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Introduction

Teraina, also known as Washington Island, is a coral atoll in the central Pacific Ocean and part of the Northern Line Islands which belong to Kiribati. Obsolete names of Teeraina are Prospect Island and New York Island. The island is located approximately 4.71° North latitude and 160.76° West longitude. Teeraina differs from most other atolls in the world in that it has a large freshwater lake (Washington Lake), concealed within its luxuriant coconut palm forest; this is the only permanent freshwater lake in the whole of Kiribati.

Measuring about 5.4 by 2.1 kilometres NW-SE and SW-NE, it has a land area of about 9.55 square kilometres. Its circumference is about 15 kilometres. The island is generally low-lying, with a maximum elevation ASL of about 5 meters, while most of the island rises some three metres high; trees in the dense inland forest grow to several times this height however. At the western end of the island is the capital, Tangkore (or Tengkore). There are (as at the 2010 Census) about 1,690 inhabitants, making it the least-populated of the permanently inhabited Northern Line Islands. However, population density (177 per km2) is three times as high as on Tabuaeran and vastly more than on the much larger (300-plus km2) Kiritimati with its about 15 people/km2.

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Geography

As regards its physical characteristics, this is one of the most interesting islands in the Pacific. It is a raised coral atoll, but it has not filled up with sand and soil, yet still retains a significant remnant of the former lagoon. The lake, however, is only just barely perceptibly brackish, as its only significant source is the plentiful rain. The lake is only a few feet (around 1-2 metres) deep for the most part, though the supposed maximum depth is nearly 10 metres. Being only about 520 kilometres away from the equator, Teeraina is inside the ITCZ; its climate is thus extremely humid, making it one of the "wet" Pacific islands.

The western inland is made up by peat bog, which is still flooded after heavy rains, and constitutes infilled former lakebed. It is not clear in what way the western lake or lakes - there are now 2 main areas of bogland, which may correspond to former lake basins - were connected to the remaining waterbody. One bog is immediately adjacent to the lake's western end, the other is halfway between that and the island's NW tip. Canals have been cut into the bogs, for punting, rowing and motor boats transporting people and produce. There is some removal of peat and sediments to stem the lake's ongoing infilling; in addition it seems that in recent times, the lake's level is slowly rising again so that the eastern bog's area has receded somewhat. The peat reaches thicknesses of about 1-1.5 metres, much of which is located above sea level.

It is also not precisely known where the last connection of the inland waters to the ocean were, and when they closed. The SE end is more likely however, as the island is in the Equatorial Counter Current which runs west to east, and drifting coral and other reef-builder larvae as well as flotsam would therefore predominantly land at the island's western side. Thus, it is to be expected that land build up faster there. This also agrees with the eastern location of the remaining lake. In any case, the canal network now opens to the sea south of Tangkore, and there is a direct connection from the lake to the ocean at Teeraina's eastern tip.

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Events and Festivals

New Year’s Day

Kiribati is the first country in the world to welcome in the New Year, albeit at the Line Islands, and events go off nationwide. All bars and guesthouses have something going on, along with traditional celebrations at the local maneaba (meeting house).

Independence Day

This is the main event on the Kiribati social calendar, celebrating the day the Gilbert Islands gained independence from Great Britain in July of 1979. Though the holiday officially takes place on July 12, the festivities last for several days, starting around the 9th. South Tarawa sees most of the action, including obligatory canoe races, kite-flying and traditional dance, along with wrestling, rugby and other sports ventures.

Youth Day

August 4 sees the forward-thinking government focus its energy on the Kiribati youth, with the promise of better opportunities through various workshops and programs. Churches and meeting houses see most activity.

Christmas

Locals attend church followed by much eating, gift-giving and merriment, just like they do back home. In Kiribati, however, there’s also choir singing, dancing, canoe racing, and a myriad of other sports right up until New Year. Locals also go camping in Taiwan Park and visit nearby islands.

New Year’s Eve

A huge event in Kiribati due to its position in the world, this island nation is the first place to countdown the New Year. There are low-key parties on the beaches and in the towns, while all expat bars and guesthouses put on special events.

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Weather

Tabuaeran enjoys a pleasantly warm, but humid tropical climate. Daytime temperatures hoover around 30 °C yearround with little variation throughout the year. Nights are still pleasantly warm and generally above 20 °C. The wetter period lasts from December to May and concentrates more on the northern part of the island chain. Trade winds blow from March to October. The most pleasant time, weatherwise, is from May to September. Tropical storms can hit the islands during the wet season, but are rarely a reason not to visit the islands during this time, although the humidity and heath combined with the absence of tradewinds from December to March makes this a slightly less pleasant time to visit.

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Getting There and Around

There are two dirt roads around the island's perimeter - an outer (Beach Road) and an inner one (Ring Road). Transport inland is done by boat on artificial canals, rather uniquely for a Pacific island. A 21 metres navigation light tower and two radio masts stand near Tangkore. What cannot be produced locally is shipped in about twice a year; there is also some minor inter-island traffic by ship or boat. The old landing was at the western tip, but this was dangerous due to being exposed to surf breaking on the reef flats; it has been more recently replaced by a new and more easily accessible landing south of Tangkore, where the canal system feeds into the ocean. A rough airstrip of some 1,000 metres length exists near Kaaitara. It may become temporarily unusable after heavy rains.

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Eat/Drink

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This is version 1. Last edited at 13:26 on Aug 22, 18 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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