Transpacific 2016 STOP 11

June 21, 2016

Flight distance: 420 nm
Hours in the air: 2.10

A short hop and flying time of under two hours brought us to the tiny island and nation of Nauru. The entire landmass is just over 20 square-kilometer and one can comfortable drive around in 20 minutes. Since both hotels were booked we decided to go for a lunch followed by a quick tour around the island. The main “event” so to say these days are the Australian operated refugee detention camps of which there are several dotted across the island. Some are smaller open communities and then there is a main closed camp. The latter had been intentionally burned down by the refugees out of protest a few years ago. Yet one can see that the Australian government is putting huge means in terms of money and effort to rebuild and upgrade it. The hay days of the phosphate age can not be overseen while some minor digging continues but economic validity is in doubt. After three hours we went back to the airport where handling was very fast as there was no scheduled flight today.

Facts & figures

Nauru, officially the Republic of Nauru (formerly known as Pleasant Island) is an island country in Micronesia in the Central Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, 300 kilometers to the east. With only around 9’000 residents in a 21 square-kilometer area, Nauru is the smallest state in the South Pacific and third smallest state by area in the world, behind only Vatican City and Monaco.

Nauru is a phosphate rock island with rich deposits, which allowed easy mining. It has some remaining phosphate resources which, as of 2011, are not economically viable for extraction. In the hay days of phosphate mining Nauru boasted the highest per-capita income by any sovereign state in the world during the late 1960s and early 1970s. When the phosphate reserves were exhausted, and the trust mismanaged most of the funds, Nauru is now one of the poorest nations in the world and depends on Australian aid in exchange for hosting the Nauru detention center, which has the main purpose to house illegal immigrants kept away from the Australian mainland.

Settled by native peoples from Micronesia and Polynesia, Nauru was annexed and claimed as a colony by the German Empire in the late 19th century. After World War I, Nauru became a League of Nations mandate administered by Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. During World War II, Nauru was occupied by Japanese troops, who were bypassed by the Allied advance across the Pacific. After the war ended, the country entered into UN trusteeship. Nauru gained its independence in 1968.