Travel Tale No. 9 - Volume 3 - Kiribati - Paradise
I admired the beauty and tranquility of
and the group of 33 coral atolls in the
, straddling the equator and bordering the International Date Line, I used them
as an exotic locale in my novel: Murder
by Roses. Prior to their
independence, they were named the
, in honor of Thomas Gilbert who crossed the archipelago in 1788.
first discovered this tropical paradise when we took a cruise ship around the
is pronounced Kiribas in Gilbertese, but it is officially the Republic
Kiribati, which was originally inhabited by a Micronesian ethnic group which spoke the
same language for 2,000 years, prior to coming into contact with Europeans.
These islands were first sighted by British ships in the 18th
century, and colonized by settlers in 1837, becoming a British protectorate and
a Crown colony in 1916. Although i-Kiribati is widely spoken among the natives,
English is their official language.
Atoll and other islands of the Gilbert group were occupied by Japan
during WWII. Tarawa
was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in U. S. Marine Corps history when
they landed in 1943. Line
and other atolls were used by the United States
and Great Britain
for atomic bomb testing. The Gilbert Islands
gained self-rule from Britain
in 1971, and Ellice Islands
broke away also becoming the independent nation of Tuvalu
in1978. In 1999, Kiribati
gained UN membership. Their currency is the Australian dollar.
passed a controversial law enabling their government to shut down newspapers,
and limiting freedom of speech, but overall it has one of the most positive
records of human rights in the world. And
that is why when I needed to hide a character who was being accused of murder, I
stuck him on a coral atoll where nobody could find him, until he could establish
of the country's population, around 88,000, live in the Gilbert Islands.
Only three of the Line Islands
are inhabited. Kiribati maintains good relations with its
Pacific neighbors: Japan, Australia
and New Zealand
for their survival and foreign aid. In 1999, they announced they would lease
land on Kiritimati (
) for US $840,000 per year, for 20 years to Japan
to build its unmanned space shuttle Hope-X, but the plans were eventually
cancelled by Japan. Kiritimati is the world's
largest atoll. Banaba is a raised coral island that was once rich in phosphates
which were aggressively mined. Most
of their houses are made of materials from coconut and pandanus
is the main religion, as it was introduced by the Protestant and Mormon missionaries; although Roman Catholicism predominates.
When I spoke to Tiriamtika my guide, (who is photographed next to the
coconuts,) he explained in very
good English, that the coconut palm is the most common form of vegetation, (as
you can see in these photos) which produce copra.
Seaweed and fisheries are still widely used as a form of economic subsistence.
my Author's Note in Murder by Roses, I talk about the problems of global warming and the greenhouse effects on Tuvalu.
Since I have always loved the
ocean, I was distressed that maybe some of the low-lying atolls, no more than
six feet above sea level, might be swallowed up by the sea, and the inhabitants
will have to repatriate to New Zealand.
Kiribati, seems to have a significant land mass so it will
not be adversely affected by rising water levels.
is becoming a widespread problem throughout Oceania, and has prompted the
Pacific Island Government of Tuvalu to commence legal
action in the International Court of Justice, against countries responsible for
polluting and greenhouse emissions. The refusal of the United States
to sign the Kyoto Protocol raised the alarm in the Pacific region.
for tourism, but incorrectly, Kiribati's 1995 act, moved the
International Date Line far to the east to encompass Kiribati's Line Islands
groups, so that they could claim Kiribati
as "the first country to see the dawn of
January 1, 2000
," and also renamed Caroline
Although our ship only spent one day anchored near Kiribati, I chose to walk
around the beach barefoot taking pictures of the white powdery sand, aquamarine
waters, and thousands of coconut palms, singing: "I'm As Corny As Kansas in
August; I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My
Hair; Bali Hi," and one of my favorites: "Some Enchanted Evening,"
fantasizing I was in South Pacific; which I was!
you have to do is look at my photos to see there really is a paradise on earth.
- if only Eve hadn't handed Adam that apple we wouldn't have been kicked out of it! Then again, maybe she
gave him a coconut filled with rum. Delicious
stuff! With a backdrop of such
beauty who can resist writing a romance novel.