Monday, December 25, 2006

History of Christmas Island

History of Christmas Island. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the World History Blog. And what better place to spend Christmas than at Christmas Island? No, it is not a fictional island from an old animated holiday special but a real place. This brief essay has a short history of the island.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Officially Territory of Christmas Island island in the Indian Ocean, about 224 miles (360 km) south of the island of Java and 870 miles (1,400 km) northwest of Australia; it is administered as an external territory of Australia. It has an area of 52 square miles (135 square km) and comprises the summit of an oceanic mountain. The highest point on the island is Murray Hill, rising to 1,184 feet (361 m) above sea level in the western part of the island. The main settlement and chief port is at Flying Fish Cove on the northeastern part of the island."

From the site:

It is not known when and by whom the island was discovered, but under the name of Moni it appears on a Dutch chart of 1666. It was first visited in 1688 by Dampier, who found it uninhabited. In 1886 Captain Maclear of H.M.S. "Flying Fish," having discovered an anchorage in a bay which he named Flying Fish Cove, landed a party and made a. small but interesting collection of the flora and fauna.

In the following year Captain Aldrich on H.M.S. " Egeria " visited it, accompanied by Mr J. J. Lister, F.R.S., who formed a larger biological and mineralogical collection. Among the rocks then obtained and submitted to Sir John Murray for examination there were detected specimens of nearly pure phosphate of lime, a discovery which eventually led, in June 1888, to the annexation of the island to the British crown. Soon afterwards a small settlement was established in Flying Fish Cove by Mr G. Clunies Ross, the owner of the Keeling Islands, which lie about 750 M. to the westward. In 1881 Mr Ross and Sir John Murray were granted a lease, but on the further discovery of phosphatic deposits they disposed of their rights in 1897 to a company. In the same year a thorough scientific exploration was made, at the cost of Sir John Murray, by Mr C. W. Andrews, of the British Museum.

When the first settlers arrived, in 1897, it was covered with a dense forest of great trees and luxuriant under-shrubbery. Prior to colonization, the island had never been inhabited.

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