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Christmas Island

Alternative meaning (there is another island with the same constitutional name, Christmas Island, also known as: Kiritimati
Map of Christmas Island

The Territory of Christmas Island is a small island controlled by Australia located in the Indian Ocean, northwest of Australia and south of Indonesia. It maintains about 500 residents, most of whom live in a district simply called The Settlement .



Main article: History of Christmas Island

Named in 1643 for the day of its discovery, the island was annexed and settlement was begun by the United Kingdom in 1888. Phosphate mining began in the 1890s. The UK transferred sovereignty to Australia in 1958.

During 2001, Christmas Island received a large number of refugees coming 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 refugees from Afghanistan, 13 from Sri Lanka and five from Indonesia. The standoff eventually led to the asylum seekers being transported to the small country of Nauru for processing. Another boatload of illegal immigrants was taken from Christmas Island to Papua New Guinea for processing, after it was claimed that many of the adult refugees threw their children into the water, apparently in protest of being turned away. This was later proven to be false.

John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, later passed legislation through the Australian Parliament which excludes Christmas Island from Australia's Immigration Zone , meaning that refugees arriving there can not automatically apply for refugee status, allowing the Australian navy to turn back boatloads of illegal immigrants.


Christmas Island is a 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.

A unicameral Christmas Island Shire Council with 9 seats is elected 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; however, the winning design has never been formally adopted as the official flag of the territory.

The capital of Christmas Island is the small village "The Settlement", but other sources say that the capital is "Flying Fish Cove", named after the cove where the harbour of "The Settlement" is located.


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. With the support of the government, a $34 million casino opened in 1993. The casino closed in 1998. The Australian Government in 2001 agreed to support the creation of a commercial space-launching site on the island, projected to begin operations in mid-2004.

Christmas Island has the top-level Internet DNS domain ".cx", which is popular among Internet gambling sites and other operations because the operators won't disclose registrants' personal information. It also gained the attention of the open-source community in 2000, when the British company when acted as the top-level registrar for .cx promised to give away free domains for open-source projects. Though this policy was soon abandoned, many foreigners retained .cx domain names though this connection.


Located at 10 30 S, 105 40 E, 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 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 60%-70% is in a national park.

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

Flora and fauna

Christmas Island is of important scientific value as it appears to have been uninhabited until the late 19th century, so many unique fauna and flora exist which have developed independently from human interference. Among the best-known denizens is a species of red crab, that numbered some 60 million on the island as of 2003. Almost two-thirds of the island has been declared a national park.


As of July 2004, there are 396 Christmas Islanders. (The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports a population of 1508 as of the 2001 Census.) The population is declining at a rate of 9% per year. The ethnic composition is 70% Chinese, 20% European, and 10% Malay. Religions practiced are Buddhism 36%, Islam 25%, Christianity 18%, and other 21%. English is the official language, but Chinese and Malay are also spoken.

Communications and transportation

Telephone service is provided by the Australian network. Only analog mobile telephone service is available. One Intelsat earth station provides telephone and telex service.

24 km of railroad lines serve phosphate mines. A port exists at Flying Fish Cove. There is one paved airport.

External link

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45