Christmas Island

All about Kiritimati

Christmas Island from aboveKiritimati or Christmas Island is a Pacific Ocean raised coral atoll in the northern Line Islands, and part of the Republic of Kiribati.

The name “Kiritimati” is a rather straightforward respelling of the English word “Christmas” in Gilbertese, in which the combination tiis pronounced s, and the name is thus pronounced [kəˈrɪsməs].

The island has the greatest land area of any coral atoll in the world: about 388 square kilometres (150 sq mi); its lagoon is about the same size. The atoll is about 150 km (93 mi) in perimeter, while the lagoon shoreline extends for over 48 km (30 mi).Christmas Island comprises over 70% of the total land area of Kiribati, a country encompassing 33 Pacific atolls and islands.

It lies 232 km (144 mi) north of the Equator, 6,700 km (4,160 mi) from Sydney, and 5,360 km (3,330 mi) from San Francisco. Christmas Island is in the world’s farthest forward time zone, UTC+14, and is one of the first inhabited places on Earth to experience the New Year (see also Caroline Atoll, Kiribati). Despite being 2,460 km (1,530 mi) east of the 180 meridian, a 1995 realignment of the International Dateline by the Republic of Kiribati “moved” Christmas Island to west of the dateline.

Nuclear tests were conducted in the region around Christmas Island by the United Kingdom in the late 1950s, and by the United States in 1962. During these tests islanders were not evacuated. Subsequently British, New Zealand, and Fijian servicemen as well as local islanders have claimed to have suffered from exposure to the radiation from these blasts.

The entire island is a Wildlife Sanctuary; access to five particularly sensitive areas (see below) is restricted.

No. Village Population (Census 2010)
1 Tabwakea 2,311
2 London 1,879
3 Banana (Banana Wells) 955
4 Poland 441
5 Paris (ruins)
Christmas Island 5,586

Christmas Island

5,586
London is the main village and port facility. Banana is near Cassidy International Airport (IATA code CXI) but may be relocated closer to London to prevent contamination of its groundwater. The abandoned village of Paris is no longer listed in census reports.

The ministry of the Line and Phoenix islands is located in London. There are also two new high schools on the road between Tabwakea and Banana: one Catholic and oneProtestant. The University of Hawaii has a climatological research facility on Christmas Island.

Transport and commerce

Cassidy International Airport is located just north of Banana and North East Point. It has a paved runway with a length of 6,900 feet (2,103 m) and was for some time the only airport in Kiribati to serve the Americas, via an Fiji Airways flight to Honolulu, Hawaii. American Te Mauri Travel offers weekly charter flights from Honolulu.

Fiji Airways has resumed services from Nadi and Honolulu to Kiritimati with one Boeing 737 service per week. A monthly air freight service is flown using a chartered Boeing 727 from Honolulu operated by Asia Pacific Airlines.

The abandoned Aeon Field, constructed before the British nuclear tests, is located on the southeastern peninsula, NW of South East Point.

In the early 1950s, Wernher von Braun proposed using this island as a launch site for manned spacecraft. There is a Japanese JAXA satellite tracking station; the abandoned Aeon Field had at one time been proposed for reuse by the Japanese for their now-canceled HOPE-X space shuttle project. Christmas Island is also located fairly close to the Sea Launch satellite launching spot at 0° N 154° W, about 370 kilometres (200 nmi) to the east in international waters.

Most of the atoll’s food supplies have to be imported. Potable water can be in short supply, especially around November in La Niña years. A large and modern jetty, handling some cargo, was built by the Japanese at London. Marine fish provide a healthy portion of the island’s nutrition, although overfishing has caused a drastic decrease in the populations of large, predatory fish over the last several years.

Exports of the atoll are mainly copra (dried coconut pulp); the state-owned coconut plantation covers about 51 square kilometres (20 sq mi). In addition, goods like aquarium fish and seaweed are exported. A 1970s project to commercially breed Artemia salina brine shrimp in the salt ponds was abandoned in 1978. In recent years there have been attempts to explore the viability of live crayfish and chilled fish exports and salt production.

Furthermore, there is a small amount of tourism, mainly associated with anglers interested in lagoon fishing (for bonefish in particular) or offshore fishing. Week-long ecotourism packages during which some of the normally closed areas can be visited are also available. In recent years, surfers have discovered that there are good waves during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter season and there are interests developing to service these recreational tourists. There is some tourism-related infrastructure, such as a small hotel, rental facilities, and takeaways.

 

Read more about Christmas Island on Wikipedia

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “Metasyntactic_variable”, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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