Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific
Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its
nearest neighbors are Kiribati,
Samoa and Fiji.
Comprising four reef islands and five true atolls with a gross land area of
just 26 square kilometers, it is the third-least populated independent country
in the world, with only Vatican City and Nauru
having fewer inhabitants.
The first inhabitants of Tuvalu were
Polynesian people. The islands came under Britain's sphere of influence in
the late 19th century. The Ellice Islands were
administered by Britain
as part of a protectorate from 1892 to 1916 and as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony from 1916 to 1974. In 1974 the Ellice Islanders voted for separate British dependency
status as Tuvalu, separating
from the Gilbert Islands which became Kiribati upon independence. Tuvalu
became fully independent within The Commonwealth in 1978.