Christmas Island is an island off the coast of Indonesia. It is a territory of Australia, but is 2,600 km (1,600 mi) from a major Australian city, Perth. On the other hand it is just 360 km (220 mi) from Jakarta and 975 km (606 km) from Cocos Island.
Today Christmas Island has a population of just over a thousand people. Its capital is Flying Fish Cove, also called Kampong. The island covers 135 sq km (52 sq mi). It is seven hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+7). The Australian dollar is the official currency here. 70% of the population are ethnic Chinese, 20% European and 10% Malay. The phone IDD code here is +61.
Christmas Island was first discovered on Christmas Day by Captain William Mynors of the British East India Company in 1643. The first attempt to explore it came much later, in 1857, by the crew of the Amethyst. An anchorage in a bay was discovered in 1887 by Captain Maclear of the HMS Flying Fish, which led to the site being called Flying Fish Cove.
Indentured workers from Singapore, Malaya and China were transported to Christmas Island to mine phosphate beginning in the 1890's. During the Second World War, most of the people in Christmas Island were evacuated to Perth. The island was surrendered to the Japanese following the mutiny of its Indian troops, which murdered five British soldiers and imprisoning the remainder.
After the Second World War, Christmas Island was transferred to Australian sovereignty. The island was used as a detention camp for refugees in the late 1980's and early 1990's.
Today Christmas Island is still supported by phosphate mining as its main source of economic activity. Attempt to start a casino resort on the island failed after a few years. The island is an important wildlife refuge with many species of endemic birds, mammals, reptiles and crabs, particularly the red crabs and the coconut crabs. As such, it has attracted a small stream of nature lovers.
Planning your trip to Christmas Island
There are twice-weekly flights to Christmas Island from Perth. The Australian Indian Ocean Territories Airlines also offer weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore on a chartered Malaysia Airlines aircraft.