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Solomons - Geography

Solomon Islands comprises a scattered archipelago of 994 islands combining mountainous islands as well as low lying coral atolls within a tuna-rich and potentially mineral-rich maritime Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) of 1.34 million square kilometres. The land area of 28,000 square kilometres with 4,023 kilometres of coastline is the second largest in the Pacific after Papua New Guinea. The highest point in the country, Mt Makarakomburu is 2,447m above sea level and is the highest peak in the insular Pacific. There are six main islands, Choiseul, New Georgia, Santa Isabel, Malaita, Guadalcanal and Makira, which are characterized by a rugged and mountainous landscape of volcanic origin. Between and beyond the bigger islands are hundreds of smaller volcanic islands and low lying coral atolls. All of the mountainous islands of volcanic origin are forested with many coastal areas surrounded by fringing reefs and lagoons.

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The islands are grouped into three different major “geological provinces?; the Pacific Geological Province (including Malaita, Ulawa and North Eastern part of Santa Isabel island); Central Geological Province (Makira, Guadalcanal and the Florida Islands, SouthWestern part of Isabel and Choiseul) and; the Volcanic Geological Province (New Georgia, Russell Islands, Shortland Islands and North Western tip of Guadalcanal and Savo). Guadalcanal is the largest island and the only one with a significant area of grassland and rich alluvium soils. Most of the islands have highly weathered soils of low fertility with pockets of fertile areas mainly on volcanic islands and river valleys.

The country is situated within the earthquake belt or “Ring of Fire? which makes it extremely vulnerable to the effects and impacts of earthquakes. A major earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale occurred in the Western Province in 2007 causing a major tsunami that affected the Western and Choiseul provinces and causing 52 deaths and scores missing. About 40,000 people were affected. Many islands have subsided whilst a few have been uplifted a few metres. Extensive damage was experienced throughout the two provinces costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The country and many communities and individuals are still recovering from this double disaster event.

On 2 Apr 2007 a massive earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter Scale occurred 40km off the island of Gizo in the Georgia Islands of Western Province, 345km from Honiara. The resulting tsunami, measuring between two and 10m high, struck western Solomon Islands and wiped out thirteen villages, killed 52 people, and left up to 7000 people homeless. The island of Ranongga in the New Georgia island group was lifted three meters by the earthquake, causing its beaches to shift outwards by up to 70m. Large coral reefs in the area are now largely above the surface.

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Page last modified: 30-11-2021 13:07:03 ZULU