Republic of Vanuatu

The Republic of Vanuatu is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, with a total area of about 12,000 km² and a population of 165,000 people. The capital is Vila on the island Efate, the second big city is Luganville on the island Espiritu Santo. The islands are located between Australia and Hawai'i, but closer to Australia.

The islands were settled in the 19th century by British and French, who called them New Hebrides. Since 1906, the islands have been administered by an Anglo-French Condominium. During World War II they were used by the American forces. In 1980, the islands became an independent UN country. The economy is based on tourism and offshore financial services, during the internet boom, there was also an additional income from selling domains with the country code vu. The tourists are mainly from New Zealand and Australia.

The country, consisting of reefs, atolls and islands, is very poor in natural resources. There are no mines, and history is too short for a decent amount of subterranea. The islands are based on volcanism, but with no resulting lava caves. Earthquakes are frequent, tsunamis less frequent but possible, hurricanes a real danger. Still, there are a few natural caves, as the islands consist partly of limestone, a result of the coral reefs.

The eastern half of the island Espiritu Santo consists of an uplifted block of limestone 60 km long by 25 km wide. This is one of the largest tracts of limestone in the South Pacific.