Funafuti sunset, Tuvalu
Volleyball, Funafuti airstrip, 2000
Funafuti airstrip, May 2002
Beach house, Vaitupu, Tuvalu
Nukufetau lagoon and islets
Nui lagoon, Tuvalu
Tuvalu comprises a chain, 580 kilometres long, of 9 coral islands lying between 5 and 11 degrees south of the equator, just to the west of the International Date Line. Six of the islands are built around lagoons open to the ocean. They are Nanumea, Nui, Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti and Nukulaelae. With the exception of Vaitupu where the sea enters the lagoon at only one point, these six are all atolls consisting of numerous pieces of land linked by a reef and arranged rather like a string of beads. Of the other islands, Nanumaga and Niutao have completely landlocked lagoons while Niulakita has no lagoon at all, but only a swamp at the centre. It has never had a permanent population and has not been taken into account in the naming of the Tuvalu group. Tuvalu means "group of eight".
The different islands of Tuvalu are all unique in these respects. In most of the islands of Tuvalu people believe that the Eel and the Flounder were the first creators of Tuvalu and so strong is this belief that nearly all the islands regard the Eel as tapu among the many fish that are edible.
In some places the people believed that the spirits of their great grandfathers were the creators of their islands.
In other islands they believe that a woman who once lived on the moon was the creator.
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THE STORY OF THE EEL AND THE FLOUNDER
The Eel and the Flounder were once great friends. They lived in one home in the sea and shared things together. One day they made up their minds to carry home a very huge stone to test who was the stronger of them. On the way home, they began to argue, and then to fight and the Flounder was seriously wounded. He was crushed beneath the stone but fortunately escaped death. When he had freed himself he chased the Eel who at the same time was vomiting after getting a heavy blow to his stomach. As the Eel ran for his life, still vomiting, his body became thinner and thinner. At last he hid himself in a hole. While the Flounder was still looking for him, the Eel said some magic words to help him escape. He said:
When the Eel had said these magic words the Flounder's body became flat and so provided a model for the flat islands of Tuvalu that would one day be placed in that part of the sea. The Eel's own thin round body became like a coconut tree and that is why we have coconut trees growing on all the islands of Tuvalu.
But the story did not end there. The Eel went back to the hole in the sea again but it was not satisfied with what he had done. So when the Flounder died he remembered the very big stone that they had carried. He decided to have a closer look at it and saw that it had three colours: black, white and blue. He took the stone and threw it high in the air. It did not fall; but stuck in space right above him then he said his magic words:
The big stone then began to fall down slowly to the earth. When it landed the Eel went to see the stone. He found to his surprise that much of the blue part of it had broken off and had remained in space to become the sky. The Eel was very cross that the blue part had been left behind so again he threw the stone back into the sky. This time it stuck on its black side. There was darkness all around him. It was the night. So the Eel said some magic words and the stone fell down onto its white side breaking the darkness. And so the light came and there was day. He was then able to see that of the colours of the stone, the black and white parts had been torn completely away leaving only some of the blue part. Again he took the stone and threw it in turn to the north, east, south and west. After the last throw it did not come back. Again he uttered some magic words and he saw parts of the blue stone lying all around - it was the sea. He then went to what is left of the stone and broke it into eight pieces, one for each of the main islands of Tuvalu.
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A Tuvalu Poem
TUVALU, MY TUVALU
Tuvalu, my Tuvalu the land across the sea
Tuvalu, my Tuvalu I always think of you
Your sons and daughters travel away to
Tuvalu, my Tuvalu may Gods blessings
be on you