Gizo is the capital of the Western Province in the Solomon Islands. With a population of 6,154 (2005 estimates), it is the second largest town in the country. It is situated on Ghizo Island approximately 380 kilometers west-northwest of the capital, Honiara, and is just southwest of the larger island of Kolombangara. Gizo also has a small landing strip on the nearby island of Nusatupe to the north east of the town, making it relatively developed compared to other settlements in the general vicinity.
This area of the Solomon Islands has had a history of headhunting. According to local stories the Gizo tribe were notorious in this activity. As a consequence the surrounding local tribes took the unusual step of joining together to obliterate the Gizo tribe. The stories further relate that the only survivors were a Gizo woman and her son. This event led to Ghizo island being declared as a property of the state, rather than the usual customary ownership prevalent in much of the rest of the Solomons. As a secondary consequence becoming an administrative and business center because of the relative ease with which registered land titles could be obtained.
These days Gizo is a tourism center with diving and surfing being popular activities.
was the operating base for Robert Ballards The Search for Kennedy's PT 109
, which was a National Geographic
television special. The son of Eroni Kumana
, who was one of the two natives that found the shipwrecked Lt. John F. Kennedy
, lives on the island. The three islands, Plum Pudding, Olasana, and Naru, that were visited by the PT 109 survivors lie just to the southeast of Ghizo island. In 1943
, the islands were occupied by imperial Japanese troops.
On April 2
Gizo was hit by a tsunami caused by the 8.1 magnitude earthquake
centered only 25 miles from the town. Early, unconfirmed reports indicated that a three-meter wave swept through the town, killing 26 people, the final official death total throughout the Western Province and Choiseul was 52. The tsunami hit during daylight hours, giving people warning to seek higher ground, as the tide withdrew in advance of the wall of water. Ten metre-high waves hit nearby Sasamunga
(to the north-east of Gizo on the island of Choiseul), destroying houses, food gardens and a hospital.