Christmas Island


Named in 1643 for the day of its discovery, the island was annexed and settlement was begun by the UK in 1888. Phosphate mining began in the 1890s. The UK transferred sovereignty to Australia in 1958. Almost two-thirds of the island has been declared a national park.


Southeastern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of Indonesia

Geographic coordinates:

10 30 S, 105 40 E


total: 135 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 135 sq km


tropical with a wet and dry season; heat and humidity moderated by trade winds; wet season December to April


steep cliffs along coast rise abruptly to central plateau

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Murray Hill 361 m

Natural resources:

phosphate, beaches

Land use:

arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100%
note: mainly tropical rainforest; 63% of the island is a national park (2001)

Natural hazards:

the narrow fringing reef surrounding the island can be a maritime hazard

Geography - note:

located along major sea lanes of Indian Ocean


396 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

Chinese 70%, European 20%, Malay 10%
note: no indigenous population (2001)


Buddhist 36%, Muslim 25%, Christian 18%, other 21% (1997)


English (official), Chinese, Malay

People - note:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports a population of 1508 as of the 2001 Census

Dependency status:

territory of Australia; administered by the Australian Department of Transport and Regional Services

Legal system:

under the authority of the governor general of Australia and Australian law

Economy - overview:

Phosphate mining had been the only significant economic activity, but in December 1987 the Australian Government closed the mine. In 1991, the mine was reopened. With the support of the government, a $34 million casino opened in 1993. The casino closed in 1998. The Australian Government in 2001 agreed to support the creation of a commercial space-launching site on the island, projected to begin operations in mid-2004

Exports - commodities:


Imports - commodities:

consumer goods

Imports - partners:

principally Australia

Exchange rates:

Australian dollars per US dollar - 1.5419 (2003), 1.9354 (2002), 1.9320 (2001), 1.7173(2000), 1.5497 (1999)

Telephone system:

general assessment: service provided by the Australian network
domestic: only analog mobile telephone service is available
international: country code - 61; satellite earth stations - one Intelsat earth station provides telephone and telex service (2000)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 0 (2004)

Ports and harbors:

Flying Fish Cove

Merchant marine:



1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Military - note:

defense is the responsibility of Australia