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History of Christmas Island

No one knows when and by whom Christmas Island was discovered, but it is first noted on a map produced by Pieter Goos[?], published in 1666; on it the island is named Moni.

The earliest recorded visit was in March of 1688 by William Dampier[?], who found it uninhabited. An account of the vist can be found in Dampier's Voyages, which describes how, when trying to reach Cocos[?] from New Holland[?], his ship was pulled of course in an easterly direction and after 28 days arrived at Christmas Island.

The next visit was by Daniel Beekman[?], who described it in his 1718 book, A Voyage to and from the Island of Borneo, in the East Indies.

In 1771 the Indian vessel, the Pigot, attempted to find an anchorage but was unsuccessful; the crew reported seeing wild pigs and coconut palms. However, neither of these have since been found on the island, so the Pigot may have found a different island.

The first attempt at exploring the island was in 1857 by the crew of the Amethyst. They tried to reach the summit of the island, but found the cliffs impassable.

In 1887, Captain Maclear of H.M.S. Flying Fish, having discovered an anchorage in a bay that he named Flying Fish Cove, landed a party and made a small but interesting collection of the flora and fauna. In the next year, Pelham Aldrich, on board the H.M.S. Egeria, visited it for ten days, accompanied by J. J. Lister, who gathered a larger biological and mineralogical collection.

Among the rocks then obtained and submitted to Sir John Murray for examination were many of nearly pure phosphate of lime, a discovery which led to annexation of the island by the British Crown in June 1888. Soon afterwards, a small settlement was established in Flying Fish Cove by G. Clunies Ross, the owner of the Keeling Islands, which lie about 750 miles west.

In 1896, Sir John Murray funded a full exploration of the island.

The island is now a territory of Australia.

See also: Christmas Island


  • CIA World Factbook 2002
  • Chas. W. Andrews, A Description of Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). Geographical Journal, 13(1), 17-35 (1899).
  • W. J. L. Wharton, Account of Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, 10(10), 613-624 (1888).

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