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The typical atoll structure of many Pacific islands is the result of a combination of factors, starting with a volcanic ring, or caldera, along which coral reefs grow. This can only take place in warm waters, and most of the world's atolls are found in the tropical and subtropical areas of the Pacific Ocean. The lagoon at Tabuaeran is a typical example of this phenomenon and has been an ideal anchorage for centuries. In 1798, Captain Fanning wrote in his ship's log that "the abundance of wood and water, the tropical fruits, best of fresh fish, and excellent turtle, here to be obtained, make this a very desirable spot, for the refitting of a ship, and refreshing a crew."

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