Islands belonging to the Republic of Kiribati. The lagoon is entirely enclosed by land, however it is connected to the sea by underground channels, and is quite salty.

Gilbert Islands Chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands in the Pacific Ocean

The Gilbert Islands are a chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii. They form the main part of Kiribati.

Gilbert and Ellice Islands

The Gilbert and Ellice Islands were a British protectorate from 1892 and colony, from 12 January 1916 until 1 January 1976, part of the British Empire. The history of the colony was mainly characterized by phosphate mining in Ocean Island. In 1975, these islands were divided into two separated colonies which became independent nations shortly thereafter. A referendum was held in 1974 to determine whether the Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands should each have their own administration. As a consequence of the referendum, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony ceased to exist on 1 January 1976 and the separate countries of Kiribati and Tuvalu came into existence.

International Date Line Imaginary line that demarcates the change of one calendar day to the next

The International Date Line (IDL) is an imaginary line of demarcation on the surface of Earth that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole and demarcates the change of one calendar day to the next. It passes through the middle of the Pacific Ocean, roughly following the 180° line of longitude but deviating to pass around some territories and island groups.

Tabuaeran Atoll in Kiribati in the central Pacific Ocean

Tabuaeran or Tahanea, known in English as Fanning Atoll, is an atoll that is part of the Line Islands of the central Pacific Ocean and part of Kiribati. The land area is 33.73 square kilometres, and the population in 2010 was 1,960. The maximum elevation is about 3 m (10 ft) above high tide.

Tamana, Kiribati island

Tamana is the smallest island in the Gilbert Islands. It is accessible both by boat and by air with Air Kiribati and Coral Sun Airways. 1,104 people live in Tamana.

Starbuck Island coral atoll in the Central Line Islands of Kiribati

Starbuck Island is an uninhabited coral island in the central Pacific, and is part of the Central Line Islands of Kiribati. Former names include "Barren Island", "Coral Queen Island", "Hero Island", "Low Island", and "Starve Island".

Vostok Island island

Vostok Island is an uninhabited coral island in the central Pacific Ocean, part of the Line Islands belonging to Kiribati. Other names for the island include Anne Island, Bostock Island, Leavitts Island, Reaper Island, Wostock Island or Wostok Island. The island was first sighted in 1820 by the Russian explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, who named the island for his ship Vostok.

Caroline Island Island group in the Republic of Kiribati

Caroline Island, is the easternmost of the uninhabited coral atolls which comprise the southern Line Islands in the central Pacific Ocean of Kiribati.

Tarawa Atoll in the South Pacific

Tarawa is an atoll and the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, in the central Pacific Ocean. It comprises North Tarawa, home of 6,629 inhabitants, which has much in common with other, more remote islands of the Gilberts group; and South Tarawa, which is home to 56,388 people as of 2015 – half of the country's total population. The atoll was the site of the battle of Tarawa during World War II.

Teraina coral atoll in the central Pacific Ocean

Teraina (or Teeraina, also known as Washington Island is a coral atoll in the central Pacific Ocean and part of the Northern Line Islands which belong to Kiribati. Obsolete names of Teeraina are Prospect Island and New York Island. The island is located approximately 4.71° North latitude and 160.76° West longitude. Teeraina differs from most other atolls in the world in that it has a large freshwater lake, concealed within its luxuriant coconut palm forest; this is the only permanent freshwater lake in the whole of Kiribati.

UTC−10:00 Identifier for a time offset from UTC of −10

UTC−10:00 is an identifier for a time offset from UTC of −10:00. This time is used in Hawaii, Alaska, French Polynesia, and the Cook Islands (CKT)

Beru (atoll) island

Beru is an atoll in the Southern Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean, part of the Republic of Kiribati. Beru was previously known as Eliza, Francis Island, Maria, Peroat, Peru Island or Sunday. Beru is home of 2,051 inhabitants.

Onotoa island

Onotoa is an atoll and district of Kiribati. It is situated in the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean, 65 km (40 mi) from Tamana, the smallest island in the Gilberts. The population of Onotoa in the 2015 census was 1,393.

Makin (atoll) island

Makin is the name of an atoll, chain of islands, located in the Pacific Ocean island nation of Kiribati. Makin is the northernmost of the Gilbert Islands, with a population of 1,990.


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