Last updated
Womtelo Map-Banks-Vanuatu 1000.png
Location of Merelava in the Banks Islands
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 14°27′S168°03′E / 14.45°S 168.05°E / -14.45; 168.05 Coordinates: 14°27′S168°03′E / 14.45°S 168.05°E / -14.45; 168.05
Archipelago Vanuatu, Banks Islands
Area18 km2 (6.9 sq mi)
Highest pointMount Teu
Province Torba Province
Population650 (2009)

Merelava (or Mere Lava) is an island in the Banks Islands of the Torba Province of northern Vanuatu.



Merelava is situated in the southeastern part of the archipelago near Mota and Merig. Merelava has also been known as Star Island. It is located about 50 kilometres (31 miles) east of Gaua.

Merelava is a nearly round volcanic island with a diameter of almost 4.5 km and an area of 18 km². It is formed by a basaltic stratovolcano, which reaches in Mount Teu, also called Star Peak, a height of 883 m above the sea level.

The main village is Tesmet on the west coast of the island. Other villages, starting clockwise at Tesmet, are Levetmise (northwest), Lekweal (north), Lewetneak (northeast), and Aot (southeast, second largest).


Merelava was first sighted by Europeans during the Spanish expedition of Pedro Fernández de Quirós, from 25 to 29 April 1606. The island's name was then charted as San Marcos. [1]

Population and language

The island has about 650 inhabitants. [2] They all speak an Oceanic language known as Mwerlap . [3]


The inhabitants of Merelava call their own island Mwerlap, phonetically [ŋʷɞrlap], in the language of the same name.

The name M̄erelava (sometimes wrongly transcribed Mere Lava) reflects the way it is called in the neighbouring Mota language, phonetically [ŋ͡mʷereˈlaβa]. According to Codrington, [4] the etymology of this name is likely to be *mʷera lava, literally “the big boy”; it contrasts with the neighbouring island M̄erig [ŋ͡mʷeˈriɣ], from *mʷera riɣi “the small boy”.

Related Research Articles

Pedro Fernandes de Queirós

Pedro Fernandes de Queirós (1563–1614) was a Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain. He is best known for his involvement with Spanish voyages of discovery in the Pacific Ocean, in particular the 1595–1596 voyage of Álvaro de Mendaña y Neira, and for leading a 1605–1606 expedition that crossed the Pacific in search of Terra Australis.

Torba Province

Torba is the northernmost province of Vanuatu. It consists of the Banks Islands and the Torres Islands.

Torres Islands

The Torres Islands are in the Torba Province of the country of Vanuatu, and is that country’s the northernmost island group. The chain of islands that make up this micro-archipelago straddles the broader cultural boundary between Island Melanesia and several Polynesian outliers located in the neighbouring Solomon Islands. To the island chain’s north is Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands, to its south is Espiritu Santo, and to its southeast are the Banks Islands. To the west, beneath the ocean surface, is the deep Torres Trench, which is the subduction zone between the Australian and Pacific plates.

Banks Islands

The Banks Islands are a group of islands in northern Vanuatu. Together with the Torres Islands to their northwest, they make up the northernmost province of Torba. The island group lies about 40 km (25 mi) north of Maewo, and includes Gaua and Vanua Lava, two of the 13 largest islands in Vanuatu. In 2009, the islands had a population of 8,533. The island group’s combined land area is 780 km².

Ambae Island

Ambae Island, also known as Aoba or Oba and formerly Leper's Island, is an island in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, located near 15°30′S167°30′E, approximately 165 miles (266 km) NNW of Vanuatu's capital city, Port Vila.


Gaua is the largest and second most populous of the Banks Islands in Torba Province in northern Vanuatu. It covers 342 km².

Vanua Lava

Vanua Lava is the second largest of the Banks Islands in Torba Province, Vanuatu, after slightly larger Gaua.

Mwotlap is an Oceanic language spoken by about 2,100 people in Vanuatu. The majority of speakers are found on the island of Motalava in the Banks Islands, with smaller communities in the islands of Ra and Vanua Lava, as well as migrant groups in the two main cities of the country, Santo and Port Vila.

Mota Lava

Mota Lava or Motalava is an island of the Banks group, in the north of Vanuatu. It forms a single coral system with the small island of Ra.

Qat is the principal god in the oral mythology of the Banks Islands, a small archipelago of northern Vanuatu, Melanesia.

Mota Island

Mota is an island in the Banks group of northern Vanuatu, with a population of about 700.


Ureparapara is the third largest island in the Banks group of northern Vanuatu, after Gaua and Vanua Lava.

Mota is an Oceanic language spoken by about 750 people on Mota Island, in the Banks Islands of Vanuatu.

Merig Island in Torba Province, Vanuatu

Merig is a small island located 20 kilometres east of Gaua, in the Banks Islands of northern Vanuatu.

Mwerlap is an Oceanic language spoken in the south of the Banks Islands in Vanuatu.

Ra Island

Rah or Ra is a small coral islet of 0.5 km2 (0.19 sq mi), located in the Banks group of northern Vanuatu. The same name also refers to the single village which is situated within this islet. There are massive rocks on the island.

Mwesen(formerly known by its Mota name Mosina) is an Oceanic language spoken in the southeastern area of Vanua Lava Island, in the Banks Islands of northern Vanuatu, by about 10 speakers.

Vurës language Austronesian language spoken in Vanuatu

Vurës is an Oceanic language spoken in the southern area of Vanua Lava Island, in the Banks Islands of northern Vanuatu, by about 2000 speakers.

Spain–Vanuatu relations

Spain–Vanuatu relations are the bilateral and diplomatic relations between these two countries. Vanuatu does not have embassy in Spain, but its embassy in Brussels is accredited to Spain. The Spanish Embassy in Canberra, Australia, is accredited in Vanuatu, as well as the Spanish consulate in Sydney. In addition, Spain has an Honorary Consulate in Port Vila.

The Torres–Banks languages form a linkage of Southern Oceanic languages spoken in the Torres Islands and Banks Islands of northern Vanuatu.


  1. Kelly, Celsus, O.F.M. La Austrialia del Espíritu Santo. The Journal of Fray Martín de Munilla O.F.M. and other documents relating to the Voyage of Pedro Fernández de Quirós to the South Sea (1605-1606) and the Franciscan Missionary Plan (1617-1627) Cambridge, 1966, p.39, 62.
  2. "2009 National Census of Population and Housing: Summary Release" (PDF). Vanuatu National Statistics Office. 2009. Retrieved October 11, 2010.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. François (2005 :444)
  4. Cf. Codrington & Palmer (1896), p.89.