Timeline

  • 1400 BC

Lapita people arrive in longboats with pottery.

  • 11th Century AD

Polynesians arrive from the central Pacific with animals and plants.

  • AD 1459

The volcano Kuwae erupts in Vanuatu, destroying an island in the huge explosion.

  • 1606

Portuguese explorer, Pedro Fernández de Quirós, sails into Big Bay in Santo on 3 May and names the islands Terra Australis del Espiritu Santo.

  • 1825

European explorer Peter Dillon discovers sandalwood trees on Erromango and quickly sets up trading routes.

  • 1839

Missionaries begin their attempts to try to bring Christianity to the islanders. Many get eaten.

  • 1865

Nearly 100 years after British explorer Captain James Cook charts the islands, Europeans flock to settle them.

  • 1868

With the last sandalwood gone from Erromango, blackbirding takes over, supplying cheap labour to nearby countries.

  • 1906

England and France decide to set up the Condominium government, and jointly administer it.

  • 1938

The John Frum cargo cult surfaces. The movement’s leaders are jailed by the British and mentioning the words ‘John Frum’ is outlawed.

  • 1942

A US fleet sets up a huge base on Santo as WWII begins its final phases.

  • 1942

On 26 October the troop-carrying USS President Coolidge is hit by a friendly mine while approaching Santo’s harbour.

  • 1956

The Anglo-French Condominium recognises the John Frum cargo cult as a religion.

  • 1969

The last ritualistic cannibal killing occurs.

  • 1972

Cruise ships start visiting, marking the start of Vanuatu as a tourist destination.

  • 1980

On the eve of independence, Nagriamel, a political movement led by Jimmy Stevens of Santo, declares Santo a separate nation (it’s short-lived).

  • 1980

Independence Day – New Hebrides becomes Vanuatu on 30 July.

  • 1980

George Sokomanu is elected as Vanuatu’s first president.

  • 1987

Hilda Lini and Maria Crowby are the first women elected to parliament.

  • 1988

Vanuatu sends its first athlete to the summer Olympic Games.

  • 2003

Teouma, the largest known cemetery in the Pacific islands, is discovered on Efate.

  • 2003

Vanuatu is removed from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s list of ‘uncooperative tax havens’.

  • 2005

Vanuatu qualifies for a US Millennium Grant of US$65 million, beginning a four-year period of financial and political stability.

  • 2005

Ambae’s Mt Manaro erupts, resulting in the evacuation of thousands of people from the island.

  • 2006

The New Economics Foundation declares Vanuatu to be the happiest country in the world. Part of the index measures people’s impact on the environment.

  • 2008

Chief Roi Mata’s domain (Hat Island) becomes the first Vanuatu site to be inscribed by Unesco.

  • 2010

The Asian Development Bank declares Vanuatu one of the fastest-growing economies in the Pacific.

  • 2011

Vanuatu becomes a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

  • 2015

Cyclone Pam devastates much of the country in March.

  • 2015

Half of the serving parliament is convicted and jailed for corruption in October.