Choiseul Island - Orientation

Identification. Choiseul Island is the northwesternmost island in the Solomon Islands chain of the western South Pacific, lying between Bougainville Island and Papua New Guinea to the west, Santa Isabel to the east, and Velia Lavella and New Georgia to the south, all of which are 40 to 80 kilometers distant.

Location. Choiseul covers an area of 2,100 square kilometers, is about 130 kilometers long and 12.8 to 32.2 kilometers across, and is generally a mass of deep valleys and sharp, jungle-clad ridges, mostly between 243 to 606 meters in elevation (maximum elevation 160 meters). Average daytime coastal temperature is 26° to 32° C, and rainfall averages 254 to 508 centimeters per year.

Demography. In 1956 the native Melanesian population was about 5,700; in the early 1980s it was estimated to be 7,900. It seems to be growing rapidly because of decreased infant mortality and increased longevity, both attributable to improved health care.

Linguistic Affiliation. The peoples of Choiseul speak four different Melanesian languages, all more similar to one another than to those spoken on adjacent islands. Dialectal variation is small except for the central-eastern language, which has the most speakers and the widest distribution. Ultimately, the languages of Choiseul, of Santa Isabel, and of New Georgia and its neighbors form one set that is related most closely to the languages of Bougainville and, through them, to the languages of the Central and Southern Solomons.

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