Wednesday, April 05, 2006

History of Cocos (Keeling) Islands


History of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Have you ever heard of the Cocos Islands? I have to admit I had not until recently. They are an atoll of 27 coral islands in the Indian Ocean with a population of only 600+ people. It is currently a territory of Australia.

But, for such an obscure place, these islands have a great deal of historical signifiance. For starters, Darwin visited the islands in 1836 and his observations here were incorporated in the Origins of Species. One of the first naval battles of World War I (Battle of Cocos) was fought here resulting in an Australian naval victory. During World War II, the Cocos Islands Mutiny resulted in the only executions of British Commonwealth soldiers for mutiny during the conflict.

It may be hard to visit the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, but I bet it would be a worthwhile trip. I hope I have the chance to explore these islands someday.

From the site:

There are 27 coral islands in the group. Captain William Keeling discovered the islands in 1609, but they remained uninhabited until the 19th century. In 1805, the British hydrographer, James Horsburgh, called them the Cocos-Keeling Islands in his sailing directory and named one of the islands after himself.

In 1825, Captain John Clunies-Ross, a Scottish trader, sailing the Borneo for the Trading House of Hare made a brief landing on the islands on his homeward voyage from the East Indies. He had orders to investigate Christmas Island on Alexander Hare's behalf as a possible site for a settlement. Bad weather prevented these plans and he surveyed the Cocos-Keeling Islands instead.

In 1823 Alexander Hare, an English adventurer, settled on the southernmost island with a number of slaves. Some two or three years after, J.Clunies-Ross, who had commanded a brig during the English occupation of Java, settled with his family (who continued in the ownership) on Direction Island, and his little colony was soon strengthened by Hares runaway slaves. Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1836.

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