Solomon Islands, independent democracy in the British Commonwealth, extending across an ocean area of over 232,000 sq mi (600,880 sq km) in the southwestern Pacific. The land area of the islands is approximately 10,639 sq mi (27,556 sq km).
Land and climate
The mountainous Solomon Island archipelago, composed of 21 large islands and many islets, is of volcanic origin; 4 volcanoes are intermittently active. The highest peak, Mt. Makarakombou (8,028 ft/2,447 m) is on Guadalcanal, the largest island, where Honiara, the capital, is located. The Solomons are well watered and covered with dense tropical rain forests, with grasslands on the northern plains of Guadalcanal. The climate is equatorial, and temperatures vary little during the year; rainfall, averaging 120 in (305 cm) annually, is concentrated from Nov. to Apr.
People and economy
The population is 95% Melanesian, with Polynesian, Micronesian, European, and Chinese minorities. Most follow tradition, living in small villages, fishing, and growing coconuts, taro, yams, and cassava. Exports, formerly exclusively copra, now also include fish and timber. Tourism is increasingly important.
In 1568 a Peruvian expedition sighted the Solomons but they were ignored by Europeans until the 19th century, when islanders were forcibly recruited to labor overseas. By 1900 Great Britain had established a protectorate over the islands. Invaded by the Japanese in 1942, the Solomons were recaptured by U.S. forces only after heavy fighting in 1943. Since independence in 1978, the Solomons have been plagued by regional disputes.