Friday, July 22, 2011

Mystery photo

Can you identify the following object?

It is not a raindrop. It is not a splatter of any kind, so don’t even go there. This is a family blog. It is not a species of jellyfish. It DOES have something to do with the geography quiz in the preceding post, however.

Give up?

Okay, I’ll tell you. This is an aerial view of Funafuti (foo-nah-FOO-tee?), an atoll that forms the capital of the island nation of Tuvalu. It had a population of 4,092 in the 2000 census, making it the most populated atoll in the country. According to Wikipedia, it is a narrow sweep of land between 20 and 400 metres wide, encircling a large lagoon 18 km long and 14 km wide, by far the largest lagoon in Tuvalu. The land area of the 33 islets aggregates to 2.4 km², less than one percent of the total area of the atoll. There is an airstrip, a hotel, and administrative buildings, as well as homes, constructed both in the traditional manner, out of palm fronds, and more recently out of cement blocks. Sites of interest include the remains of United States aircraft that crashed on Funafuti during World War II, when the airstrip was used by the U.S. forces to defend the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands.

The largest island is Fongafale (fon-guh-FAH-leh?). The island houses four villages, including Vaiaku (vah-ee-AH-ku?), seat of the Tuvalu government. The capital of Tuvalu is sometimes given as Fongafale or Vaiaku, but the entire atoll of Funafuti is officially the capital.

There are at least 33 islands in the atoll. The biggest is Fongafale, followed by Funafala. At least three islands are inhabited, which are Fongafale, the main island in the east, Funafala in the south, and Amatuku in the north. The names of the islands are:

Fale Fatu (or Falefatu)
Fualefeke (or Fualifeke)
Papa Elise (or Funangongo)
Te Afuafou
Te Afualiku
Tengako (peninsula of the island of Fongafale)
Tepuka Vili Vili
and at least 5 other islands.

I am not making any of this up.

The Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu is located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls. Its population of 10,472 makes it the third-least populous sovereign state in the world, with only Vatican City and Nauru having fewer inhabitants.

And now, if you should ever run into someone from Funafuti or Fongafale or Falefatu or Funafale or Tepuka Vili Vili or even Pukasavilivili (possibly Mikheil Saakashvili, the third and current president of Georgia -- not my Georgia, the other one), you can truthfully say that you know what the flag of Tuvalu looks like:

This post cannot hold a candle to Yorkshire Pudding’s firsthand accounts of Cambodia and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) or Silverback’s recent vacation in Northern Ireland with Daphne and Steven or any of Helsie’s posts made while tootling about both Australia and England, but I do what I can.

Three guesses who this is, and the first two don’t count.

1. Amelia Earhart
2. Yorkshire Pudding
3. Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, whose flag looks this:


Trivia Item of the Day and The Reason I Decided To Write This Post: The domain name “.tv” is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the islands of Tuvalu. Except for reserved names like,, and others, any person may register second-level domains in tv. The domain name is popular, and thus economically valuable, because it is an abbreviation of the word ‘television’. The domain is currently operated by dotTV, a Verisign company; the Tuvalu government owns twenty percent of the company.
In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name “.tv” for $50 million in royalties over a 12-year period. The Tuvalu government receives a quarterly payment of US$1 million for use of the top-level domain.

(Woman on Funafuti, 1900. Photo by H.C. Fassett)

She’s come a long way, baby.


  1. I feel as though I had stumbled into an advanced geography class! Interesting, but TMI for this early in the morning.:)

  2. I concue with brain hurts ;-)

  3. See, my brain hurts so much, I misspelled concur....LOL

  4. Fascinating and formerly the Ellice Islands named after a politician from Coventry for no obvious reason!

  5. A fascinating post Robert. I have always wanted to visit the Ellice Islands having spent the last of my teenage years teaching on Rotuma which is the very next island south on the way to Fiji. Sadly, Funafuti is very much threatened by global warming and one day in the not too distant future the islands will surely be washed away.

  6. I knew what it was before you told us, lol.

  7. Thanks to all for commenting!

    Pat, sometimes a little TMI is good for the soul...gets the old brain cells working!

    Angela, but you didn't misspell misspelled!

    My English friends Shooting Parrots and Yorkshire Pudding, you are right that Tuvalu used to be known as the Ellice Islands!

    Glenda, if Y.P. is right about global warming, soon Funafuti will be nothing atoll.

  8. nothing atoll, ha, ha ha ,ha

  9. nothing atoll huh?! I live here on Funafuti and it makes me so sad and pretty sick to hear or read such thoughtless comments! We have been subjected to ridicule over this global warming/sea-level rise issues ... tell me, do we deserve such treatment? We are suffering enough as it is so a little more respect is all we ask for!

  10. If you, Anonymous, are truly a resident of Funafuti, I apologize sincerely and I repent in sackcloth and ashes and, to quote our own President Clinton, I feel your pain. However, if you are who I think you are (and I have three possible candidates in mind--make that four), I send you a raspberry.

    Saying "nothing atoll" was a dead giveaway.