The Wonders of Christmas Island



by LORENZO CIOTTI

The Wonders of Christmas Island

Christmas Island is a small island politically belonging to Australia and located in the Indian Ocean south of Indonesia. The first European to sight the island was Richard Rowe from Thomas in 1615. The island was later named Christmas Day (December 25) 1643 by Captain William Mynors, but only settled in the late 19th century.

Its geographic isolation and the minimal anthropogenic impact it suffered have led to a high level of endemism among its flora and fauna, which is of interest to scientists and naturalists. 63% of the territory falls within the Christmas Island National Park, which features several areas of monsoon forest of primary interest.

Phosphate, originally deposited as guano, has been mined on the island since 1899. Christmas Island figures between the two states and territories of Australia (the other being the Cocos and Kooling Islands) where European Australians form a minority in the local demographics.

The local culture is very similar to that of Singapore, being also included in the past in that country until it was transferred to Australia in 1958 at the price of 20 million Australian dollars after Canberra requested it from the British government.

Almost all of the newly built homes located on the island, where most of the citizens live, have been built and delivered by the Singapore Improvement Trust, the forerunner of the current Housing and Development Board. Christmas Island has 80 kilometers of coastline, but only small parts of the coastline are easily accessible.

The perimeter of the island features sharp cliffs, which make it difficult to reach many of the island's beaches. Some of the easily accessible beaches include Flying Fish Cove (the main one), Lily, Ethel and Isabel, while the more difficult to reach include Greta, Dolly, Winifred, Merrial and West White, all of which require a four-wheel drive vehicle and a difficult walk through dense rainforest.

Christmas Island is well known for its biological diversity: there are many rare species of animals and plants present and the setting makes nature walks ideal, so much so that specific trekking routes can be followed. In addition to biodiversity, there are numerous caves, which differ according to their precise location in terms of geological composition.

Christmas Island was uninhabited until the end of the 19th century, which allowed many species to evolve away from anthropogenic impact. The local national park is managed by the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage through Parks Australia.

Christmas Island is home to unique plant and animal species, some of which are endangered and we try to prevent them from ending up like those unfortunately extinct today.