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Photo of Tabuaeran, Kiribati
Tabuaeran, as seen from space.
Source: International Space Station

Area in km2Population


Captain Edmund Fanning discovered the island on 11 June, 1798 and named it Fanning Island, after himself. Following discovery, Fanning was visited by whalers on several occasions.

Industry and politics

For a time prior to 1854, Captain Henry English settled the island along with 150 natives from Manihiki, an atoll in the Cook Islands. With these natives, Captain English utilized the island's coconut palms to produce coconut oil. Captain W. H. Morshead, in H.M.S. Dido, proclaimed Fanning a British protectorate on 16 October, 1855 (Bryan 143).

Fanning Island experienced an upsurge in guano digging from 1877 to 1879. in 1885 guano was still being exported, but by 1879 this had stopped, being replaced by copra exports (Bryan 143).

On 15 March, 1888, Fanning was officially annexed to Great Britain by Captain William Wiseman, of H.M.S. Caroline.

Ownership, population and industry changed over time before Fanning Islands, Limited, was formed to manage both Fanning and nearby Washington Island. In 1935, on account of low profits from the plummeting price of copra, Fanning Islands, Limited, was sold to a subsidiary of Burns, Philp and Co., Ltd., known as Fanning Island Plantations, Ltd (Bryan 143).

In 1902, a cable relay station was established on Fanning Island. Fanning served as the midway point between Vancouver Island, Canada, and Suva, Fiji. Luxuries such as electricity, a library and a doctor were provided for men, along with their families, who spent two years at a time tending to the relay station (Bryan 144).

In 1914, masquerading as a French ship, the Germany cruiser Nürnburg landed on Fanning Island and sabotaged the cable relay station. Within two weeks the severed underwater cables were repaired, with the aide of Hugh Greig, restoring communication (Bryan 144).

  • Bryan, Edwin H. American Polynesia and the Hawaiian Chain. Honolulu: Tongg Company, 1942.