Line Islands or Equatorial Islands, coral group, 43 sq mi (111 sq km), central and S Pacific. Once valuable for their guano deposits, the islands now have coconut groves, airfields, and meteorological stations. Of the 11 islands in the group, 8 comprise part of the Republic of Kiribati: Teraina, Tabuaeran, Kiritimati (formerly Washington, Fanning, and Christmas Islands), Malden, Starbuck, Caroline, Vostok, and Flint. Kingman Reef, Palmyra, and Jarvis Island are dependencies of the United States. The islands were uninhabited when discovered by American sailors in 1798, although a few show evidence of ancient Polynesian culture. The British government once conducted hydrogen bomb tests on Malden.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.