Banaba, or Ocean Island

Banaba11Banaba is a small Pacific island in the state of Kiribati. In 1997 I had the privilege of visiting Banaba and making a documentary about it for the BBC.

Banaba used to be a British colonial possession known as Ocean Island, one of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. For the first eighty years of the 20th century the landscape was destroyed by phosphate mining. During World War II the island was occupied by the Japanese and most of the Banabans were taken away to forced labour on other islands: many of those who remained on Banaba were killed by the Japanese. In 1945 the Banabans were gathered by the Royal Navy and, without returning to Banaba, were transported against their will 2,000 miles to Rabi Island in Fiji: they arrived during the rainy season and were given tents to live in; many elderly Banabans died within weeks. When the phosphate mining ceased in 1979 some Banabans returned to their ancestral home.

You can find out more by following the links below (also in the ‘features‘ item in the menu bar above):

Other peoples’ sites about Banaba:

Google Earth:

  • Banaba Island is now shown at full resolution.
  • Rabi (pronounced ‘Rambi’) Island is at lower resolution, apart from the western tip of the island: but there are lots of YouTube and other links flagged over Rabi.