(pronounced 'kir-ih-bahss') Group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, straddling the equator and formerly, the International Date Line. In 1995, Kiribati actually moved the International Date Line away from the middle of the country to include its easternmost islands and make it the same day throughout the country. It includes three island groups: the Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, and Phoenix Islands; the whole country was formerly known as the Gilbert Islands. Formerly a UK territory, but independent since 1979.

"Kiribati" is not so much a name change from the Gilbert Islands as it is a respelling: Kiribati is supposed to be merely Gilbert as pronounced under Gilbertese phonotactics.

Though President Teburoro Tito's original intent in moving the International Date Line in 1995 had been to unify Kiribati by placing all the islands on the same calendar date, the President himself informs us that: "Later I realized I had accidentally made a good decision". The "good decision" was that Caroline Island, the easternmost Kiribati island, would be the first land, though normally uninhabited, to see the dawn of the new millenium. The island was renamed Millenium Island to capitalize on the serendipitous consequence and a broadcast of traditional songs and dances plus a heartfelt plea for a reduction of greenhouse gases (rising sea levels are already threatening the country's very existence) was held there at sunrise on January 1st 2000.

Ironically, the millenium dawn first "shone" on Antartica as at the geographic South Pole there was 24 hour sunlight, Young Island in New Zealand's Antarctica Balleny Islands, at 00h08 (12:08am) and the Dibble Glacier also in Antartica at 00h22. The first inhabited place to see sunshine was Pitt Island part of New Zealand's Chatham Islands. Sunlight hit the peak of Mount Hakepa at 04h49.

I have encoutered Kiribati once more through the J. Maarten Troost 2004 travelogue The Sex Lives of Cannibals which has nary a mention of either but was still mildly entertaining.

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