SOLOMON ISLANDS

Discover The Unexplored
SOLOMON ISLANDS
Discover The Unexplored
For many thousands of years, the Solomon Islands were the final frontier of humanity in its push to inhabit the earth. After the first people settled in the Solomon Islands, more than 20,000 years passed before a second wave of settlers pushed eastward into the Pacific.
Until recently, the Solomon Islands were a remote earthly paradise. Rich volcanic soils provided for plenty on land, while the coral reefs surrounding most of the islands made for bountiful seas.
When the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira visited the islands in 1568, he had no doubt that he had stumbled across the fabulous islands of King Solomon, even though many other places in Asia were claimed to be the source of King’s Solomon legendary wealth. The country’s name bears witness to de Neira’s unshakable conviction to this day.
It is not hard for modern travelers to understand the Spanish explorer’s certainty: improbably clear blue seas embrace dramatic volcanic islands or the gentle shores of coral islands; emerald rainforests, huge lagoons, and stunning coral reefs hold infinite allure for lovers of the tropics.
Solomon Islands: Facts and Figures
  • The Solomon Islands archipelago is made up of 8 big islands and about a thousand mostly uninhabited smaller islands.
  • The country is the most easterly of the six Coral Triangle states, reaching far into the Pacific between Papua New Guinea and several other Pacific nations: Nauru, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Western Samoa, Fiji, and Vanuatu.
  • The Solomon Islands is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Malaysia and Papua New Guinea are the other two Coral Triangle countries that have Commonwealth membership. Queen Elisabeth II is acts as head of state for the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
  • The Solomon Islands is the third-largest island nation in the South Pacific, after Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.
Population
  • Just over half a million people live in the Solomon Islands.
  • More than 75 percent of Solomon Islanders are fishermen or subsistence farmers.
  • More than 70 languages are spoken in the Solomon Islands, reflecting the islanders’ ethnic diversity.
Economy and Environment
  • The economy of the Solomon Islands is based on subsistence farming and fishing as well as several exports, primarily timber, palm oil and copra, and agricultural commodities. Marine-based tourism such as diving also plays an important economic role. The country also relies heavily on foreign aid.
  • Most of the country’s forests are over-exploited, due to the timber industry being the country’s strongest export product, carrying much of the country’s economy. The country is listed as one of the 10 most threatened forest ecoregions in the world.
  • Only 35 percent of the country’s land is suited for cultivation and most of the soil is impoverished due to agricultural pressure.
  • Low-lying lands of the Solomon Islands are vanishing under the pressure of climate change and rising sea levels. The smaller outer islands and atolls are most affected, with some losing stretches of land as wide as 40–50 meters to the sea. Crops are devastated by these developments; as a consequence, food security is declining in the Solomon Islands, particularly for people living on atolls or in coastal villages.
  • About 1,000 people living in Choiseul on Taro Island will be relocated to a neighbouring bigger island because of rising sea levels. This is the first case of planned evacuation due to climate change in the Pacific.
  • Rennell Island is the second-largest raised atoll in the world, with a total area of 250 square miles.
  • The Solomon Islands are home to 26 species of mangrove, or approximately 43 percent of the world’s mangrove species. Mangroves grow near or in salty coastal waters. They provide habitat for many species and nurseries for a range of food fish. They also function as natural water purifiers, protecting corals from toxic land waste while feeding them necessary nutrients.
  • 485 species of coral and just over 1,000 species of fish have been identified in Solomon Islands’ waters.
  • More than 45 percent of reefs in the Solomon Islands are at risk due to various causes, such as overfishing, damage from ships, and destructive fishing methods.
History and Culture
  • The Solomon Islands were first settled approximately 30,000 years ago by people coming from Papua New Guinea; until approximately 2,000 BC, the archipelago was the furthest outpost of humanity into the Pacific. Melanesians were the second wave of settlers approximately 4,000 years ago, followed by a third wave of settlers from Polynesia.
  • The Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, the first European to visit the archipelago in 1568, named the islands after the Biblical King Solomon when he found some gold at the mouth of Mataniko River on Guadalcanal Island, near present-day Honiara. The Solomon Islands is one of the many places in Asia which was thought to be the source of King Solomon’s gold.
  • Before the islands’ discovery by European explorers, shells were used for ornamentation and as a currency.
  • A large percentage of land and ocean is managed under customary rights systems, traditionally practiced to balance resources as well as social relations.
  • East Rennell on Rennell Island is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It covers marine, coastal, freshwater, and forest habitats. 1,200 people live there.
And yet, there are dangers lurking beneath this paradisiacal image. Deforestation, mining, and pollution gnaw at the islands’ beauty and integrity. While thousands of years ago the Solomon Islands were an outpost of humanity’s promise and dreams, they now spearhead the retreat from rising waters that threaten island and coastal nations around the world: Choiseul on Taro Island is the first town in the Pacific to be relocated due to climate change damages. Today the Solomon Islands is suffering from land degradation, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, and excessive nutrients and other pollution entering coastal waters due to increasing shoreline urbanization.
What can you do?
Help the Solomon Islands protect its marine riches
Coral Triangle Center