Chain of eleven atolls and low coral islands in the central Pacific Ocean
|Area||503.28 km2 (194.32 sq mi)|
|Largest island settlement||Kiritimati (pop. 6,447)|
The Line Islands, Teraina Islands or Equatorial Islands (in Gilbertese, Aono Raina) are a chain of 11 atolls (with partly or fully enclosed lagoons) and coral islands (with a surrounding reef) in the central Pacific Ocean, south of the Hawaiian Islands. The island chain stretches northwest to southeast across 2,350 km (1,460 mi), making it one of the longest island chains in the world. It lies at the geographic center of the Pacific Ocean ( ), near Starbuck Island. One of the atolls in the group, Kiritimati, has the largest land area of any atoll in the world. Of the 11 atolls, all of which were formed by volcanic activity, only the Kiritimati and Tabuaeran atolls and Teraina island have a permanent population (one of the reefs, Filippo Reef, is shown on some maps, but its existence is doubted). Eight of the atolls are parts of Kiribati. The remaining three—Jarvis Island, Kingman Reef (which is largely submerged), and Palmyra Atoll—are territories of the United States grouped with the United States Minor Outlying Islands.
The International Date Line passes through the Line Islands. The ones that are parts of Kiribati are in the world's farthest forward time zone, UTC+14:00. The time of day is (UTC-10.00), the same as in the state of Hawaii in the United States, but the date is one day ahead of Hawaii. The time in the Line Islands is 26 hours ahead of some other islands in Oceania, such as Baker Island, which uses UTC−12:00.
Archaeologists have identified the remains of coral Marae platforms and/or village complexes on several of the islands, including the Kiritimati and Tabuaeran atolls, Teraina Island, 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.
Most 18th-century visitors to these isles overlooked these telltale signs of former Polynesian settlement. This included Captain Cook, who landed on Christmas Island in 1777, and Captain Fanning, who visited Teraina (Washington Island) and Tabuaeran (Fanning Atoll) in 1798.
In the 19th century, whaling ships were regular visitors to the islands. They came in search of water, wood and provisions. The first whaler recorded to have visited one of them was the Coquette, which docked at Kiritimati (then called Christmas Island) in 1822.
In 1888, the UK was planning to lay the Pacific cable, and annexed the islands with a view to using Tabuaeran (then Fanning Island) as one of the relay stations for the cable. The cable was laid and was operational between 1902 and 1963 (except for a short period in 1914).
In 1916, the British annexed Fanning and Washington islands, making them part of the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. In 1919, they annexed Christmas Island to the same colony. The Line Islands occasionally featured briefly in the biennial reports furnished by the Colony's resident commissioner to the Colonial Office and Parliament in London (see, for example, the reports submitted in 1966 and 1967).
The United States contested the British annexations, based on the U.S. Guano Islands Act of 1856, which allowed for very wide-ranging territorial claims. It relinquished these claims only in 1979, when it entered into the Treaty of Tarawa, which recognised Kiribati's sovereignty over the majority of the Line Islands chain.
List of atolls, islands, and reefs
Geographically, the Line Islands is divided into three subgroups: the Northern, Central, and Southern Line Islands (however, the Central Line Islands are sometimes grouped with the Southern Line Islands). The table below lists the islands from north to south.
|Atoll / Island / Reef||Area (km2)||Population||Coordinates||Status|
|Northern Line Islands (Fanning's Group)|
|Kingman Reef||0.01||60||0||U.S. territory (unincorporated)|
|Palmyra Atoll||3.9||8||4||U.S. territory (incorporated)|
|9.55||2*||1,155||A part of Kiribati|
|33.73||110||2,539||A part of Kiribati|
|388.39||217.61||5,115||A part of Kiribati|
|Central Line Islands|
|Jarvis Island||5||—||0||U.S. territory (unincorporated)|
|Malden Island||39.3||13*||0||A part of Kiribati|
|—||1.5||0||Outside the I-Kiribati EEZ|
|Starbuck Island||16.2||4*||0||A part of Kiribati|
|Southern Line Islands|
|3.76||6.3||0||A part of Kiribati|
|Vostok Island||0.24||—||0||A part of Kiribati|
|Flint Island||3.2||0.01*||0||A part of Kiribati|
*The lagoon areas marked with an asterisk are included in the land areas of the previous column because, unlike typical lagoons in atolls, they are inland waters completely sealed off from the sea.
Time zone realignment
On 23 December 1994, the Republic of Kiribati announced a change of time zone for the Line Islands, to take effect 31 December 1994. This adjustment effectively moved the International Date Line more than 1,000 km (620 mi) to the east within Kiribati, which placed all of Kiribati on the Asian or western side of the date line, despite the fact that Millennium Island's longitude of 150 degrees west corresponds to UTC−10:00 rather than to its official time zone of UTC+14:00. Millennium Island is now at the same time as the Hawaiian Islands (Hawaii–Aleutian Time Zone), but one day ahead. This move made Millennium Island (then Caroline Island) 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 saw sunrise on 1 January 2000 – at 5:43 am, as measured by local time.
The stated reason for the move was the fulfilment of a campaign promise that Kiribati President Teburoro Tito had made to eliminate the confusion caused by Kiribati straddling the Date Line and therefore being constantly in two different days. However, Kiribati officials were not reluctant to attempt to capitalise on the nation's new status as owners of the first land to see sunrise in 2000. Other Pacific nations, including Tonga and New Zealand's Chatham Islands, protested the move, objecting that it interfered with their own claims to be the first land to see dawn in the year 2000.
In 1999, to further capitalise upon the massive public interest in celebrations marking the arrival of the year 2000, Caroline Island was officially renamed Millennium Island. Although the island is uninhabited, a special celebration was held there to mark the occasion. It featured performances by native Kiribati entertainers and was attended by Kiribati's President Tito. Over 70 Kiribati singers and dancers travelled to Millennium Island from the capital, South Tarawa, accompanied by approximately 25 journalists. The celebration, which was broadcast worldwide by satellite, had an estimated audience size of as many as one billion viewers.
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- Patricia A. Nagel (1992). Results of the First Joint US-USSR Central Pacific Expedition (BERPAC): Autum[n] 1988. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p. 6. Archived from the original on 2 September 2022. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
- Robert Langdon (ed.) Where the whalers went: an index to the Pacific ports and islands by American whalers (and some other ships) in the 19th century, Canberra, Pacific Manuscripts Bureau, 1984, p. 149 ISBN 0-86784-471-X.
- Order in Council Annexing the Ocean, Fanning, and Washington islands to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony, 1916.
- Order in Council under the Colonial Boundaries Act, 1895, Annexing Christmas Island to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony, 1919.
- Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. (1969). Report for the Years 1966 and 1967. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
- "Australia-Oceania :: United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges". CIA – The World Factbook. US CIA. Archived from the original on 8 April 2022. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- "22. Teeraina" (PDF). Office of Te Beretitent – Republic of Kiribati Island Report Series. 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 May 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
- "Kiribati 2005 Census of Population and Housing: Provisional Tables" (PDF). Kiribati National Statistics Office. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- "21. Tabuaeran" (PDF). Office of Te Beretitent – Republic of Kiribati Island Report Series. 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
- "20. Kiritimati" (PDF). Office of Te Beretitent – Republic of Kiribati Island Report Series. 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
- "CIA – The World Factbook – Kiribati". The World Factbook. US CIA. Archived from the original on 27 March 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- Harris, Aimee (August 1999). "Date Line Politics". Honolulu Magazine. p. 20. Archived from the original on 28 June 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2006.
- Kristof, Nicholas D. (23 March 1997). "Tiny Island's Date-Line Jog in Race for Millennium". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020. Retrieved 10 June 2006.
- Letts, Quentin (25 January 1996). "Pacific braces for millennium storm over matter of degrees". The Times. Archived from the original on 28 June 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2006.
- "2000 greeted with song, dance". The Japan Times. Associated Press. 1 January 2000. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
- "Millennium Island greets Y2K warmly". ClimateArk.org. Associated Press. 30 December 1999. Archived from the original on 13 February 2005. Retrieved 11 June 2006.
Media related to Line Islands at Wikimedia Commons
- National Geographic – Southern Line Islands Expedition, 2009