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Definition: Guadalcanal from Philip's Encyclopedia

Largest of the Solomon Islands, c.970km (600mi) E of New Guinea, W central Pacific Ocean; the capital is Honiara. Guadalcanal was the scene of heavy fighting between Japanese and US troops in World War 2. The chief products are coconuts, fish, fruit, and timber. Area: 5,302sq km (2,047sq mi). Pop. (2002 est.) 120,100.


Summary Article: Guadalcanal Island from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Largest of the Solomon Islands; area 5,302 sq km/2,047 sq mi; population (2009) 93,600. The principal population centres are Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands, Aola, and Lunga, all on the north coast. Gold, copra, and rubber are produced. The population is Melanesian (or Papuasian). In 1942, during World War II, it was the scene of a battle for control of the area that was won by US forces after six months of fighting.

History Guadalcanal was located and named by the Spaniard Alvaro de Mendana de Neyra in 1568. Mendana intended to settle on it when he returned in 1595 but on that occasion he could not locate it. During World War II Guadalcanal was the scene of a protracted campaign by the US against the Japanese, who landed powerful forces there in the summer of 1942. The battle for control of the island began when the US discovered the Japanese were building an airfield, and landed marines to take the site in August 1942. The Japanese sent reinforcements by sea to recapture the airfield and a series of bitter engagements took place on land for control of the airfield, and at sea as each side attempted to reinforce their own troops and prevent the other from doing so. The naval operations began to dwarf those on the land they were supposedly supporting and both sides lost large amounts of ships and aircraft. The engagements on land and sea were inconclusive until the Japanese decided that such heavy naval losses could not be justified by one island and evacuated on 7 February 1943.

In June 1999 the Solomon Islands government declared a state of emergency due to rising violence and ethnic tensions on Guadalcanal. The conflict erupted between indigenous Guadalcanal militants, who were trying to assert traditional land rights, and settlers from neighbouring islands, especially Malaita, who formed the majority on Guadalcanal.

Topography The island is mostly mountainous and the main range, the Kavo Mountains, is volcanic and reaches a height of 2,440 m/8,805 ft. Guadalcanal has dense forests, but extensive areas are treeless and covered in grass growing to a height of almost 2 m/6.5 ft. This grass extends over the plains and up into the mountains, but the watercourses are lined with scrub and timber. Many streams of Guadalcanal consist, in ordinary weather, of dry beds of stone and sand, water appearing only at a rock outcrop in the bed. A brilliant yellow orchid (Dendrobium) grows on the island. Guadalcanal contains evidence of having been upraised more than once and it would seem from the raised beaches, common round the coast, that the upheaval is still going on.

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