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Geography of the Marshall Islands

Learn Information about Oceania's Marshall Islands


Marshall Islands Flag

The Marshall Islands flag is blue with two stripes radiating from the lower hoist-side corner - orange (top) and white; there is a white star with four large rays and 20 small rays on the hoist side above the two stripes.

Source: CIA World Factbook, 2007
Updated August 07, 2011

Population: 67,182 (July 2011 estimate)
Capital: Majuro
Area: 70 square miles (181 sq km)
Coastline: 230 miles (370.4 km)
Highest Point: An unnamed point on Likiep at 33 feet (10 m)

The Marshall Islands, officially called the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is an island nation located in Oceania. It is a small nation with an area of just 70 square miles (181 sq km) that is made up of 29 coral atolls and five main islands that are spread out over 750,000 square miles (1,942,500 sq km) of the Pacific Ocean. Its capital and largest city is Majuro and its population is just under 68,000 people.

History of the Marshall Islands

It is believed that some of the first people to live on the Marshall Islands arrived there from Southeast Asia about 3,000 years ago. The first European to arrive on the islands was the Spanish explorer de Saavedra in 1529. Later in 1799 the English explorer, John Marshall, for whom the islands are named arrived there. In 1874, Spain claimed the islands.

In 1885 Germany established a protectorate on the Marshall Islands and set up trading outposts on several of its islands. Despite Germany's colonial control of the islands however, the Marshallese high chiefs also continued their rule of the islands (U.S. Department of State). With the beginning of World War I, Japan took control of the Marshall Islands. In 1944 though, the United States took the islands from Japan.

Following the end of World War II, the U.S. and United Nations Security Council agreed to administer the Marshall Islands and surrounding region as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The Marshall Islands remained a trust territory until May 1, 1979 when the U.S. officially recognized the constitution of the Marshall Islands and the formation of the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. This officially gave the islands their independence and a Compact of Free Association between the U.S. and the Marshall Islands came into effect in 1986.

Government of the Marshall Islands

Today the Marshall Islands are considered a constitutional government in free association with the United States. It has an executive branch of government that consists of a chief of state and a head of government who is the country's president. The Marshall Islands' legislative branch consists of a unicameral legislature, called the Nitijela, while its judicial branch is made up of a Supreme Court, a High Court and a Traditional Rights Court. The Marshall Islands are divided into 33 municipalities for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in the Marshall Islands

The economy of the Marshall Islands is small and relies on foreign assistance from the United States. There is also small scale manufacturing and limited agricultural production. The majority of the agriculture on the islands is done for subsistence. The main industries on the islands are copra, tuna processing, small craft items and some tourism (CIA World Factbook). The main agricultural products are coconuts, tomatoes, melons, taro, breadfruit, fruits, as well as pigs and chicken (CIA World Factbook).

Geography and Climate of the Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands are made up of two island archipelagos that consist of 29 atolls, many small islets and five main islands. The islands are located about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The islands are also near the equator and the International Date Line. The topography of the Marshall Islands is relatively uniform and consists mainly of low elevation coral limestone atolls and small sandy islands. The highest point on the on the Marshall Islands is an unnamed point on the island of Likiep at just 33 feet (10 m) high.

The climate of the Marshall Islands is considered tropical and as such it is hot and humid throughout much of the year. There is also a wet season from May to November and the islands are prone to typhoons throughout part of the year.

To learn more about the Marshall Islands, visit the Geography and Maps section on the Marshall Islands on this website.


Central Intelligence Agency. (5 July 2011). CIA - The World Factbook - Marshall Islands. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rm.html

Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Marshall Islands: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107767.html

United States Department of State. (27 January 2011). Marshall Islands. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/26551.htm

Wikipedia.org. (25 July 2011). Marshall Islands - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_islands

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