Vanuatu Facts

Vanuatu Facts and History


The name Vanuatu means: “our eternal land”. The population of Vanuatu is called Ni-Vanuatu. Vanuatu was formerly known as the New Hebrides. The island state consists of 83 islands, 65 of which are guarded.

James Cook (1728-1779) gave the islands the name New Hebrides, because the gloomy chain of islands reminded him of the Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland. Vanuatu is one of the most culturally and scenically diverse archipelagos in the Pacific.

Since the Pacific plate meets the Australian plate here, there are frequent earthquakes and there are also active volcanoes on the islands of Tanna and Ambrym, for example. Almost all islands are blessed with beautiful sandy beaches.

The islanders still maintain traditions such as traditional dances and diving.

The country has only recently been increasingly developed for tourism. With the new flight connections to Australia and New Zealand, the vast majority of tourists are from these countries.

According to the “Happy Planet Index 2006”, Vanuatu is said to be home to the happiest people in the world.

On March 13, 2015, the island was hit by a huge hurricane, known here as a cyclone, with winds of up to a little less than 300 km/h afflicted.

The storm left behind massive damage and probably 10 dead.

Name of the country Republic of Vanuatu
Form of government Parliamentary republic
Geographical location Island nation in the western part of the South Pacific
National anthem “Yumi yumi yumi i glat blong talem se,yumi, yumi, yumi i man blong Vanuatu”

“We, we, we are happy to tell,

we, we, we are the people of Vanuatu.”

Population approx. 250,000 (Credit: Countryaah: Vanuatu Population)
Ethnicities About 98% are Melanesians, the rest: Europeans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Pacific Islanders
Religions Christianity, natural religions, kargo cults
Languages French, English and Bislama
Capital Port Vila, with about 35,000 residents
Surface approx. 12,200 kmĀ²
Highest mountain Tabwemasana, at an altitude of 1,877 m
Longest river Le Jourdain
Largest lake in area Lac Manar
International license plate VU
Currency Vatu (VT) = 100 centimes
Time difference to CET +10 h
International phone code +678
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .vu

Vanuatu: history


Since the culture and thus the history of the residents of the South Sea was passed down orally, legends often have to be used to research the history of the country. Therefore, in addition to the scientifically verifiable history, we also present traditional legends about the history of the country:

Told traditions tell of an old chief, called Roymatu, who knew how to unite the hostile and cannibalistic tribes. His brother, driven by jealousy, shot Raymatu with a poisoned arrow. This then died a slow, agonizing death. While he was struggling with death, he was carried around the island of Efate to bid farewell to the tribes pacified by him.

He was taken to the Feles Caves on Lepala Island, where he then died. He was then taken to Devil Point to the Tukutuku Underwater Caves and the Retoka Islands, also known as Hat Islands, where he was buried. Members of his tribe were burned as companions.

This old burial site was examined by archaeologists who dated the finds there to the year 1,300 BC.

Early history

According to Abbreviationfinder website, it is generally assumed that Vanuatu was first settled from Papua New Guinea about 6,000 years ago.

The Europeans are coming

In the late 16th century, Europeans believed in the existence of a southern continent. Therefore, they undertook numerous expeditions.

The Portuguese Pedro Ferdinand de Quiros (1555-1614), commissioned by the Viceroy of Peru, set out from Peru to find the country, to colonize it and to evangelize the natives to the Catholic faith. De Quiros first reached the Solomon Islands that had previously been discovered by a Spanish expedition.

De Quiro then saw Mount Mere Lava on April 25, 1606 and stopped briefly on the island of Gaua. He then sailed further south until he reached Big Bay on May 3, 1606. He named the country Australia del Espiritu Santo because he believed he had found the continent he was looking for.

Upon landing on Big Bay, he murdered all the nosy natives and took possession of the land in the name of the Spanish Crown. He founded the New Jerusalem colony near the Jordan River. De Quiros later went nuts, made himself king and enslaved the entire ship’s crew.

But after just 54 days de Quiros was forced to leave the island because the crew mutinied and the natives did theirs. It would be another 160 years before the next conqueror set foot on the island.

The Frenchman Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811) reached the islands in 1766, which he named Maew, Pentecost, Ambrym and Malekula islands. Incidentally, the beautiful flowers were named after him. He found out that Espiritu Santo was not the continent he was looking for, just an island. So he only went ashore to take provisions.

James Cook (1728-1779) reached Espiritu Santo on his second voyage in 1774. He crossed the waters intensely. However, the hostile natives did not allow landing on the islands.

Both Bourgainville and Cook had noticed that there were two different races on the islands, one with darker, smaller people (Melanesians) and one with larger, light-skinned people (Polynesians).

Sandalwood and traders

By 1820 almost all of the sandalwood reserves in the northern hemisphere were used up. Sandalwood was held in high regard by the Chinese. B. the British for example with the Chinese sandalwood for tea.

After the Irishman Peter Dillon (1788-1847) discovered a large deposit of sandalwood on the Vanuatian island of Erromango, the exploitation of these reserves began immediately. Sandalwood was soon cut on the islands of Efate, Anteityum and Tanna.

As the Vanuatuans saw more and more of their forests disappear, the price of sandalwood began to rise. They no longer only demanded metal, dogs or goats for it, but weapons, tobacco, hostile tribal members to eat or boats to destroy their villages. Traders often footed the bill by leaving without paying. At the next return the mood was accordingly hostile. However, the traders were not squeamish and often began to simply kill the natives because they viewed them as savages.

Another strategy was to introduce diseases to which the locals were not immune. So were z. B. Seafarers with measles brought ashore to infect the natives who were fatal to the disease.

With the introduction of the Ruhr in 1840 and the measles in 1861 on Errommango, the population was reduced to 800 residents.

By 1860 the sandalwood deposits were almost completely exhausted and the majority of the natives were killed.

human trafficking

The business was now switched to human trafficking. The Australian Aborigines were of no use as workers. Therefore, workers were needed for the sugar cane plantations in Fiji and in the mines in New Caledonia. It is not uncommon for those recruited to end up in slavery. Only 20% of the workers ever returned to their home islands.

When Australia introduced the Pacific Island Labor Bill in 1901, trafficking in human beings was stopped.

In addition to the decimation of the population in the above-mentioned way, they were mostly robbed of their cultural identity by missionaries.


The missionaries initially met with great opposition. John Williams (1796-1839) was eaten by the London Missonary Society in 1839. For this reason the Europeans sent converted Polynesians as missionaries. Many of them were also killed. In 1845 Samoan teachers were sent to the island of Afate, who were not to survive long.

The Catholics proselytized the natives most successfully because they allowed them to preserve elements of their culture.

The British-French condominate

Under a condominate or condominium one understands the rule of two or more states over a certain area. In 1875, settlers from the island of Tanna sent a petition to France requesting that the island be annexed. A year later, the settlers from Efate asked for it too. The Prebysterians then sent petitions to Great Britain and Australia and also asked for annexation. However, the countries contacted agreed not to annex.

In 1906, the Anglo-French condominium was sealed. The New Hebrides, as Vanuatu was still called at the time, were ruled by both countries. This construct lasted 74 years.

The system began to falter at the beginning of World War II. The people of France were among the first to support General Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) in the Pacific in 1940.

The Japanese reached the neighboring Solomon Islands in 1942, whereupon the Americans took over the regiment in the New Hebrides in May 1942. With the establishment of a military base, they brought with them a successful infrastructure from which the locals also benefited. The Americans were very popular with them because they treated the Ni-Vatuans equally, paid them well for their work and gave them modern equipment such as B. brought cool boxes.

However, the Americans quickly disappeared again in 1945. They sank their equipment in the sea because the condominium refused to pay for the equipment they left behind.

Today there are popular diving spots at these locations, such as B. the Million Dollar Point in Espiritu Santo.

The old condominium was to continue to exist until the 1960s.


In the 1970s, society began to polarize into Francophiles and Anglophiles. In 1975 the first elections for a representative assembly took place.

The new elections in 1979 resulted in an absolute majority in the Vanua-aku Party.

The Declaration of Independence, which separated Vanuatu from France and Great Britain, took place on July 30, 1980.

The first Prime Minister was the Anglican clergyman Walter Lini (1942-1999).

The majority of the Francophiles then left the country and were financially compensated by the French government.

Vanuatu Facts