Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia, east-northeast of the Solomons’ Santa Cruz Islands, southeast of Nauru, south of Kiribati, west of Tokelau, northwest of Samoa and Wallis and Futuna, and north of Fiji. It consists of three reef islands and six genuine atolls located between 5° and 10° south latitude and 176° to 180° longitude west of the International Date Line. Tuvalu’s population is 10,640 people (2012 census). Tuvalu’s islands have a total land area of 26 square kilometers (10 sq mi).
Tuvalu’s earliest residents were Polynesians. Polynesians are said to have expanded out from Samoa and Tonga into the Tuvaluan atolls, with Tuvalu serving as a stepping stone to migration into the Polynesian Outlier settlements in Melanesia and Micronesia.
During his voyage in pursuit of Terra Australis in 1568, Spanish sailor lvaro de Mendaawa was the first European to sail through the archipelago, seeing the island of Nui. Funafuti Island was renamed Ellice’s Island in 1819, and the name Ellice was given to all nine islands following the work of English hydrographer Alexander George Findlay. The islands fell under British control in the late nineteenth century, when Captain Gibson of HMS Curacoa proclaimed each of the Ellice Islands a British Protectorate between 9 and 16 October 1892. From 1892 to 1916, the Ellice Islands were governed as a British protectorate by a Resident Commissioner as part of the British Western Pacific Territories (BWPT), and then from 1916 to 1974 as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony.
In December 1974, a vote was conducted to decide whether the Gilbert and Ellice Islands should each have their own government. As a result of the referendum, the colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands ceased to exist on January 1, 1976, and the independent British colonies of Kiribati and Tuvalu were established. Tuvalu gained complete independence from the Commonwealth on October 1, 1978. Tuvalu became the 189th member of the United Nations on September 5, 2000.