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History and Archaeology

During the World War II, large numbers of American troops were stationed on the islands of Tuvalu and airforce bases were strategically located to allow the allied forces to attack enemy bases in Kiribati. An old runway exists on the northeastern side of Nanumea and the remains of World War II planes are visible in the scrub. A wreck of a landing craft can be seen on the reef near the village on Nanumea. There is another World War II airstrip on the islet of Motulalo in Nukufetau, along with the remains of plane wrecks.


Funafuti atoll was the main base and remains of World War II debris can be seen along the main island of Fongafale. A well-preserved underground bunker is found on the islet of Tepuka. On Funafuti, the site of the drilling by scientists to prove Darwin’s theory on the formation of atolls can be found. Darwin’s theory was proved to be correct and evidence of submerged volcanoes was found after drilling to a depth of more than 1000 feet.


Another attraction on Funafuti is “David’s Drill.” Scientists from the Royal Society of London conducted experimental drilling in the late 1800s to test Charles Darwin’s theory of atoll formation. Darwin, the famous formulator of evolution theory, believed that all coral atolls rest on a volcanic base. The deepest bore at David’s Drill reached 928 feet but did not hit volcanic rock. A second attempt also failed but modern science has proved that Darwin was correct. The boreholes can still be seen to this day in Fongafale village.

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