Christmas Island

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Independent State of Christmas Island
圣诞岛独立国
Negeri Bebas Pulau Krismas

Flag of Christmas Island
Flag
Coat of arms of Christmas Island
Coat of arms
Anthem: N/A
Location of Christmas Island
StatusDisputed
Capital
and largest city
Flying Fish Cove
Official languagesChinese, Malay, English
Ethnic groups65% Chinese
20% Malay
10% European
5% Indian and Eurasian
Religion75% Buddhism
12% Christianity
10% Islam
10% others
DemonymChristmas Islander
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
• Monarch
Elizabeth II
• Governor-General
Ho Yong Boon
• Prime Minister
Chow See Tong
LegislatureParliament
Independence
• N/A
N/A
Area
• Total
135 km2 (52 sq mi)
• Water (%)
0.57
Population
• Census
2,072
• Density
10.39/km2 (26.9/sq mi)
CurrencyAustralian dollar (AUD)
Time zoneCXT (UTC+7)
Drives on theleft
Calling code61
Internet TLD.cx

Christmas Island (Chinese: 圣诞岛; Malay: Pulau Krismas) officially the Independent State of Christmas Island is an unrecognised self-proclaimed state in the Indian Ocean. The island is considered by the UN to be part of Australia.

Christmas Island has a population of just over 2,000 residents, the majority of whom live in settlements on the northern tip of the island. The main settlement is Flying Fish Cove. Around two-thirds of the island's population are Malaysian Chinese, with significant numbers of Malays and white Australians as well as smaller numbers of Malaysian Indians and Eurasians. Several languages are in use, including English, Malay, and various Chinese dialects, while Buddhism is the primary religion, practised by three-quarters of the population.

The first European to sight the island was Richard Rowe of the Thomas in 1615. The island was later named on Christmas Day (25 December) 1643 by Captain William Mynors, but only settled in the late 19th century. Its geographic isolation and history of minimal human disturbance has led to a high level of endemism among its flora and fauna, which is of interest to scientists and naturalists. The majority (63 percent) of the island is included in the Christmas Island National Park, which features several areas of primary monsoonal forest. Phosphate, deposited originally as guano, has been mined on the island since 1899.

Christmas Island claims to be a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. Her appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Christmas Island, an office held by Ho Yong Boon since November 2017. Chow See Tong has served as the head of government and Prime Minister of Christmas Island from November 2017. Christmas Island is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the unicameral Parliament of Christmas Island.

History

First visits by Europeans, 1643

Captain William Mynors of the Royal Mary, an English East India Company vessel, named the island when he sailed past it on Christmas Day, in 1643. The island was included on English and Dutch navigation charts as early as the beginning of the 17th century, but it was not until 1666 that a map published by Dutch cartographer Pieter Goos included the island. Goos labelled the island "Mony" or "Moni", the meaning of which is unclear. English navigator William Dampier, aboard the English ship Cygnet, made the earliest recorded visit to the sea around the island in March 1688. He found it uninhabited. The uninhabited island was named on Christmas Day, 1643, by Captain William Mynors as he sailed past, leaving to William Dampier the honour of first landing ashore in 1688. Dampier gave an account of the visit which can be found in his Voyages. Dampier was trying to reach Cocos from New Holland. His ship was pulled off course in an easterly direction, arriving at Christmas Island twenty-eight days later. Dampier landed at the Dales (on the west coast). Two of his crewmen became the first Europeans to set foot on Christmas Island.

Captain Daniel Beeckman of the Eagle passed the island on 5 April 1714, chronicled in his 1718 book, A Voyage to and from the Island of Borneo, in the East-Indies.

Exploration and annexation

Poon Saan in the evening
Poon Saan shops

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.

During the 1872–76 Challenger expedition to Indonesia, naturalist John Murray carried out extensive surveys.

In 1886, Captain John Maclear of HMS Flying Fish, having discovered an anchorage in a bay that he named "Flying Fish Cove", landed a party and made a small collection of the flora and fauna. In the next year, Pelham Aldrich, on board HMS 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 Murray for examination were many of nearly pure phosphate of lime. This discovery led to annexation of the island by the British Crown on 6 June 1888.

Settlement and exploitation

Soon afterwards, a small settlement was established in Flying Fish Cove by G. Clunies Ross, the owner of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to collect timber and supplies for the growing industry on Cocos. Phosphate mining began in 1899 using indentured workers from Singapore, Malaya, and China. John Davis Murray, a mechanical engineer and recent graduate of Purdue University, was sent to supervise the operation on behalf of the Phosphate Mining and Shipping Company. Murray was known as the "King of Christmas Island" until 1910, when he married and settled in London.

The island was administered jointly by the British Phosphate commissioners and district officers from the United Kingdom Colonial Office through the Straits Settlements, and later the Crown Colony of Singapore. Hunt (2011) provides a detailed history of Chinese indentured labour on the island during those years. In 1922, scientists attempted unsuccessfully to view a solar eclipse from the island to test Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

Japanese invasion

From the outbreak of the South-East Asian theatre of the Second World War in December 1941, Christmas Island was a target for Japanese occupation because of its rich phosphate deposits. A naval gun was installed under a British officer and four NCOs and 27 Indian soldiers. The first attack was carried out on 20 January 1942, by the Japanese submarine I-59, which torpedoed a Norwegian freighter, the Eidsvold. The vessel drifted and eventually sank off West White Beach. Most of the European and Asian staff and their families were evacuated to Perth. In late February and early March 1942, there were two aerial bombing raids. Shelling from a Japanese naval group on 7 March led the district officer to hoist the white flag. But after the Japanese naval group sailed away, the British officer raised the Union flag once more. During the night of 10–11 March, a mutiny of the Indian troops, abetted by Sikh policemen, led to the killing of the five British soldiers and the imprisonment of the remaining 21 Europeans. At dawn on 31 March 1942, a dozen Japanese bombers launched the attack, destroying the radio station. The same day, a Japanese fleet of nine vessels arrived, and the island was surrendered. About 850 men of the Japanese 21st and 24th Special Base Forces and 102nd Construction Unit came ashore at Flying Fish Cove and occupied the island. They rounded up the workforce, most of whom had fled to the jungle. Sabotaged equipment was repaired and preparations were made to resume the mining and export of phosphate. Only 20 men from the 21st Special Base Force were left as a garrison.

Isolated acts of sabotage and the torpedoing of the Nissei Maru at the wharf on 17 November 1942 meant that only small amounts of phosphate were exported to Japan during the occupation. In November 1943, over 60% of the island's population was evacuated to Surabayan prison camps, leaving a total population of just under 500 Chinese and Malays and 15 Japanese to survive as best they could. In October 1945, HMS Rother re-occupied Christmas Island.

After the war, seven mutineers were traced and prosecuted by the Military Court in Singapore. In 1947, five of them were sentenced to death. However, following representations made by the newly independent government of India, their sentences were reduced to penal servitude for life.

Transfer to Australia

At Australia's request, the United Kingdom transferred sovereignty to Australia, with a M$20 million payment from the Australian government to Singapore as compensation for the loss of earnings from the phosphate revenue. Australia's Christmas Island Act was passed in September 1958 and the island was officially placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 October 1958.

Under Commonwealth Cabinet Decision 1573 of 9 September 1958, D. E. Nickels was appointed the first official representative of the new territory. In a media statement on 5 August 1960, the minister for territories, Paul Hasluck, said, among other things, that, "His extensive knowledge of the Malay language and the customs of the Asian people... has proved invaluable in the inauguration of Australian administration... During his two years on the island he had faced unavoidable difficulties... and constantly sought to advance the island's interests." John William Stokes succeeded him and served from 1 October 1960, to 12 June 1966. On his departure he was lauded by all sectors of the island community. In 1968, the official secretary was re-titled an administrator and, since 1997, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands together are called the Australian Indian Ocean Territories and share a single administrator resident on Christmas Island. Recollections of the island's history and lifestyle, and lists and timetables of the island's leaders and events since its settlement are at the World Statesmen site and in Neale (1988), Bosman (1993), Hunt (2011) and Stokes (2012).

The settlement of Silver City was built in the 1970s, with aluminium-clad houses that were supposed to be cyclone-proof. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami centred off the western shore of Sumatra in Indonesia, resulted in no reported casualties, but some swimmers were swept some 150 metres (490 ft) out to sea for a time before being swept back in.

Independent State of Christmas Island (2017 - present)

Geography

Located in the Indian Ocean, the island is about 19 kilometres (12 mi) in greatest length and 14.5 km (9.0 mi) in breadth. The total land area is 135 square kilometres (52 sq mi), with 138.9 km (86.3 mi) of coastline. The island is the flat summit of an underwater mountain more than 4,500 metres (14,800 ft) high, which rises from about 4,200 m (13,780 ft) below the sea and only about 300 m (984 ft) above it. The mountain was originally a volcano, and some basalt is exposed in places such as The Dales and Dolly Beach, but most of the surface rock is limestone accumulated from coral growth. The karst terrain supports numerous anchialine caves. The summit of this mountain peak is formed by a succession of tertiary limestones ranging from the Eocene or Oligocene up to recent reef deposits, with intercalations of volcanic rock in the older beds.

Steep cliffs along much of the coast rise abruptly to a central plateau. Steep cliffs along much of the coast rise abruptly to a central plateau. Elevation ranges from sea level to 361 m (1,184 ft) at Murray Hill. The island is mainly tropical rainforest, 63% of which is national park land. The narrow fringing reef surrounding the island poses a maritime hazard.

Beaches

Christmas Island has 80 kilometres of shoreline but only small parts of the shoreline are easily accessible. The island's perimeter is embodied by sharp cliff faces, making many of the island's beaches difficult to get to. Some of the easily accessible beaches include Flying Fish Cove (main beach), Lily Beach, Ethel Beach, and Isabel Beach, while the more difficult beaches to access include Greta Beach, Dolly Beach, Winifred Beach, Merrial Beach, and West White Beach, which all require a vehicle with four wheel drive and a difficult walk through dense rainforest.

Climate

As Christmas Island is located towards the southern edge of the equatorial region, climate is tropical and temperatures vary little throughout the months. The highest temperature is usually around 29 °C (84 °F) in March and April, while the lowest temperature is 23 °C (73 °F) and occurs in August. There is a dry season from July to November with only occasional showers. The wet season is between November and May, and includes monsoons, which are downpours of rain at random times of the day. tropical cyclones may also occur in the wet season, bringing very strong winds, rain and enormous seas. These tropical cyclones only happen occasionally, for most of the time during the wet season is damp, subside weather.

Christmas Island is very dull and often cloudy, getting only about eight clear days annually.

Climate data for Christmas Island Airport
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 30.7
(87.3)
31.5
(88.7)
31.5
(88.7)
31.4
(88.5)
30.5
(86.9)
29.8
(85.6)
29.3
(84.7)
29.5
(85.1)
30.9
(87.6)
31.4
(88.5)
31.8
(89.2)
31.2
(88.2)
31.8
(89.2)
Average high °C (°F) 28.0
(82.4)
28.0
(82.4)
28.3
(82.9)
28.3
(82.9)
27.8
(82)
27.1
(80.8)
26.3
(79.3)
26.1
(79)
26.3
(79.3)
26.9
(80.4)
27.3
(81.1)
27.8
(82)
27.4
(81.3)
Average low °C (°F) 22.7
(72.9)
22.7
(72.9)
23.1
(73.6)
23.5
(74.3)
23.8
(74.8)
23.3
(73.9)
22.6
(72.7)
22.2
(72)
22.3
(72.1)
22.7
(72.9)
22.9
(73.2)
22.6
(72.7)
22.9
(73.2)
Record low °C (°F) 18.8
(65.8)
18.4
(65.1)
18.6
(65.5)
18.3
(64.9)
19.3
(66.7)
14.1
(57.4)
16.2
(61.2)
17.7
(63.9)
16.7
(62.1)
18.2
(64.8)
18.0
(64.4)
18.0
(64.4)
14.1
(57.4)
Average Rainfall mm (inches) 297.2
(11.701)
344.5
(13.563)
302.7
(11.917)
227.5
(8.957)
186.7
(7.35)
172.3
(6.783)
99.7
(3.925)
42.3
(1.665)
57.4
(2.26)
78.5
(3.091)
156.8
(6.173)
222.1
(8.744)
2,183.0
(85.945)
[citation needed]