How Did Christmas Island Get Its Name?
Christmas Island is named for the day of its discovery in 1643; and is the top of a 50 million-year-old extinct volcano rising out of the Indian Ocean, south of Indonesia. Christmas Island, officially the Territory of Christmas Island, is an external territory of the Commonwealth of Australia located in Christmas Island, comprising the island of the same name.
It has a population of 2,072 residents, who live mainly in settlements on the northern tip of the island, including Flying Fish Cove (also known as Kampong), Silver City, Poon Saan, and Drumsite.
Around two-thirds of the island’s population is Malaysian Chinese, with significant numbers of Malays and European 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, followed by three-quarters of the population.
The island was discovered on Christmas Day (25 December) 1643, 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. 63% of its 135 square kilometres (52 sq mi) is an Australian national park. There exist large areas of primary monsoonal forest. Phosphate, deposited originally as guano, has been mined on the island for many years.
Islanders enjoy freedom of speech and press. Because the population is so small, no major newspapers are printed locally. The only publication is a newspaper called The Islander, which appears fortnightly. The full-color, tabloid-sized publication is produced by the Shire of Christmas Island, the local government body.
There is one radio station on the island, transmitting on both AM and FM frequencies for approximately 1,000 radios. It is staffed by volunteer announcers. Islanders own approximately 600 televisions, but there are no local broadcast stations. There are two Internet service providers.
The island has never had an indigenous population, but British settlement began in the late 1800s, and it was annexed by the United Kingdom in 1888. Under British rule, the island became a major region for phosphate mining, a mineral byproduct of volcanic eruptions.
In 1958, the UK transferred sovereignty of the island to Australia. Christmas Island is administered by Australia under the Australian Department of the Environment, Sport, and Territories. The Christmas Island Shire Council is popularly elected to one-year terms. Although phosphate mining ceased temporarily between 1987 and 1991, the island has sustained considerable environmental damage.
Today more than two-thirds of the island has been declared a national park, and local authorities are cooperating to restore the landscape and preserve the nesting sites of endangered birds. These goals also support the island’s economy, as environmental-based tourism is a growing business.