, Bislama: Ripablik blong Vanuatu), is a Pacific island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean.The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 540 kilometres (340 mi) northeast of New Caledonia, east of New Guinea, southeast of the Solomon Islands, and west of Fiji. The first Europeans to visit the islands were a Spanish expedition led by Portuguese navigator Fernandes de Queirós, who arrived on the largest island in 1606.
An independence movement arose in the 1970s, and the Republic of Vanuatu was founded in 1980.
The Vanuatu group of islands first had contact with Europeans in 1606, when the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, sailing for the Spanish Crown, arrived on the largest island and called the group of islands La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo or "The Southern Land of the Holy Spirit", believing he had arrived in Terra Australis or Australia.
The Spanish established a short-lived settlement at Big Bay on the north side of the island. Europeans did not return until 1768, when Louis Antoine de Bougainville rediscovered the islands.
In 1774, Captain Cook named the islands the New Hebrides, a name that would last until independence in 1980.
In 1825, the trader Peter Dillon discovered sandalwood on the island of Erromango, which began a rush of immigrants that ended in 1830, after a clash between immigrants and Polynesian workers.
During the 1860s, planters in Australia, Fiji, New Spain, and the Samoan Islands, in need of labourers, encouraged a long-term indentured labour trade called "blackbirding".
At the height of the labour trade, more than one half of the adult male population of several of the islands worked abroad.
Fragmentary evidence indicates that the current population of Vanuatu is greatly reduced compared to pre-contact times.
In the 19th century, Catholic and Protestant missionaries from Europe and North America went to the islands to work with the people.
For example, John Geddie, a Scots-Canadian Presbyterian missionary, arrived at the island of Aneityum in 1848; he spent the rest of his life there, working to convert the inhabitants to Christianity and western ways.
John Gibson Paton was a Scottish missionary who devoted his life to the region.