The island group consists of nine very low-lying and narrow coral atolls totalling 26 km area. Population has been estimated in 2002 at 11,146 and growing at the annual rate of 1.4%.
In 1974, ethnic differences within the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation form the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands. The following year, the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978.