Solomon Islands (archipelago)

The Solomon Islands are an archipelago in the western South Pacific Ocean, located northeast of Australia. They are in the Melanesia subregion and bioregion of Oceania. The archipelago forms much of the territory of Solomon Islands, while the northwestern islands are within the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, in eastern Papua New Guinea. It forms the eastern boundary of the Solomon Sea.

Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands archipelago, with the nation Solomon Islands in beige and Bougainville (part of Papua New Guinea) in dun. (Click to enlarge)
LocationSouth Pacific
Major islandsBougainville, Guadalcanal


The Solomon Islands consist of both volcanic islands of varying activity and of coral atolls. Bougainville Island is the largest in the archipelago.


The climate of the islands is tropical; however, temperatures do not greatly fluctuate due to the heat sink of the surrounding ocean. Daytime temperatures are normally 25 to 32 °C (77 to 90 °F) and 13 to 15 °C (55 to 59 °F) at night. From April to October (the dry season), the southeast trade winds blow, gusting at times up to 30 knots (55 km/h; 35 mph) or more.

November to March is the wet season, caused by the northwest monsoon, and is typically warmer and wetter. Cyclones arise in the Coral Sea and the area of the Solomon Islands, but they usually veer toward Vanuatu and New Caledonia or down the coast of Australia.



It is believed that Papuan-speaking settlers began to arrive around 30,000 BCE from New Ireland. It was the furthest humans went in the Pacific until Austronesian speakers arrived c. 4000 BCE, also bringing cultural elements such as the outrigger canoe.[1]

It is between 1200 and 800 BCE that the ancestors of the Polynesians, the Lapita people, arrived from the Bismarck Archipelago with their characteristic ceramics.[1] Most of the languages spoken today in the Solomon Islands derive from this era, but some thirty languages of the pre-Austronesian settlers survive (see East Papuan languages).

European period

The first European to visit the islands was the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, coming from the Viceroyalty of Peru to the Spanish East Indies in 1568. The people of Solomon Islands had engaged in headhunting and cannibalism before the arrival of the Europeans.[2]

Missionaries began visiting the Solomons in the mid-19th century. They made little progress at first, because "blackbirding", the often brutal recruitment and relocation of labourers for the sugar plantations in Queensland and Fiji, led to a series of reprisals and massacres. In 1885 the Germans declared a protectorate over the northern islands, to form the German Solomon Islands Protectorate. The evils of the labour trade prompted the United Kingdom to declare a protectorate over the southern islands in June 1893, the British Solomon Islands Protectorate.[3]

In 1900, under the Treaty of Berlin, the Germans transferred a number of their Solomon Islands to the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. The remaining German Solomon Islands, at the extreme northwest of the archipelago, were retained by Germany until they fell to Australia early on in World War I. After the war the League of Nations formally mandated those islands to Australia along with the rest of German New Guinea, becoming Australian New Guinea.

During World War II, the Territory of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea were within the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (1942–1946). After the war the Australian Territory of New Guinea was administered separately from the neighbouring Territory of Papua until the year 1949 when the two territories were formally united into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.


The Territory of Papua and New Guinea became independent from Australia in the year 1975 as the modern state of Papua New Guinea. The Autonomous Region of Bougainville of Papua New Guinea was established in the northern Solomon Islands in 2000.

Following the independence of neighbouring Papua New Guinea from Australia in 1975, the British Solomon Islands gained self-government in 1976. Independence for the Solomon Islands nation was granted on 7 July 1978.


The population of the Solomons is mostly Melanesian, although minority Polynesian and Micronesian communities exist. There has also been a large influx of Chinese immigrants.


Around 60 to 70 languages are spoken in the Solomon Islands. Many Melanesian languages (predominantly of the Southeast Solomonic group) and Polynesian languages are native to the area. Immigrant populations speak Micronesian languages. English is an official language in both areas of the archipelago. There are three families of Papuan languages native to the archipelago: the North Bougainville languages, South Bougainville languages, and the Central Solomon languages.


The predominant religion on the islands is Christianity, with the largest denomination being the Anglican Church of Melanesia.


Governance of the Solomon Islands archipelago is split between the state of Solomon Islands and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. Both countries are constitutional monarchies and Commonwealth realms. Bougainville is considering independence from Papua New Guinea.

See also


  1. Kirch, Patrick Vinton (2002). On the Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23461-8
  2. "From primitive to postcolonial in Melanesia and anthropology". Bruce M. Knauft (1999). University of Michigan Press. p.103. ISBN 0-472-06687-0
  3. Lawrence, David Russell (October 2014). "Chapter 6 The British Solomon Islands Protectorate: Colonialism without capital" (PDF). The Naturalist and his "Beautiful Islands": Charles Morris Woodford in the Western Pacific. ANU Press. ISBN 9781925022032.

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