The islands' ocean-equatorial climate is extremely humid throughout the year, with a mean temperature of 27 °C 80 °F and few extremes of temperature or weather. June through August is the cooler period. Though seasons are not pronounced, the northwesterly winds of November through April bring more frequent rainfall and occasional squalls or cyclones. The annual rainfall is about 3050 mm 120 in.
The Solomon Islands is a wide island nation and the distance between the westernmost and easternmost islands is about 1,500km 930 mi. The Santa Cruz Islands of which Tikopia is part, are situated north of Vanuatu and are especially isolated at more than 200km 120 mi from the other islands. Bougainville is geographically part of the Solomon Islands, but politically an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea.
The Solomon Islands archipelago is part of two distinct terrestrial ecoregions. Most of the islands are part of the Solomon Islands rain forests ecoregion. These forests have come under great pressure from forestry activities. The Santa Cruz Islands are part of the Vanuatu rain forests ecoregion, together with the neighboring archipelago of Vanuatu. More than 230 varieties of orchids and other tropical flowers brighten the landscape. The islands contain several active and dormant volcanoes with Tinakula and Kavachi being the v most active. The highest point is Mount Makarakomburu, at 2,447 meters. Many low lying coral atolls dot the region.
The Solomon Islands are believed to have been inhabited by Melanesian people for thousands of years. It is believed that Papuan speaking settlers began to arrive around 30,000 BC. Austronesian speakers arrived circa 4,000 BC also bringing cultural elements such as the outrigger canoe. It is between 1,200 and 800 BC that the ancestors of the Polynesians, the Lapita people, arrived from the Bismarck Archipelago with their characteristic ceramics.
The first European to visit the islands was the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, coming from Peru in 1568. The people of Solomon Islands were notorious for headhunting and cannibalism before the arrival of the Europeans. Missionaries began visiting the Solomons in the mid-19th century. They made little progress at first, because "blackbirding" the often brutal recruitment of laborers for the sugar plantations in Queensland and Fiji led to a series of reprisals and massacres. The evils of the labor trade prompted the United Kingdom to declare a protectorate over the southern Solomons in June 1893.
In the Second World War, there was fierce fighting between the Americans and the Japanese in the Solomon Islands campaign of 1942–45, including the Battle of Guadalcanal. Self-government was achieved in 1976 and independence two years later. The Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen of the Solomon Islands, at present Elizabeth II, as the head of state.
In 1998, ethnic violence, government misconduct, and crime undermined stability and society. In June 2003, an Australian-led multinational force, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands RAMSI, has arrived and restored peace, disarmed ethnic militias and improved civil governance. It has also led to the development of facilities catering to the expatriate workers.