Tarawa is an atoll and the capital of the Republic of Kiribati,[1][2][3] in the central Pacific Ocean. It comprises North Tarawa, which has 6,629 inhabitants and much in common with other more remote islands of the Gilberts group, and South Tarawa, which has 56,388 inhabitants as of 2015, half of the country's total population.[4][5] The atoll was the site of the Battle of Tarawa during World War II.

Tarawa
South Tarawa (map within Tarawa Atoll).png
Map of South Tarawa (red) and North Tarawa (yellow) within Tarawa Atoll
GilbertIslandsPos.png
Map of the Gilbert Islands
Tarawa is located in Kiribati
Tarawa
Tarawa
Location in Kiribati
Geography
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates1°20′N 173°00′E / 1.333°N 173.000°E / 1.333; 173.000Coordinates: 1°20′N 173°00′E / 1.333°N 173.000°E / 1.333; 173.000
ArchipelagoGilbert Islands
Area500 km2 (190 sq mi)
Highest elevation3 m (10 ft)
Administration
Demographics
Population63,017 (2015)
Ethnic groupsI-Kiribati (95.5%)

EtymologyEdit

Tarawa is an old Gilbertese form for Te Rawa, meaning “The Passage” (of the Lagoon), because Tarawa is quite a unique atoll in Kiribati with a large ship passage or channel to the lagoon [6]. But in the popular etymology, due to Kiribati mythology, Nareau, the God-spider, distinguished Karawa, the sky, from Marawa, the Sea, from Tarawa, the land.

GeographyEdit

Tarawa has a large lagoon, widely open to Ocean, with a large ship pass, 500 square kilometres (193 square miles) in total area, and a wide reef. Although naturally abundant in fish and shellfish of all kinds, marine resources are being strained by the large and growing population. Drought is frequent, but in normal years rainfall is sufficient to maintain breadfruit, papaya and banana trees as well as coconut and pandanus.

North Tarawa consists of a string of islets from Buariki in the north to Buota in the south. The islets are separated in places by wide channels that are best crossed at low tide, and there is a ferry service between Buota and Abatao.[7] Only Buota is connected by road to South Tarawa, via a bridge.

On South Tarawa, the construction of causeways has now created a single strip of land from Betio in the west to Tanaea in the northeast.[8]

ClimateEdit

 
A tropical islet with palm fronds oriented in the direction of the prevailing winds.

Tarawa features a tropical rainforest climate under the Köppen climate classification. The climate is pleasant from April to October, with predominant northeastern winds and stable temperatures close to 30 °C (86 °F). From November to March, western gales bring rain and occasional cyclones.[2][9][10]

Precipitation varies significantly between islands. For example, the annual average is 3,000 mm (120 in) in the north and 500 mm (20 in) in the south of the Gilbert Islands.[9] Most of these islands are in the dry belt of the equatorial oceanic climatic zone and experience prolonged droughts.[10]

Climate data for Tarawa Airport (South Tarawa)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 35.0
(95.0)
33.0
(91.4)
35.0
(95.0)
34.5
(94.1)
34.5
(94.1)
33.5
(92.3)
34.5
(94.1)
34.5
(94.1)
34.5
(94.1)
35.0
(95.0)
35.0
(95.0)
35.0
(95.0)
35.0
(95.0)
Average high °C (°F) 30.7
(87.3)
30.6
(87.1)
30.7
(87.3)
30.7
(87.3)
30.8
(87.4)
30.8
(87.4)
30.9
(87.6)
31.0
(87.8)
31.1
(88.0)
31.2
(88.2)
31.3
(88.3)
30.9
(87.6)
30.9
(87.6)
Daily mean °C (°F) 28.2
(82.8)
28.1
(82.6)
28.1
(82.6)
28.2
(82.8)
28.4
(83.1)
28.3
(82.9)
28.2
(82.8)
28.3
(82.9)
28.4
(83.1)
28.6
(83.5)
28.5
(83.3)
28.2
(82.8)
28.3
(82.9)
Average low °C (°F) 25.3
(77.5)
25.3
(77.5)
25.2
(77.4)
25.3
(77.5)
25.5
(77.9)
25.3
(77.5)
25.1
(77.2)
25.2
(77.4)
25.3
(77.5)
25.4
(77.7)
25.4
(77.7)
25.3
(77.5)
25.3
(77.5)
Record low °C (°F) 21.5
(70.7)
22.5
(72.5)
22.5
(72.5)
22.5
(72.5)
21.0
(69.8)
21.0
(69.8)
21.0
(69.8)
21.5
(70.7)
22.5
(72.5)
22.0
(71.6)
22.5
(72.5)
22.0
(71.6)
21.0
(69.8)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 271
(10.7)
218
(8.6)
204
(8.0)
184
(7.2)
158
(6.2)
155
(6.1)
168
(6.6)
138
(5.4)
120
(4.7)
110
(4.3)
115
(4.5)
212
(8.3)
2,052
(80.8)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.3 mm) 15 12 14 15 15 14 16 18 15 11 10 17 172
Average relative humidity (%) 81 80 81 82 81 81 80 79 77 77 79 81 80
Mean monthly sunshine hours 220.1 192.1 207.7 201.0 229.4 219.0 229.4 257.3 243.0 260.4 240.0 189.1 2,688.5
Mean daily sunshine hours 7.1 6.8 6.7 6.7 7.4 7.3 7.4 8.3 8.1 8.4 8.0 6.1 7.4
Source: Deutscher Wetterdienst[11]

AdministrationEdit

 
Map of the Tarawa atoll. The airplane symbol shows Bonriki International Airport.

Tarawa atoll has three administrative subdivisions: Betio Town Council (or BTC), on Betio Islet; Teinainano Urban Council [it] (or TUC), from Bairiki to Tanaea; and Eutan Tarawa Council (or ETC), for North Tarawa or Tarawa Ieta, consisting of all the islets on the east side from Buota northwards.[12] The meaning of Teinainano is "down of the mast", alluding to the sail-shape of the atoll.[citation needed]

South Tarawa hosts the capital of the Republic of Kiribati and was also the central headquarters of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands since 1895. The House of Assembly is in Ambo, and the State House is in Bairiki. The offices of the various ministries of the government range from Betio at the south-west extreme to Nawerewere (in an easterly island in its chain), close to Bonriki (International Airport) and Temwaiku. Settlements on North Tarawa include Buariki, Abaokoro, Marenanuka and Taborio.

Diplomatic missionsEdit

Three resident diplomatic missions exist: the embassy of People’s Republic of China (closed in 2003, re-opened in 2020), and the high commissions of Australia and New Zealand.

HistoryEdit

 
Japanese World War II defenses on Tarawa

In Kiribati mythology, Tarawa was the earth when the land, ocean and sky had not been cleaved yet by Nareau the spider. Thus after calling the sky karawa and the ocean marawa, he called the piece of rock that Riiki (another god that Nareau found) had stood upon when he lifted up the sky as, Tarawa. Nareau then created the rest of the islands in Kiribati and also Samoa.

Gilbertese arrived on these islands thousands of years ago, and there have been migrations to and from Kiribati since antiquity.[13]

Evidence from a range of sources, including carbon dating and DNA analyses, confirms that the exploration of the Pacific included settlement of the Gilbert Islands by around 200 BC. The people of Tungaru (native name of the Gilbertese) are still excellent seafarers, capable of making ocean crossings in locally made vessels using traditional navigation techniques.[14]

Thomas Gilbert, captain of the East India Company vessel Charlotte, was the first European to describe Tarawa, arriving on 20 June 1788. He did not land. He named it Matthew Island, after the owner of his ship Charlotte. He named the lagoon, Charlotte Bay.[15] Gilbert's 1788 sketches survive.

 
Map of Tarawa, from US Ex Ex survey

The island was surveyed in 1841 by the US Exploring Expedition.[16]

Charles Richard Swayne, the first Resident Commissioner decided to install the central headquarters of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands protectorate in Tarawa in 1895. Tarawa Post Office opened on 1 January 1911.[17]

Sir Arthur Grimble was a cadet administrative officer based at Tarawa (1913–1919)[18] and became Resident Commissioner of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony in 1926.[19]

With the Marines at Tarawa documentary film, 1944 (0:20:10)

During World War II, Tarawa was occupied by the Japanese, and beginning on 20 November 1943 it was the scene of the bloody Battle of Tarawa. On that day United States Marines landed on Tarawa and fought Japanese soldiers occupying entrenched positions on the atoll. The Marines captured the island after 76 hours of intense fighting that killed 6,000 people on both sides.

The fierce fighting was the subject of a documentary film produced by the Combat Photographers of the Second Marine Division entitled With the Marines at Tarawa. It was released in March 1944 at the insistence of President Roosevelt. It became the first time many Americans viewed American servicemen dead on film.[citation needed]

The Kiribati Government commenced a road restoration project funded in part by the World Bank in 2014 to re-surface the main road between Betio in the West to Bonriki in the East,[20] upgrading the main road that transits Tarawa from a dirt road. As of 2018, all that remained to be completed of this project was the sealing of Japanese Causeway, connecting Bairiki and Betio, done in 2019.

Literature and journalEdit

  • A Pattern of Islands by Sir Arthur Grimble, John Murray & Co, London, 1952; republished 2011 by Eland, London, ISBN 978-1-906011-45-1
  • Return to the Islands by Sir Arthur Grimble, John Murray & Co, London, 1957
  • The 2004 book The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost is a lighthearted account of the author's two years living on Tarawa.
  • The Precedence of Tarawa Atoll, by H.E. Maude and Edwin Doran Jr, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 56, No. 2 (Jun., 1966), pp. 269-289.
  • Kiribati. Cronache illustrate da una terra (s)perduta is an illustrated book of Alice Piciocchi (illustrator: Andrea Angeli). March 2016. 24 Ore Cultura, Milan, also in French translation Chronique illustrée d’un archipel perdu, éditions du Rouergue, 2018.

In popular cultureEdit

MemorialEdit

  • USS Tarawa was the name of the first LHA-class amphibious assault ship.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ "Kiribati government website". Government of Kiribati. Archived from the original on 26 June 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Kiribati". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.
  3. ^ "European Union – list of countries in the world".
  4. ^ Country files at earth-info.nga.mil Archived 12 August 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Kiribati Census Report 2015 Volume 1" (PDF). National Statistics Office, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Government of Kiribati. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  6. ^ Rawa. n. a passage, canal, passage through reef, a strait. Ernest Sabatier, Dictionnaire gilbertin-français, 1952.
  7. ^ "North Tarawa Island Report 2012". Government of Kiribati.
  8. ^ "South Tarawa Island Report 2012". Government of Kiribati.
  9. ^ a b Kiribati. Encyclopædia Britannica
  10. ^ a b Thomas, 3
  11. ^ "Klimatafel von Tarawa, Int. Flugh. Bonriki / Kiribati (Gilbert-Inseln)" (PDF). Baseline climate means (1961–1990) from stations all over the world (in German). Deutscher Wetterdienst. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 September 2019. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  12. ^ Dr Temakei Tebano & others (March 2008). "Island/atoll climate change profiles – Tarawaieta (North Tawara)". Office of Te Beretitent – Republic of Kiribati Island Report Series (for KAP II (Phase 2). Archived from the original on 6 November 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  13. ^ North Tarawa Socioeconomic Report 2008. Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Government of Kiribati
  14. ^ Howe, K. R. (2006). Vaka Moana – voyages of the ancestors. David Bateman. ISBN 1869536258.
  15. ^ Samuel Eliot Morison (22 May 1944). "The Gilberts & Marshalls: A distinguished historian recalls the past of two recently captured pacific groups". Life magazine. Retrieved 14 October 2009. Being now abreast of this island, the extremity ending in a beautiful clump of trees, I hauled up to look at the bay. It appeared to be safe and commodious, sheltered by a long reef running parallel with the island, with two large inlets into the bay. The reef is about ¾ of a mile from the beach, and has several small islands which appear like flower pots.
  16. ^ Stanton, William (1975). The Great United States Exploring Expedition. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 245. ISBN 0520025571.
  17. ^ Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Premier Postal Auctions. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  18. ^ Grimble, Sir Arthur (1952). "A Pattern of Islands". Early New Zealand Books (NZETC). Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  19. ^ Grimble, Sir Arthur (2011). A Pattern of Islands. John Murray & Co, London, 1952; republished 2011 by Eland, London. ISBN 978-1-906011-45-1.
  20. ^ http://www.worldbank.org/projects/P122151/kiribati-road-rehabilitation-project?lang=en

External linksEdit