Funafuti is often described as looking like a human head when viewed from space, with most of the land area appearing at the "back" of the head, or the eastern side of the lagoon. The lagoon at the narrow "neck" area is very shallow, and the surrounding islets are known for their unspoiled beauty and sandy beaches.
In 1897, Sir T. W. Edgeworth David, a Welsh-born Australian geologist drilled to a depth of 200 metres at Funafuti Atoll in an effort to verify Darwin's theory of the formation of coral atolls. Whereas his results supported Darwin's ideas, they were short of absolute proof. The main bore hole, called David's Drill, still can be seen today.
The largest island of Funafuti is Fogafale on the eastern side of the atoll. It is permanently connected to the island directly to the north, Tegako, by a concrete causeway, initially built by the Americans in during World War II. The runway on Fogafale was also built buy the Americans during the war. War relics can still be seen around the lagoon and other parts of the island. There is a burried bunker on Tepuka, which was an American wartime communications outpost.
The deep sea warf on the lagoon side of north Fogafale was completed on October 28, 1981. Before that, cargo to Funafuti had to be unloaded via boat or barge.
There is a shipwreck on the lagoon side just north of the warf, the Van Camp No. 1, which was blown ashore by Hurricane Bebe in 1972.
One of the smallest islands, Tepuka Sailivili, had all its vegetation and most of its sand washed away by Cyclone Meli in 1997.
The lagoon, which has several deep natural passages to the ocean, is known a Te Namo by the Tuvaluans. A conservation area called Kogatapu groups six of the uninhabited islands on the western side.
There are nine main villages on Funafuti, seven on Fogafale, and one each on Amatuku and Funafala. However, Fogafale is so densely populated it appears as one big sprawl. Most of the government offices are located in Vaiaku, including the main government building, the largest structure on the island. The population of Funafuti is 4,492 according to the 2002 census.
The largest man-made structure on Funafuti is the Tuvalu Government Building in Vaiaku, completed in 2004.