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CHRISTMAS (KIRITIMATI) ISLAND

Christmas Island Message Forum

Christmas Island is one of the many interesting islands in the Republic of Kiribati. Part of the Line Island Group, it is the largest coral atoll in the world with an area of 248 square miles of which 125 square miles is land and remainder lagoon. Its population is mainly Micronesian from the I-Kiribati archipelago, with a small group of Polynesians from Tuvalu and some expatriates. 

I am very pleased to be able to present a short history in addition to images of this remote and fascinating part of Oceania.

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Aerial Photograph of Christmas Island taken by a NASA Space Shuttle.
Note the white cloud cover and the lagoon structure through the centre of the island.
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I was fortunate to live on Christmas Island for nearly five years and the images that I have presented below are an accurate pictorial representation of my recollections of Christmas Island.

Roman Catholic church - 2000

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Beach scene, Main Camp, 2000

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Christmas Island was named by Captain James Cook who discovered it on Christmas Day, 1777. Cook's entries in the ship's log suggest that Cook had a dismal view of Christmas Island. Indeed, Cook was not alone in this view. A later owner, Father Emmanuel Rougier was almost lyrical in his account of the island after his first view in 1912. He later registered his company and stated that "the intention is to populate the island with colonists and workers of all nationalities and colours".

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Christmas Island is indeed subject to severe and sometimes prolonged drought and no doubt Captain Cook's visit coincided with one of these. The average rainfall is about 30 inches annually and in the last 25 years there are only eleven years on which this has been reached or exceeded.

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Christmas Island - hut

There have been periodic occupation on Christmas Island and this has been well established by the archaeological remains which have been found. Why they came and why they went is a parenthesis of stepping stones in the wider mystery of the great Polynesian triangle from New Zealand to the Marquesas and northward to Hawaii. One hypothesis which found favour with anthropologists some years ago suggest that these ancient voyages followed the migratory paths of land birds, knowing from observation year after year that, as they could not land on the sea, they must be flying to land somewhere.

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Aerial view - Christmas Island - 2000

Christmas Island has been almost continuously occupied only since 1882, when the first attempt was made to plant coconuts for copra production commercially. But even in that comparatively short period it has drawn its workers from Hawaii, Manihiki, Tahiti, Niue and, since 1941, from the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (Kiribati and Tuvalu). 

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Christmas Island is the largest coral atoll in the world with an area of 248 square miles of which 125 square miles is land and the remainder lagoon. It is 2,015 miles from Tarawa, capital of the Republic of Kiribati; 1,335 miles from Honolulu; 4,000 miles from Sydney, Australia and 3,250 miles from San Francisco. It lies between longitude 157 degrees 10' west and 157 degrees 34' west and latitudes 1 degree 42' north and 2 degrees 3' north. It is 145 miles north of the equator.

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Map of Christmas (Kiritimati) Island

Travelling to Christmas Island is normally by the weekly Aloha Airline flights from Honolulu. In addition I-Kiribati ships visit the Line Islands three or four times each year and intermittent visits by fuel tankers and tourist ships.

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Tourist ship anchored off Christmas Island, 2000

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There is a wild life sanctuary on Christmas Island plus an extensive population of bird life which include shearwater, petel, tropic birds, frigate birds, terns, noddys and the Christmas Island warbler which is only found on Christmas Island. Fish are found in profusion in Christmas Island's lagoons and the ocean water are home to bonefish, trevally, wahoo, yellow fin tuna, sailfish, groupers and sharks.

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Christmas Island - Babai pit
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Christmas Island History
Christmas Island Bomb Tests
Christmas Island Visit Pictures
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For further information, including travel and accommodation on
Christmas (Kiritimati) Island, please contact:
Eni Tekanene
Development Officer
Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Branch
Kiritimati (Christmas) Island
Republic of Kiribati
Telephone: 0011-686-81198
Facsimile: 0011-686-81316
E-mail: mcitxmas@tskl.net.ki
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Red_ch.gif (2665 bytes) Jane's Kiribati Home Page                                          
 Red_ch.gif (2665 bytes) Kiribati 2000                                                                  
 Red_ch.gif (2665 bytes) Oceania -The Last Voyage of Captain James Cook.  
 Red_ch.gif (2665 bytes) Christmas Island Bomb Tests                                       
   Red_ch.gif (2665 bytes) Jane's Oceania Home Page                                            
 
Jane Resture
 (E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 24th July 2003)