I started a tradition on Flight89’s Facebook page to name a “country of the day” and showcase tourist hotspots in the respective country. I select the country based on the one that is celebrating its independence that day. Several countries share the same independence so sometimes there are more than one countries of the day.
Today, July 7, is Solomon Islands’ independence day. I had not heard about the country until early this morning when I was going down the list of independence days. While searching the Creative Commons for photographs of tourist attractions, something caught my eyes: the children of Solomon Islands with dark skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. I became instantly fascinated and started to read more on it. Since I had not done the article of the week, I decided to do one on Solomon Islanders in honor of their independence day rather than focusing solely on the usual pictures of nice places around the country. Before diving into information on the people, here’s a bit on the islands.
About Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a country consisting of over 900 tropical and a few major islands. It is known to have experienced some of the most intensive fightings of World War II. “A rise in nationalist sentiment following WWII eventually led to the country’s independence in 1978” (Source).
The country has a population of under 1 million people. The majority of the people are of Melanesian descent and a few of Micronesian, Polynesian, and other origins. Melanesia is a region of Oceania including Papa New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji etc (Source).
Naturally Blond Hair
In general, naturally blond hair is a rare feature that is only found frequently among people of Northern Europen and Oceanian descent. The frequency for the later group is about 5-10 percent. Solomon Islanders are among the rare natural blondes of the Oceania region and more interestingly, the few dark skinned blondes of the world. According to an article citing a study by Standford University Medical school, the gene responsible for blond hair in the people of Solomon Islands is different from that which is responsible for blond hair in the people of European descent. The former is “homegrown genetic variant” that is not a result of “gene flow- a trait passed on by European explorers, traders, and others who visited in the preceding centuries” (Source). The gene came about independently in the region.
A result from a Bristol University study was consistent with Stanford’s findings, according to an article by Telegraph. A lead on the Bristol study, Dr. Nic Thompson said, ‘naturally blond hair is a surprisingly unusual trait in humans which is typically associated with people from Scandinavian and Northern European countries. ‘Whether this genetic variation is due to evolution or a recent introgression (the introduction of a new gene from another population) requires further investigation, but this variant explains over 45 percent of the variance in hair colour in the Solomons’ (Source).
Sean Myers, a former postdoc of Standford University said Solomon Islanders believe their blond hair is a result of exposure to the sun and a diet rich in fish (Source). Without being a scientist, I can imagine that this is merely a speculation as it does not explain why several black Africans do not end up with blond hair given their exposure to the sun and rich fish diets (in certain regions). What I find interesting is that the images circulating the internet are mostly those of children. It makes me wonder whether the blonde hair wears off during adulthood. The Stanford article mentioned the commonality of blond hair with children but did not explore further.
Naturally Blue Eyes
I also stumbled across the issue of Solomon Islanders having naturally blue eyes through my search for pictures of the country. Interestingly though, I quickly noticed that the same images are posted on several different sites and attributed to people from different countries, particularly across Africa. It is difficult to find the original sources of the images to tell the actual countries of the people captured in the images. In any case, black people with blue eyes, while a rare occurrence, seems to be a trait among black populations in different parts of the world. Some bloggers have cited this is true for Solomon Islanders, although I was unsuccessful at finding reliable studies supporting the notion.
What are your thoughts?