Christmas Island

From Academic Kids

There is another island in the Pacific Ocean with the same constitutional name, Christmas Island, also known as: Kiritimati
Map of Christmas Island

The Territory of Christmas Island is a small, non self-governing Territory of Australia located in the Indian Ocean, 2360 km northwest of Perth in Western Australia and 500 km south of Jakarta, Indonesia. It maintains about 1500 residents who live in a number of towns on the northern tip of the island: Settlement, Silver City, Kampong, Poon Saan, and Drumsite. It has a unique natural topography and is of immense interest to scientists and naturalists due to the number of species of endemic flora and fauna which have evolved in isolation and undisturbed by human habitation. While there has been mining activity on the island for many years, 65 percent of its 135 square kilometres are now National Park and there are large areas of pristine and ancient rainforest.



No one knows when and by whom Christmas Island was discovered, but it is first noted on a map produced by Pieter Goos, published in 1666; on it the island is named Moni.

The earliest recorded visit was in March of 1688 by William Dampier, who found it uninhabited. An account of the visit can be found in Dampier's Voyages, which describes how, when trying to reach Cocos from New Holland, his ship was pulled off course in an easterly direction and after 28 days arrived at Christmas Island.

The next visit was by Daniel Beekman, who described it in his 1718 book, A Voyage to and from the Island of Borneo, in the East Indies.

In 1771 the Indian vessel, the Pigot, attempted to find an anchorage but was unsuccessful; the crew reported seeing wild pigs and coconut palms. However, neither of these have since been found on the island, so the Pigot may have found a different island.

The first attempt at exploring the island was in 1857 by the crew of the Amethyst. They tried to reach the summit of the island, but found the cliffs impassable.

In 1887, Captain Maclear of H.M.S. Flying Fish, having discovered an anchorage in a bay that he named Flying Fish Cove, landed a party and made a small but interesting collection of the flora and fauna. In the next year, Pelham Aldrich, on board the H.M.S. Egeria, visited it for ten days, accompanied by J. J. Lister, who gathered a larger biological and mineralogical collection.

Among the rocks then obtained and submitted to Sir John Murray for examination were many of nearly pure phosphate of lime, a discovery which led to annexation of the island by the British Crown in June 1888. Soon afterwards, a small settlement was established in Flying Fish Cove by G. Clunies Ross, the owner of the Keeling Islands, which lie about 750 miles west and phosphate mining began in the 1890s using indentured workers from Singapore, China, and Malaysia.

The island was administered jointly by the British Phosphate Commissioners and District Officers from the U.K. Colonial Office through the Straits Colony, and later the Colony of Singapore. Japan invaded and occupied the island in 1943 and interned the residents until the end of World War II in 1945. At Australia's request, the United Kingdom transferred sovereignty to Australia; in 1957, the Australian government paid the government of Singapore 2.9 million pounds in compensation. The first Australian Official Representative arrived in 1958 and was replaced by an Administrator in 1968. Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands together are called Australia's Indian Ocean Territories (IOTs) and since 1997 share a single Administrator resident on Christmas Island.

See: Christmas Island Invasion

During 2001, Christmas Island received a large number of asylum seekers travelling by boat, most of them from the Middle East and intending to apply for asylum in Australia. The arrival of the Norwegian cargo vessel MV Tampa, which had rescued people from the sinking Indonesian fishing-boat Palapa in international waters nearby, precipitated a diplomatic standoff between Australia, Norway, and Indonesia. The vessel held 420 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, 13 from Sri Lanka, and five from Indonesia. The standoff eventually led to the asylum seekers being transported to Nauru for processing. Another boatload of asylum seekers was taken from Christmas Island to Papua New Guinea for processing, after it was claimed that many of the adult asylum seekers threw their children into the water, apparently in protest at being turned away. This was later proven to be false.

John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, later passed legislation through the Australian Parliament which excised Christmas Island from Australia's migration zone, meaning that asylum seekers arriving there could not automatically apply for refugee status, allowing the Australian navy to relocate them to other countries as part of the Pacific Solution.


The population on the island are predominantly Chinese and they constitute around 70% followed by the Europeans and Malay. 36% of the population are Buddhists, 25% Muslims, 18% Christians and 21% others.


Missing image
Unofficial flag of Christmas Island

Christmas Island is a non-self governing territory of Australia, administered by the Australian Department of Transport and Regional Services. The legal system is under the authority of the Governor General of Australia and Australian law. An Administrator (Evan Williams, since 1 November 2003) appointed by the Governor-General of Australia represents the monarch and Australia.

The Australian Government provides Commonwealth-level government services through the Christmas Island Administration and DOTARS (CI).

There is no State Government; instead, state government type services are provided by contractors, including departments of the Western Australian Government, with the costs met by the Australian (Commonwealth) Government.

A unicameral Christmas Island Shire Council with 9 seats provides local government services and is elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. Elections are held every two years, with half the members standing for election.

The flag of Australia is used. In early 1986, the Christmas Island Assembly held a design competition for an island flag; the winning design has been adopted as the informal flag of the territory.


Phosphate mining had been the only significant economic activity, but in December 1987 the Australian Government closed the mine. In 1991, the mine was reopened by a consortium which included many of the former mine workers as shareholders. With the support of the government, a $34 million casino opened in 1993. The casino closed in 1998 and has not re-opened. The Australian Government in 2001 agreed to support the creation of a commercial space-launching site on the island, however this has not yet been constructed, and it appears to be unlikely to go ahead. The Australian Government built a temporary immigration detention centre on the island in 2001 and plans to replace it with a larger, modern facility, in 2006.

Christmas Island has the top-level Internet DNS domain ".cx".


Located at Template:Coor dm, the island is a quadrilateral with hollowed sides, about 12 miles in greatest length and 9 miles in extreme breadth. The total land area is 135 km², with 138.9 km of coastline. The island is the flat summit of a submarine mountain more than 15000 feet (4572 m) high, the depth of the platform from which it rises being about 14000 feet (4267 m) and its height above the sea being upwards of 1000 feet (305 m).

The climate is tropical, with heat and humidity moderated by trade winds. Steep cliffs along much of the coast rise abruptly to a central plateau. Elevation ranges from sea level to 361 m at Murray Hill. The island is mainly tropical rainforest, of which 65% is National Park.

The narrow fringing reef surrounding the island can be a maritime hazard.

Flora and fauna

Christmas Island is of immense scientific value as it was uninhabited until the late 19th century, so many unique species of fauna and flora exist which have evolved independently of human interference. Among the best-known is the Christmas Island red crab, which numbered some 100 million on the island as of 2004. Two-thirds of the island has been declared a National Park which is managed by the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage through Parks Australia.

The dense rainforest has evolved in the deep soils of the plateau and on the terraces. The forests are dominated by 25 tree species. Ferns, orchids & vines grow on the branches in the humid atmosphere beneath the canopy. The 135 plant species include 16 which are only found on Christmas Island.

The annual red crab mass migration (around 100 million animals) to the sea to spawn is one of the wonders of the natural world and takes place each year around November; after the start of the wet season and in synchronisation with the cycle of the moon.

The land crabs and sea birds are the most noticeable animals on the island. 20 terrestrial and intertidal crabs (of which 13 are regarded as true land crabs, only dependent on the ocean for larval development) have been described. Robber crabs, known elsewhere as coconut crabs, also exist in large numbers on the island.

Christmas Island is a focal point for sea birds of various species. Eight species or subspecies of sea birds nest on the island. The most numerous is the Red-footed Booby that nests in colonies, in trees, on many parts of the shore terrace. The widespread Brown Booby nests on the ground near the edge of the seacliff and inland cliffs. Abbott's Booby (listed as endangered) nests on tall emergent trees of the western, northern and southern plateau rainforest. The Christmas Island forest is the only nesting habitat of the Abbott's Booby left in the world. The endemic Christmas Island Frigatebird (listed as endangered) has nesting areas on the north-eastern shore terraces and the more widespread. Greater Frigatebirds nest in semi-deciduous trees on the shore terrace with the greateat concentrations being in the North West and South Point areas. The Common Noddy and two species of bosuns or tropicbirds with their brilliant gold or silver plumage and distinctive streamer tail feathers also nest on the island. Of the ten native land birds and shorebirds, seven are endemic species or subspecies. Some 76 migrant bird species have been recorded.


As of July 2004, there are approximately 1500 Christmas Islanders. (The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports a population of 1508 as of the 2001 Census.) The ethnic composition is 70% Chinese, 20% European and 10% Malay. Religions practiced are Buddhism 36%, Islam 25%, Christianity 18%, Taoism 15% other 6%. English is the official language, but Chinese and Malay are also spoken.

Communications and transportation

Telephone services are provided by Telstra and are a part of the Australian network with the same prefix as Western Australia (08). A GSM mobile telephone system will replace the existing analogue network in February 2005. Four free-to-air television stations from Australia are broadcast (ABC, SBS, GWN and WIN) in the same time-zone as Perth, W.A. Radio broadcasts from Australia include ABC Radio National, ABC Regional radio and Red FM. All services are provided by satellite links. Internet services are available through dotCX.

A container port exists at Flying Fish Cove with an alternative container unloading point to the south of the island at Norris Point for use during the December to March 'swell season" of seasonal rough seas. There are two weekly flights from Perth, Western Australia operated by National Jet Systems on Mondays and Thursdays and a single weekly flight from Denpasar, Bali, operated each Saturday by Austasia airlines.

There is no regular bus service on the island, but there are taxis. Most visitors use hire cars or charter buses. The road network covers most of the island and is generally good quality, although four wheel drive vehicles are needed to access some more distant parts of the rain forest or the more isolated beaches.


  • CIA World Factbook 2002
  • Chas. W. Andrews, A Description of Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). Geographical Journal, 13(1), 17-35 (1899).
  • W. J. L. Wharton, Account of Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, 10(10), 613-624 (1888).

External link


¹ CIA Factbook: est. 2004 396 + note: " The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports a population of 1508 as of the 2001 Census" [1] (


es:Isla de Navidad eo:Kristnaskinsulo fr:蝜e Christmas (Australie) he:כריסטמס (אי) it:Isola Christmas lt:Kalėdų sala nl:Christmaseiland ja:クリスマス島 (オーストラリア) pl:Wyspa Bo偶ego Narodzenia fi:Joulusaari sv:Jul鰊


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