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Geography of Nauru

Learn About the Tiny South Pacific Island Nation of Nauru


Nauru Flag

The Nauru flag is blue with a horizontal, yellow stripe and a large white star below the stripe; the star indicates the country's location in relation to the Equator (the yellow stripe) and the 12 points symbolize the 12 original tribes of Nauru.

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

Population: 9,322 (July 2011 estimate)
Capital: No Official Capital
Land Area: 8.1 square miles (21 sq km)
Coastline: 18.6 miles (30 km)
Highest Point: An unnamed point on the island's plateau rim at 200 feet (61 m)

Nauru is a very small island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean in the region of Oceania. It is the world's smallest island country at an area of just 8.5 square miles (22 sq km). Nauru had 2011 population estimate of just 9,322. The country is known for its prosperous phosphate mining operations in the early 20th century.

History of Nauru

The first Europeans to visit Nauru were whalers and traders in the 1830s. Prior to their arrival, there were 12 different native tribes living on the island. In 1878 a ten-year war began which killed around 500 people and caused the population of the island to drop to around 900 by 1888 (U.S. Department of State).

In 1886 Nauru was given to Germany with the Anglo-German Convention and ten years later phosphate was discovered. By 1906 the Pacific Phosphate Company began to mine the reserves. In 1914 during World War I, Nauru was captured by Australia and following the war the League of Nations placed the island under a joint trustee with control by United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. As a result the three formed the British Phosphate Commissioners to control phosphate mining on the island (U.S. Department of State).

Beginning in August 1942 Nauru became occupied by Japan. The occupation lasted until the end of World War II. Following the end of the war Nauru became a United Nations Trust Territory under Australia. The island then remained a territory until its independence in 1968.

Following its independence control of Nauru's phosphate reserves passed to the Nauru Phosphate Corporation in 1970. In the 1980s however the phosphate reserves ran out and the country's government turned to dealing with the environmental issues caused by the mining. In 1989 Nauru sued Australia under the International Court of Justice in The Hague due environmental destruction that occurred when the island was controlled by that country. As a result of that suit Australia paid Nauru millions of dollars which now go to restoring the island's natural environment.

Government of Nauru

Today Nauru's government is considered a republic. It has no official capital city but most of Nauru's government offices and functions are in the Yaren District of the island. The country's executive branch consists of a chief of state and a head of government (both of which are filled by the president). Nauru's legislative branch is made up of a unicameral parliament and its judicial branch is composed of the Supreme Court. The island is divided into 14 different districts.

Economics and Land Use in Nauru

Throughout most of its history Nauru's economy was based on phosphate mining, however many of these resources ran out in the 1980s. In 2006 though deeper reserves were found on the island and its mining remains an important part of Nauru's economy. Other industries on the island include offshore banking and the production of coconut products. Coconuts are the main agricultural product on the island.

Geography and Climate of Nauru

Nauru is a small island located in Oceania to the south of the Marshall Islands and just 26 miles (42 km) south of the equator (map). The island is unique because its land is made up of phosphate rock and it is one of the three largest phosphate rock islands in the Pacific (U.S. Department of State). Nauru's topography consists of sandy beaches, a narrow low elevation fertile ring and a phosphate plateau in the island's center. This plateau is where Nauru's highest elevation, an unnamed point at 200 feet (61 m), is located. The island is also ringed by coral reefs.

Because of its proximity to the equator, Nauru's climate is considered tropical. It also has a yearly monsoon which creates a rainy season from November to February.

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


Central Intelligence Agency. (25 May 2011). CIA - The World Factbook - Nauru. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/nr.html

Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Nauru: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107816.html

United States Department of State. (26 January 2011). Nauru. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/16447.htm

Wikipedia.org. (26 July 2011). Nauru - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauru

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