1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ellice (Lagoon) Islands

ELLICE (LAGOON) ISLANDS, an archipelago of the Pacific Ocean, lying between 5° and 11° S. and about 178° E., nearly midway between Fiji and Gilbert. It is under British protection, being annexed in 1892. It comprises a large number of low coralline islands and atolls, which are disposed in nine clusters extending over a distance of about 400 m. in the direction from N.W. to S.E. Their total area is 14 sq. m. and the population is about 2400. The chief groups, all yielding coco-nuts, pandanus fruit and yams, are Funafuti or Ellice, Nukulailai or Mitchell, Nurakita or Sophia, Nukufetau or De Peyster, Nui or Egg, Nanomana or Hudson, and Niutao or Lynx. Nearly all the natives are Christians, Protestant missions having been long established in several of the islands. Those of Nui speak the language of the Gilbert islanders, and have a tradition that they came some generations ago from that group. All the others are of Samoan speech, and their tradition that they came thirty generations back from Samoa is supported by recent research. They have an ancient spear which they believe was brought from Samoa, and they actually name the valley from which their ancestors started. A missionary visiting the Samoan valley found there a tradition of a party who put to sea never to return, and he also found the wood of which the staff was made growing plentifully in the district. Borings and soundings taken at Funafuti in 1897 indicate almost beyond doubt that the whole of this Polynesian region is an area of comparatively recent subsidence.

See Geographical Journal, passim; and Atoll of Funafuti: Borings into a Coral Reef (Report of Coral Reef Committee of Royal Society, London, 1904).