The nation of Tonga consists of 150 islands spread over 100,000 square miles of ocean in the South Pacific. The total area of these islands is just 270 square miles, and Tonga’s 93,000 people live on only 45 of the islands.
The English explorer James Cook discovered these islands in the eighteenth century and called one of them Friendly Island because of the peaceful Polynesian people he found there. Eventually, the entire island group was known as the Friendly Islands and came under the control of Britain. Tonga regained its independence in 1970.
These tropical islands are apparently quite healthful places to live, for Tonga has the lowest death rate of any nation on earth. During a recent period, Tonga suffered just 1.9 deaths per thousand people, a rate twice as low as any other country!
The islands of Tonga lie astride the International Date Line, the imaginary line where one day ends and another begins. When it is Monday on one side of the line, it’s Tuesday on the other.
Because each calendar day begins at midnight at the International Date Line, Tonga calls itself “the place where time begins.”