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Wednesday 13th December
Vanuatu Facts
The islands of the Pacific are usually divided into three areas: Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

Countries in Melanesia are Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. New Caledonia, an Overseas Territory of France, is also included in the Melanesian group.

The Republic of Vanuatu consists of over eighty islands.

The main islands include Ambrym, Aneityum, Banks and Torres, Efate, Epi, Erromango, Espiritu Santo, Maewo and Pentecost, Malekula, and Tanna.

The islands of Banks and Torres, at the northern end of the Vanuatu archipelago, reach north and west to the Solomon Islands.

The highest point in Vanuatu is Tabwemasana (1,877 m) on Espiritu Santo.

Vanuatu is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. There are volcanoes on the islands of Ambae, Ambrym, Gaua, Kuwai, Lopevi and Tanna.

Chief Roi Mata's Domain, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008, consists of three early seventeenth century sites on the islands of Artok, Efate and Lelepa. These include the residence of Roi Mata, the last chief, the site of his death and a mass burial site.

In 1606 Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, the Portuguese explorer in the service of the King of Spain, arrived in the Vanuatu archipelago.

Louis Antoine de Bougainville, the French navigator, visited islands in the archipelago in 1760s.

The British explorer, Captain James Cook, explored a number of the islands calling them the New Hebrides (1774).

Captain Cook named the island of Efate after his patron, Lord Sandwich.

The French and British formed a Joint Naval Commission (1887) on the islands. In 1906 they set up an Anglo-French Condominium to administer the New Hebrides (Vanuatu).

The British traded sandalwood, a scented timber, for tea with China. Sandalwood grew on some of the islands in the New Hebrides.

In the nineteenth century many of the people of Vanuatu, the ni-Vanuatu, were taken to Fiji and Queensland, Australia where they were made to work on plantations.

The John Frum cargo cult, which emerged at the end of the 1930s, said that Ni-Vanuatu ancestors would return with "cargo". This derived from the belief that goods brought to the islands by Europeans and Americans really belonged to the indigenous islanders.

The British banned the John Frum cargo cult but it was recognized as a religion in 1956.

During the Second World War the USA had a naval base in Vanuatu.

James A. Michener was awarded the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Tales of the South Pacific, based upon his military service in Vanuatu during the Second World War. The musical South Pacific was adapted from the book.

The island of Ambae became the magical island of Bali Hai in the musical South Pacific.

Independence was achieved in 1980 and Vanuatu retained links with the UK as a member of the Commonwealth.

Vanuatu is a member of the University of the South Pacific in Suva (Fiji). Members are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

An earthquake and tsunami in 1999 caused damage to the island of Pentecost.

In 2002 Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, suffered an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale.

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