Christmas Island

Basic Data

Christmas Island

Official Country Name: Christmas Island
Region (Map name): Oceania
Population: 2,564
Language(s): English, Chinese, Malay
Literacy rate: N/A

Named for the day of its discovery in 1643, Christmas Island is the top of a 50 million-year-old extinct volcano rising out of the Indian Ocean, south of Indonesia.

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. The population of Christmas Island is approximately 1,300, and inhabitants speak a mix of English, Chinese, and Malay. 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.


Christmas Island Web site. 2002. Available from .

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). World Fact Book 2001 . Available from .

Jenny B. Davis

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