Xmas Island: What to know?

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Christmas Island is a small Australian territory in the Indian Ocean with a population of under 1500 people. It was first sighted in the 17th century and was used for supplies by ships until the discovery of phosphate lime in the mid-19th century. Phosphate production has played a significant role in the island’s history, and a large number of people are employed in the industry. The island has been at the center of many immigration debates in Australia, and the tourist industry is primarily built around ocean sports and natural sites. Flights arrive semi-regularly from Perth, Singapore, and the Cocos Islands.

Christmas Island is a tiny Australian territory off the coast of Indonesia. It covers 52 square miles (135 square km) and has a population of just under 1500 people. The island is located approximately 870 miles (1400km) from Australia in the Indian Ocean.

There is no evidence of early settlement on Christmas Island, making it somewhat of an anomaly among islands that are currently inhabited. While it’s possible that the first humans landed on the island, if they did they left absolutely no trace, and Europeans were the first people we know of to set foot on Christmas Island.

The island was first sighted in the early 17th century and got its name when a British captain spotted it on Christmas Day the 17th. More than forty years later the first people landed on the island to gather supplies, and for the next century and a half of the island was used exclusively by ships trying to replenish their supplies of wood and water.

In the mid-19th century the first exploration of the island took place, and a more thorough exploration was undertaken a few decades later. This expedition discovered pure phosphate lime on the island, which made it immediately desirable to a number of commercial interests. Under pressure from business leaders, Britain reclaimed Christmas Island.

In the late 1950s, the island was transferred to Australia, as Britain divested itself of many of its possessions in the region. Since the late 1990s, Christmas Island has been administered by Australia together with the Cocos (Keeling) Islands as the Australian Indian Ocean Territory.

Phosphate production has played an important role in the island’s history since its discovery in 1887. The island’s population was mainly brought from mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia to work in the phosphate mines, and to this day a large number of people are employed in the industry. Phosphate production was briefly halted when the Japanese occupied the island in World War II, but resumed soon after the war ended. Phosphate mining ceased in the late 1980s for a few years, but resumed under a new contract in 1990 and has continued unabated ever since.

Christmas Island has been at the center of many immigration debates in Australia in recent years. A good number of refugees end up on Christmas Island, using it as a stepping stone to emigrate to Australia. As a measure to limit the number of refugees migrating to Australia, the government set up the so-called Pacific Solution, which allows the government to relocate asylum seekers arriving on Christmas Island to other countries in the region. A huge treatment plant was recently completed on Christmas Island to help ease the handling of these refugees.

The tourist industry on Christmas Island is primarily built around ocean sports. Whale shark diving and sport fishing are two of the main attractions. Natural sites include the National Park, which makes up over 60% of the island, and the park is rich in flora and fauna, some of which is unique to the island.

Flights arrive semi-regularly to Christmas Island from both Perth in Australia, Singapore and the Cocos Islands.

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