Thirty-three low-lying coral atolls and reef islands, many with enclosed lagoons.
The atolls lie mainly in three groups, the Phoenix and Line Islands and the
Gilberts, scattered in an area of nearly 3 million sq. km. of the Pacifie Ocean. Max.

Altitude: 87 m. (285ft.) (on Ba na ba Island)
Area: 726 sq. km. (280 sq. mi.)
Density: 90 pers. sq. km. (232 pers.(sq. mi.) (1989)
Arable land: 52% (1985)
Forest: 3% (1985)

Climate: Tropical, with a rainy season from October to March. During the rest of the year, the uniformly high temperatures are moderated by north-easterly trade winds.

CAPITAL: Tarawa, pop. 26,000 (1991)


First settled by Austronesian speakers some 5,000 years ago, followed by successive migrations of Melanesians, Moluccans, and Samoans.
1500s 1600s: Several European explorers, including Grijalva and Quir6s, sight the islands.
1788: British commander Gilbert sails through the islands which are later named after him.
1840s: The first European trading post established and whaling flourishes.
1857: American Protestant mission established, followed by Catholic priests in 1888. The islanders conversion to Christianity begins.
1892: Proclaimed a British Protectorate together with Ellice Islands (now Tuvalu).
1916: Becomes a British Crown Colony.
1942-43: Japanese occupation.
1977: Achieves internal self-government.
July 12, 1979: Full independence as the Republic of Kiribati. The governmental system is based largely on clans, rather than parties.
1979: Phosphate, formerly Kiribati’s main resource, is exhausted and mining stops.
1986: Kiribati achieves independence of British budgetary support, which amounted to 24% of the country’s recurring budget at the time of independence. A treaty granting fishing rights in the 200 mile exclusive economie zone around Kiribati is signed with the Soviet Union for US$1.5m. The treaty is not renewed in 1987.
1988: A treaty was signed with the US giving access to the 200 mile exclusive economic zone to US fishing boats in return for a fee.
1989: The government begins a resettlement programme to transfer people from the crowded western atolls to the Line Islands.

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