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Asunto:[CeHuNews] 283/03 - Geography of Vanuatu
Fecha:Martes, 2 de Diciembre, 2003  01:36:29 (-0300)
Autor:Humboldt <humboldt>

En blanco

CeHuNews 283/03

Vanuatu, the "Timeless Islands" comprises a group of approx. 80 islands, situated some 2,250 kilometres north-east of sydney, Australia, and 800 kilometres west of Fiji. The total land area is approximately 14,700 square kilometres and the territorial waters cover 450,000 square kilometres.
The climate of the group varies from tropical in the north to sub-tropical in the south.  The average midday temperature in Port Vila is 29 degrees C. in summer and 25 degrees C. in winter.  Rainfall is about 235 centimetres (90 inches) annually. 
Both the climate and arable soils are very conducive to the development of land and livestock husbandry.
Like all islands in the Pacific Rim of Fire, the archipelago lies between two side of a fault in the earth's crust which rub against each other and cause volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that can, on some occassions, be particulary impressive.  The Vanuatu archipelago has countless craters of extinct and active volcanoes.

Along the central line running through the archipelago are the youngest and most active of the volcanoes.  Guau and Vanua Lava in the north are scarcely asleep.  Aoba consists of a powerful cone jutting upwards in a single thrust to a height of 1,400 metres (4,500 feet).

The Ambrym and Lopevi volcanoes are permanently active and are highly dangerous. Lopevi was extinct for many years but became active about 50 years ago.  Further to the south on the island of Tanna is Yasur, cited as the most accessible active volcano in the world.  It is easily visited by road and is a major tourist attraction, especially at night.
All geophysical activity is under constant monoriting by the French scientific organization, ORSTOM.
Vanuatu is recognised as one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. 
There are small communities of French, British, Australian, new Zealand, Vietnamese, Chinese and other Pacific Island people living in harmony with the Ni-Vanuatu.  Until 1980 Vanuatu, then known as the New Hebrides, was jointly administered by France and Britain as a "Condominium".

Most of Vanuatu's islands are lightly populated lush preserves of forest.  Some have active volcanoes. 
All are surrounded by sea that is still clean.  Of those inhabited, some such as Malekula and Ambrym are home to some of the South Pacific's last truly primitive people in places not easily accessible.

Tanna, an hours flight south of Port Vila is the home of the "John Frum" Cargo Cult people, and is also the location for the "Toka" ritual dance.

On the island of Pentecost the land diving ritual takes place during April and May, with men jumping from towers constructed from bush materials to be brought up just short of the ground by vines tied to their legs.


Vanuatu History

It is believed the first settlers arrived in Vanuatu approx. 3,500 years ago, from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands by sea-going canoe.

The first European to discover these islands was the Spanish explorer, Captain Pedro Ferdinand De Quiros, in 1605.  He named them "Tierra Australis del Espiritu Santo", believing he had discovered the great southern continent.The island he landed on still bears the name Espiritu Santo.

In 1768, the next European to land here was the French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville.  He put ashore on the islands of Aoba, Pentecost, and Maewo and named them the "Cyclades" after the Greek Islands and named the strait between the islands after himself. 

In 1774, Captain James Cook sailed through the chain from north to south.  He chartered many of the islands, gave many of them their present names, and renamed the archipelago the New Hebrides after the islands off Scotland, by which name it was known until Independence in 1980. 

Following Cooks voyage the islands were visited by other French explorers and by 1895 both French and English subjects had settled here.  In 1902 both nations appointed Resident Commissioners and in October 1906, Britain and France signed an agreement resolving their various claims to the country and making it a Condominium (the only one of its kind in the world) under joint management of both nations.  It is estimated that through imported diseases brought to the country by missionaries, sandalwood traders and  blackbirding etc. the population dropped from approx. 1,000,000 in 1800 to 45,000 in 1935.

At the end of 1978, the Condominium arrangement ceased, elections were held in November 1979 and the nation became independent on July 30th, 1980.  Vanuatu joined the United Nations on September 15th, 1981.