Tuvalu is the most recent country to join the United Nations. All the fuss about global warming has brought attention to the plight of this multi-island nation, which consists of scattered atolls susceptible to rising sea levels. The country's web site describes Tuvalu as
an independent constitutional monarchy in the southwest Pacific Ocean between latitudes 5 degrees and 11 degrees south and longitudes 176 degrees and 180 degrees east. Formerly known as the Ellice Islands, they separated from the Gilbert Islands after a referendum in 1975, and achieved independence from Great Britain on October 1, 1978. The population of 11,636 (est 2005) live on Tuvalu's nine atolls, which have a total land area of 10 square miles, or 27 square kilometres. This ranks Tuvalu as the fourth smallest country in the world, in terms of land area.
The site has information on the history of Tuvalu, including its involvement in WW2, the changing flag and other matters of interest. Some myths and legends from Tuvalu are chronicled here. The CIA Factbook entry gives Tuvalu's comparative size as "0.1 times the size of Washington, DC" and its range of elevation as
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 5 m
and highlights the environmental crisis:
since there are no streams or rivers and groundwater is not potable, most water needs must be met by catchment systems with storage facilities (the Japanese Government has built one desalination plant and plans to build one other); beachhead erosion because of the use of sand for building materials; excessive clearance of forest undergrowth for use as fuel; damage to coral reefs from the spread of the Crown of Thorns starfish; Tuvalu is concerned about global increases in greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on rising sea levels, which threaten the country's underground water table; in 2000, the government appealed to Australia and New Zealand to take in Tuvaluans if rising sea levels should make evacuation necessary
The BBC site has a profile of Tuvalu here.
Videos illustrating life on the islands include one emphasizing their culture:
a welcome to the various individual islands (in 3 parts):
a GoogleEarth tour which would remind me of a certain video game if they hadn't used such dreadfully schmaltzy music:
There's an experimental foreign film named Tuvalu. There's a good review of the film here.
The map at the top of this post came from here.