Nation in the W Pacific Ocean, S of the equator and E of the Solomon Island s. Tuvalu is an island nation, consisting of the nine coral atolls of the Ellice Island s, sometimes called the Lagoon Island s. People from Samoa invaded the island s in the 16th century, and Polynesians replaced the Melanesian inhabitants.
The island group as a whole was discovered in 1764 by John Byron of Great Britain. One of the island s, Nanumea, was probably discovered in 1781; and Fanafuti, the main island , was reached in 1819.
Great Britain declared a protectorate over the island s in 1892 and in 1915 made them part of the Gilbert and Ellice Island s Colony.
In April 1943, during World War II, U.S. Marines occupied Fanafuti and established a military base, as they did on Nanumea in September. The people of the island s voted to separate from the Gilberts, now Kiribati, in 1974, and the separation took place on January 1, 1976. On October 1, 1978, the Ellice Island s became independent as Tuvalu, a special member of the British Commonwealth. In 1979, Tuvalu signed a treaty of friendship with the United States, which recognized Tuvalu’s possession of four small island s formerly claimed by the United States.
In 2001 the government of Tuvalu requested help from Australia and New Zealand in resettling its people if global warming leads to a significant rise in sea level, inundating the island s. While copra was the main export, significant revenue comes from telecommunications licensing for 900 numbers, fishing rights payments, and remittances from overseas workers.