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Kiritimati

Kiritimati

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Kiritimati or Christmas Island is a Pacific Ocean raised coral atoll
Raised coral atoll
A raised coral atoll is a typical atoll which has been lifted high enough above sea level by tectonic forces to protect it from scouring by storms and enable soils and diverse – often endemic – species of flora and fauna to develop...

 in the northern Line Islands
Line Islands
The Line Islands, Teraina Islands or Equatorial Islands, is a chain of eleven atolls and low coral islands in the central Pacific Ocean, south of the Hawaiian Islands, that stretches for 2,350 km in a northwest-southeast direction, making it one of the longest islands chains of the world...

, and part of the Republic of Kiribati
Kiribati
Kiribati , officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The permanent population exceeds just over 100,000 , and is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, straddling the...

.

The island has the greatest land area of any coral atoll in the world: about 322 square kilometres (124.3 sq mi); its lagoon
Lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

 is about the same size. The atoll is about 150 km (93 mi) in perimeter, while the lagoon shoreline extends for over 48 km (29.8 mi). Christmas Island comprises over 70% of the total land area of Kiribati, a country encompassing 33 Pacific atolls and islands.

Kiritimati Island (Christmas) is well known for its world class bone fishing
Bonefish
The bonefish is the type species of the Albulidae family, or bonefishes in order Albuliformes. It is amphidromous, living in inshore tropical waters, moving onto shallow mudflats to feed with the incoming tide, and retreating to deeper water as the tide ebbs...

. It also has excellent birdwatching
Birdwatching
Birdwatching or birding is the observation of birds as a recreational activity. It can be done with the naked eye, through a visual enhancement device like binoculars and telescopes, or by listening for bird sounds. Birding often involves a significant auditory component, as many bird species are...

 and surfing
Surfing
Surfing' is a surface water sport in which the surfer rides a surfboard on the crest and face of a wave which is carrying the surfer towards the shore...

 opportunities.

It lies 232 km (144.2 mi) north of the Equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

, 6700 km (4,163.2 mi) from Sydney
Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, and 5360 km (3,330.6 mi) from San Francisco. Christmas Island is in the world's farthest forward time zone, UTC+14
UTC+14
UTC+14 is an identifier for a +14 hour time offset from UTC. This is the highest time zone, meaning that areas in this zone are the first to see a new day, and therefore the first to celebrate a new year....

, and Christmas Island is the first inhabited place on Earth to experience the New Year
New Year
The New Year is the day that marks the time of the beginning of a new calendar year, and is the day on which the year count of the specific calendar used is incremented. For many cultures, the event is celebrated in some manner....

 each year (see also Caroline Atoll
Caroline Island
Caroline Island or Caroline Atoll , is the easternmost of the uninhabited coral atolls which comprise the southern Line Islands in the central Pacific Ocean....

, Kiribati). Despite being 1530 miles (2,462.3 km) 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
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 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.

The name "Kiritimati" is a rather straightforward transliteration
Transliteration
Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...

 of the English word "Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

" into Gilbertese
Gilbertese language
-External links:**** with Gilbertese – English Translations from – The Rosetta Edition**...

—where the 'ti' combination is pronounced 's' and thus pronounced kəˈrɪsməs.

History



At Western discovery, Christmas Island was uninhabited. As on other Line Islands there might have been a small or temporary native population, most probably Polynesian
Polynesians
The Polynesian peoples is a grouping of various ethnic groups that speak Polynesian languages, a branch of the Oceanic languages within the Austronesian languages, and inhabit Polynesia. They number approximately 1,500,000 people...

 traders and settlers, who would have found the island a useful replenishing station on the long voyages from the Society Islands
Society Islands
The Society Islands are a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. They are politically part of French Polynesia. The archipelago is generally believed to have been named by Captain James Cook in honor of the Royal Society, the sponsor of the first British scientific survey of the islands;...

 to Hawaiʻi, perhaps as early as AD 400. This trade route was apparently used with some regularity by about AD 1000. From 1200 onwards Polynesian long-distance voyages became less frequent, and had there been human settlement on Christmas Island, it would have been abandoned in the early-mid second millennium AD
2nd millennium
File:2nd millennium montage.png|From left, clockwise: In 1492, Christopher Columbus; The American Revolution; The French Revolution; The Atomic Bomb from World War II; An alternate source of light, the Light Bulb; For the first time, a human being sets foot on the moon in 1969 during the Apollo 11...

. Two possible village sites and some stone structures of these early visitors have been located. Today, most inhabitants are Micronesian
Micronesian
Micronesian may refer to:* Something of, from, or related to Micronesia, a subregion of Oceania composed of hundreds of small islands in the Pacific Ocean...

s, and Gilbertese
Gilbertese language
-External links:**** with Gilbertese – English Translations from – The Rosetta Edition**...

 is the only language of any significance. English is generally understood, but little used outside the tourism
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 sector.

Christmas Island was discovered by Captain James Cook
James Cook
Captain James Cook, FRS, RN was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer who ultimately rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy...

 on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

 (24 December) 1777. It was claimed by the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 under the Guano Islands Act
Guano Islands Act
The Guano Islands Act is federal legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, on August 18, 1856. It enables citizens of the U.S. to take possession of islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of other...

 of 1856, though little actual mining of guano
Guano
Guano is the excrement of seabirds, cave dwelling bats, and seals. Guano manure is an effective fertilizer due to its high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen and also its lack of odor. It was an important source of nitrates for gunpowder...

 took place.


Permanent settlement started by 1882, mainly by workers in coconut plantations and fishermen but, due to an extreme drought which killed off tens of thousands of Coconut Palms – about 75% of Christmas Island's population of this plant, the island was once again abandoned between 1905 and 1912.

Many of the toponyms in the island go back to Father Emmanuel Rougier, a French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 who lease
Lease
A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the lessee to pay the lessor for use of an asset. A rental agreement is a lease in which the asset is tangible property...

d the island from 1917 to 1939 and planted some 800,000 coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 trees there. He lived in his Paris house (now only small ruins) located at Benson Point, across the Burgle Channel from Londres (today London
London, Kiribati
London is the principal settlement on the atoll of Kiritimati also known as Christmas Island belonging to Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean. As of 2005 it has a population of 1,829 people, making it the second largest village on Kiritimati and in the whole Line Islands. Only Tabwakea is slightly...

) at Bridges Point where he established the port
Port
A port is a location on a coast or shore containing one or more harbors where ships can dock and transfer people or cargo to or from land....

. Joe's Hill was named by Joe English, who served as plantation manager for Rougier from 1915-19. English was left alone on the island for a year and a half (1917–19), with two teens, when cholera broke out in Papeete
Papeete
-Sights:* Interactive Google map of Papeete, to discover the 30 major tourist attractions in Papeete downtown.*The waterfront esplanade*Bougainville Park -Sights:* Interactive Google map of Papeete, to discover the 30 major tourist attractions in Papeete downtown.*The waterfront...

 and transport stopped due to the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. English was later rescued by Lord John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe
John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe
Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO was a British Royal Navy admiral who commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in World War I...

, Admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 of the British Fleet. English, still thinking the war was in effect and that the ship was German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, pulled his revolver
Revolver
A revolver is a repeating firearm that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. The first revolver ever made was built by Elisha Collier in 1818. The percussion cap revolver was invented by Samuel Colt in 1836. This weapon became known as the Colt Paterson...

 on the British Admiral, causing a short standoff until some explanation defused the situation. Upon his rescue, English's adventures were later chronicled in the Boston Globe
The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe is an American daily newspaper based in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Globe has been owned by The New York Times Company since 1993...

.

Christmas Island was occupied by the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The Americans taking over the island garrison allowed Australian troops use it for mainland defense. The first contingent of Americans was a company from the 102nd Infantry Regiment, a National Guard from New Haven, CT. The Island was important to hold because if the Japanese had captured it, an airbase could be contructed that would allow interdiction of the main Hawaii to Australia supply route. For the first few months there were next to no recreation facilties on the island, and the men amused themsleves by shooting at sharks that swam into the lagoon.

The first airstrip was constructed then for servicing the US Army Air Force weather station
Weather station
A weather station is a facility, either on land or sea, with instruments and equipment for observing atmospheric conditions to provide information for weather forecasts and to study the weather and climate. The measurements taken include temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, wind speed, wind...

 and communications center. The airstrip also provided rest and refueling facilities for planes traveling between Hawaii and the South Pacific. There was also a small civilian radio-meteorological research station.

In 1975 the Captain Cook Hotel
Captain Cook Hotel
Captain Cook Hotel is a hotel in Kiribati. It was the first hotel to be built on the island of Kiritimati and was named after Captain James Cook who discovered the island on Christmas Eve 1777. The hotel was built in 1975 on a former British military base and has been continuously owned by the...

 was built on the former British military base.

The US Guano Islands Act claim was formally ceded by the Treaty of Tarawa
Treaty of Tarawa
On September 20, 1979, representatives of the newly independent Republic of Kiribati and of the United States met in Tarawa to sign a treaty of friendship between the two nations, known as the Treaty of Tarawa. In this treaty, the U.S. acknowledged Kiribati sovereignty over fourteen islands...

 between the U.S. and Kiribati, signed in 1979 and ratified in 1983.

Nuclear bomb tests


During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 there was some nuclear weapons testing in the Christmas Island area. The United Kingdom supposedly conducted its first successful hydrogen bomb test at Malden Island
Malden Island
Malden Island, sometimes called Independence Island in the nineteenth century, is a low, arid, uninhabited island in the central Pacific Ocean, about in area...

 on 15 May 1957; Christmas Island was the operation's main base. In fact, this test did not work as planned, and the first British H-bomb was successfully detonated over the southeastern tip of Christmas Island on 8 November 1957. Subsequent test series in 1958 (Grapple Y and Z) took place above or near Christmas Island itself. The United States conducted 22 successful nuclear detonations as part of Operation Dominic here in 1962. Some toponyms (like Banana and Main Camp) come from the nuclear testing period, during which at times over 4,000 servicemen were present. By 1969, military interest in Christmas Island had ceased and the facilities were abandoned and for the most part dismantled. Some communications, transport and logistics facilities, however, were converted for civilian use and it is due to these installations that Christmas Island came to serve as the administrative center for the Line Islands.

The United Kingdom detonated some 5 MtTNT of nuclear payload near and 1.8 MtTNT directly above Christmas Island in 1957/58, while the United States between 25 April and 11 July 1962 successfully tested nuclear devices of about 24 MtTNT payload altogether in the vicinity of the island. During the British Grapple X test of 8 November 1957 which took place directly above the southeastern tip of Christmas Island, yield
Nuclear weapon yield
The explosive yield of a nuclear weapon is the amount of energy discharged when a nuclear weapon is detonated, expressed usually in the equivalent mass of trinitrotoluene , either in kilotons or megatons , but sometimes also in terajoules...

 was stronger than expected and there was some blast damage in the settlements. Islanders were usually not evacuated during the nuclear weapons testing, and data on the environmental and public health impact of these tests remains contested.

Present status


The island's population has strongly increased in recent years, from about 2,000 in 1989 to about 5,000 in the early 2000s. Christmas Island has two representatives in the Maneaba ni Maungatabu. Today there are five village
Village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

s, four populated and one abandoned, on the island:
No. Village Population
(Census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 2005)
1 Tabwakea
Tabwakea
' is a settlement in Kiribati. It is located on the island of Kiritimati. In 2005 it had a population of 1,881 people. It is the largest village on Kiritimati and in the whole Line Islands....

 
1,881
2 London
London, Kiribati
London is the principal settlement on the atoll of Kiritimati also known as Christmas Island belonging to Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean. As of 2005 it has a population of 1,829 people, making it the second largest village on Kiritimati and in the whole Line Islands. Only Tabwakea is slightly...

 
1,829
3 Banana
Banana, Kiribati
Banana is a settlement on Kiritimati Island in Kiribati. It is located in the northeast of the atoll, close to the island's airport, Cassidy International.-Demographics:It is the third largest village on the island with a population of 1170 people in 2005....

 (Banana Wells)
1,170
4 Poland
Poland, Kiribati
Poland is one of four villages on the island of Kiritimati , Kiribati. The village was named after a Polish explorer and engineer Stanisław Pełczyński who aided the villagers. He solved the problem with watering palm trees in dry season by suggesting modified irrigating system...

235
5 Paris
Paris, Kiribati
Paris is an abandoned settlement on Kiritimati Island in Kiribati. It is one of three settlements on the island to be named after European places, along with nearby London and Poland....

 (ruins)
Christmas Island 5,115


London is the main village and port facility. Banana is near Cassidy International Airport
Cassidy International Airport
Cassidy International Airport is an airport located north of Banana, a settlement on Kiritimati in Kiribati. It is the only airport in the Kiribatian part of the Line Islands with an IATA and/or ICAO code....

 but may be relocated closer to London to prevent contamination of its groundwater. The abandoned village of Paris is no longer listed in census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 reports.

The ministry of the Line and Phoenix islands is located in London. There are also two new high school
High school
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

s on the road between Tabwakea and Banana: one Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 and one Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

. The University of Hawaii
University of Hawaii
The University of Hawaii System, formally the University of Hawaii and popularly known as UH, is a public, co-educational college and university system that confers associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees through three university campuses, seven community college campuses, an employment...

 has a climatological research facility on Christmas Island.

Transport and commerce


Cassidy International Airport
Cassidy International Airport
Cassidy International Airport is an airport located north of Banana, a settlement on Kiritimati in Kiribati. It is the only airport in the Kiribatian part of the Line Islands with an IATA and/or ICAO code....

(IATA code CXI) is located just north of Banana
Banana, Kiribati
Banana is a settlement on Kiritimati Island in Kiribati. It is located in the northeast of the atoll, close to the island's airport, Cassidy International.-Demographics:It is the third largest village on the island with a population of 1170 people in 2005....

 and North East Point. It has a paved runway with a length of 6900 feet (2,103 m) and was for some time the only airport in Kiribati to serve the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

, via an Air Pacific
Air Pacific
Air Pacific Limited, Fiji's international airline, operates international and domestic services around the Pacific and to North America and Hong Kong. It is also a partner with the frequent flyer programmes of Qantas, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines...

 flight to Honolulu, Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. American Te Mauri Travel offers weekly charter flights from Honolulu.

Although Air Pacific hoped to commence on 25 May 2010 flying on a weekly schedule to Kiritimati (Christmas) Island from both Honolulu and Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

, they have canceled reservations for those flights explaining that the runway is not suitable. At this current time, Air Pacific have 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
Boeing 727
The Boeing 727 is a mid-size, narrow-body, three-engine, T-tailed commercial jet airliner, manufactured by Boeing. The Boeing 727 first flew in 1963, and for over a decade more were built per year than any other jet airliner. When production ended in 1984 a total of 1,832 aircraft had been produced...

 from Honolulu operated by Asia Pacific Airlines (Guam).

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
Wernher von Braun
Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun was a German rocket scientist, aerospace engineer, space architect, and one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany during World War II and in the United States after that.A former member of the Nazi party,...

 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
HOPE-X
HOPE was a Japanese experimental spaceplane project designed by a partnership between NASDA and NAL , started in the 1980s. It was positioned for most of its lifetime as one of the main Japanese contributions to the International Space Station, the other being the Japanese Experiment Module...

 space shuttle project. Christmas Island is also located fairly close to the Sea Launch
Sea Launch
Sea Launch is a spacecraft launch service that uses a mobile sea platform for equatorial launches of commercial payloads on specialized Zenit 3SL rockets...

 satellite launching spot at 0° N 154° W, about 370 kilometres (200 nmi
Nautical mile
The nautical mile is a unit of length that is about one minute of arc of latitude along any meridian, but is approximately one minute of arc of longitude only at the equator...

) 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
Jetty
A jetty is any of a variety of structures used in river, dock, and maritime works that are generally carried out in pairs from river banks, or in continuation of river channels at their outlets into deep water; or out into docks, and outside their entrances; or for forming basins along the...

, handling some cargo, was built by the Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese at London. Marine fish provide a healthy portion of the island's nutrition, although overfishing
Overfishing
Overfishing occurs when fishing activities reduce fish stocks below an acceptable level. This can occur in any body of water from a pond to the oceans....

 has caused a drastic decrease in the populations of large, predatory fish over the last several years.

Exports of the atoll are mainly copra
Copra
Copra is the dried meat, or kernel, of the coconut. Coconut oil extracted from it has made copra an important agricultural commodity for many coconut-producing countries. It also yields coconut cake which is mainly used as feed for livestock.-Production:...

 (dried coconut pulp); the state-owned coconut plantation
Plantation
A plantation is a long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale, often in distant markets rather than for local on-site consumption...

 covers about 51 square kilometres (19.7 sq mi). In addition, goods like aquarium
Aquarium
An aquarium is a vivarium consisting of at least one transparent side in which water-dwelling plants or animals are kept. Fishkeepers use aquaria to keep fish, invertebrates, amphibians, marine mammals, turtles, and aquatic plants...

 fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

 and seaweed
Seaweed
Seaweed is a loose, colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae...

 are exported. A 1970s project to commercially breed Artemia salina
Artemia salina
Artemia salina is a species of brine shrimp – aquatic crustaceans that are more closely related to Triops and cladocerans than to true shrimp. It is a very old species that does not appear to have changed in .-Description:...

brine shrimp in the salt ponds was abandoned in 1978. In recent years there have been attempts to explore the viability of live crayfish
Crayfish
Crayfish, crawfish, or crawdads – members of the superfamilies Astacoidea and Parastacoidea – are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters, to which they are related...

 and chilled fish exports and salt production.

Furthermore, there is a small amount of tourism
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

, mainly associated with anglers interested in lagoon fishing (for bonefish
Bonefish
The bonefish is the type species of the Albulidae family, or bonefishes in order Albuliformes. It is amphidromous, living in inshore tropical waters, moving onto shallow mudflats to feed with the incoming tide, and retreating to deeper water as the tide ebbs...

 in particular) or offshore fishing. Week-long ecotourism
Ecotourism
Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism...

 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
Hotel
A hotel is an establishment that provides paid lodging on a short-term basis. The provision of basic accommodation, in times past, consisting only of a room with a bed, a cupboard, a small table and a washstand has largely been replaced by rooms with modern facilities, including en-suite bathrooms...

, rental facilities, and takeaway
Take-out
Take-out or takeout , carry-out , take-away , parcel , or tapau , is food purchased at a...

s.

Geography and climate



Christmas Island's roughly 320 km² (123.6 sq mi) lagoon
Lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

 opens to the sea in the northwest; Burgle Channel (the entrance to the lagoon) is divided into the northern Cook Island Passage and the southern South Passage. The southeastern part of the lagoon is partially dried out today; essentially, progressing SE from Burgle Channel, the 160 km² (61.8 sq mi) main lagoon gradually turns into a network of subsidiary lagoons, tidal flats, partially hypersaline brine
Brine
Brine is water, saturated or nearly saturated with salt .Brine is used to preserve vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat, in a process known as brining . Brine is also commonly used to age Halloumi and Feta cheeses, or for pickling foodstuffs, as a means of preserving them...

 ponds and salt pan
Salt pan (geology)
Natural salt pans are flat expanses of ground covered with salt and other minerals, usually shining white under the sun. They are found in deserts, and should not be confused with salt evaporation ponds.A salt pan is formed where water pools...

s, which as a whole has about the same area again as the main lagoon. Thus, the land and lagoon areas can only be given approximately, as no firm boundary exists between the main island body and the salt flats.

In addition to the main island, there are several smaller ones. Cook Island is part of the atoll proper but unconnected to the Christmas Island mainland. It is a sand/coral island of 19 ha (47 acre), divides Burgle Channel into the northern and the southern entrance, and has a large seabird colony. Islets (motus) in the lagoon include Motu Tabu (3.5 ha (8.6 acre)) with its Pisonia
Pisonia
Pisonia is a genus of flowering plants in the four o'clock flower family, Nyctaginaceae. It was named for Dutch physician and naturalist Willem Piso . Certain species in this genus are known as Catchbirdtrees because their sticky seeds reportedly trap small birds...

forest and the shrub-covered Motu Upua (also called Motu Upou or Motu Upoa, 19 ha (47 acre)) at the northern side, and Ngaontetaake (2.7 ha (7 acre)) at the eastern side.

Joe's Hill (originally La colline de Joe) near Artemia Corners on the southeastern peninsula
Peninsula
A peninsula is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland. In many Germanic and Celtic languages and also in Baltic, Slavic and Hungarian, peninsulas are called "half-islands"....

 is the highest point on the atoll, at about 13 m (42.7 ft) ASL
Above mean sea level
The term above mean sea level refers to the elevation or altitude of any object, relative to the average sea level datum. AMSL is used extensively in radio by engineers to determine the coverage area a station will be able to reach...

. On the northwestern peninsula for example, the land raises only to some 7 m (20 ft), which is still considerable for an atoll.

Despite its proximity to the ITCZ
Intertropical Convergence Zone
The Intertropical Convergence Zone , known by sailors as The Doldrums, is the area encircling the earth near the equator where winds originating in the northern and southern hemispheres come together....

, Christmas Island is located in an equatorial dry zone and rainfall is rather low except during El Niño years; 873 mm (34.4 in) on average per year, in some years it can be as little as 177 mm (7 in) and much of the flats and ponds can dry up such as in late 1978. On the other hand, in some exceptionally wet years abundant downpours in March–April may result in a total annual precipitation of over 2500 mm (98.4 in). Christmas Island is thus affected by regular, severe drought
Drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

s. They are exacerbated by its geological structure; climatically
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

 "dry" Pacific islands are more typically located in the "desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 belt" at about 30°N or S latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

. Christmas Island is a raised atoll, and although it does occasionally receive plenty of precipitation
Precipitation (meteorology)
In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation (also known as one of the classes of hydrometeors, which are atmospheric water phenomena is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravity. The main forms of precipitation...

, little is retained given the porous carbonatic
Carbonate minerals
Carbonate minerals are those minerals containing the carbonate ion: CO32-.-Anhydrous carbonates:*Calcite group: Trigonal**Calcite CaCO3**Gaspeite CO3**Magnesite MgCO3**Otavite CdCO3**Rhodochrosite MnCO3**Siderite FeCO3**Smithsonite ZnCO3...

 rock, the thin soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

, and the absence of dense vegetation
Vegetation
Vegetation is a general term for the plant life of a region; it refers to the ground cover provided by plants. It is a general term, without specific reference to particular taxa, life forms, structure, spatial extent, or any other specific botanical or geographic characteristics. It is broader...

 cover on much of the island, while evaporation
Evaporation
Evaporation is a type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs only on the surface of a liquid. The other type of vaporization is boiling, which, instead, occurs on the entire mass of the liquid....

 is constantly high. Consequently, Christmas Island is one of the rather few places close to the Equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

 which have an effectively arid
Arid
A region is said to be arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or even preventing the growth and development of plant and animal life...

 climate.

The temperature is constantly between 24°C and 30°C (75°F and 86°F) with more diurnal temperature variation
Diurnal temperature variation
Diurnal temperature variation is a meteorological term that relates to the variation in temperature that occurs from the highs of the day to the cool of nights.-Temperature lag:Temperature lag is an important factor in diurnal temperature variation...

 than season
Season
A season is a division of the year, marked by changes in weather, ecology, and hours of daylight.Seasons result from the yearly revolution of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the plane of revolution...

al variation. Easterly trade wind
Trade wind
The trade winds are the prevailing pattern of easterly surface winds found in the tropics, within the lower portion of the Earth's atmosphere, in the lower section of the troposphere near the Earth's equator...

s predominate.

Ecology


The flora and the fauna consist of taxa adapted to drought. Terrestrial
Terrestrial animal
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land , as compared with aquatic animals, which live predominantly or entirely in the water , or amphibians, which rely on a combination of aquatic and terrestrial habitats...

 fauna is scant; there are no truly native land mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s and only one native land bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

 – Kiribati's endemic reed-warbler
Acrocephalus
The Acrocephalus warblers are small, insectivorous passerine birds belonging to the genus Acrocephalus. Formerly in the paraphyletic Old World warbler assemblage, they are now separated as the namesake of the marsh- and tree-warbler family Acrocephalidae...

, the Bokikokiko
Bokikokiko
The Bokikokiko is a species of warbler in the Acrocephalidae family.It is found only on Kiritimati .-References:* BirdLife International 2004....

 (Acrocephalus aequinoctialis). The 1957 attempt to introduce the endangered
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 Rimitara Lorikeet (Vini kuhlii) has largely failed; a few birds seem to linger on, but the lack of abundant Coconut Palm forest, on which this tiny parrot depends, makes Christmas Island a suboptimal habitat for this species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

.


Flora


The natural vegetation on Christmas Island consists mostly of low shrubland
Shrubland
Shrubland, scrubland, scrub or brush is a plant community characterized by vegetation dominated by shrubs, often also including grasses, herbs, and geophytes. Shrubland may either occur naturally or be the result of human activity...

 and grassland
Grassland
Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses and other herbaceous plants . However, sedge and rush families can also be found. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica...

. What little woodland exists is mainly open Coconut Palm
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 (Cocos nucifera) plantation. There are three small woods of Catchbird Trees (Pisonia grandis
Pisonia grandis
Pisonia grandis is a species of flowering tree in the Bougainvillea family, Nyctaginaceae.-Description:The tree has broad, thin leaves, smooth bark and bears clusters of green sweet-smelling flowers that mature into sticky barbed seeds....

), at Southeast Point, Northwest Point, and on Motu Tabu. The latter was planted there in recent times. About 50 introduced
Introduced species
An introduced species — or neozoon, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species, or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its indigenous or native distributional range, and has arrived in an ecosystem or plant community by human activity, either deliberate or accidental...

 plant species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 are found on Christmas Island; as most are plentiful around settlements, former military sites and roads, it seems that these only became established in the 20th century.


Beach Naupaka (Scaevola taccada
Scaevola taccada
Scaevola taccada, also known as Beach Cabbage, Sea Lettuce, Beach Naupaka, Naupaka kahakai , Merambong and Ngahu is a flowering plant in the family Goodeniaceae found in open coastal locations of the tropical areas of the Indo-Pacific...

) is the most common shrub
Shrub
A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

 on Christmas Island; Beach Naupaka scrub dominates the vegetation on much of the island, either as pure stands or interspersed with Tree Heliotrope (Heliotropium foertherianum
Heliotropium foertherianum
Heliotropium foertherianum is a species of flowering plant in the borage family, Boraginaceae. It is native to tropical Asia, including southern China, Madagascar, northern Australia, and most of the atolls and high islands of Micronesia and Polynesia. Common names include Tree Heliotrope, Velvet...

) and Bay Cedar (Suriana maritima
Suriana
Suriana is a monotypic genus of flowering plants containing only Suriana maritima, which is commonly known as Bay Cedar. It has a pantropical distribution and can be found on coasts in the New and Old World tropics. Bay Cedar is an evergreen shrub or small tree, usually reaching a height of and...

). The latter species is dominant on the drier parts of the lagoon flats where it grows up to 2 m (6.6 ft) tall. Tree Heliotrope is most commonly found a short distance from the sea- or lagoon-shore. In some places near the seashore, a low vegetation dominated by Polynesian Heliotrope (Heliotropium anomalum
Heliotropium anomalum
Heliotropium anomalum is a species of flowering shrub in the borage family, Boraginaceae, that is native to the Hawaiian Islands, Guam, Christmas Island, Saipan, Tinian, Wake Island and New Caledonia. Common names include Polynesian Heliotrope, Pacific Heliotrope and Hinahina kū kahakai . H. a. var...

), Yellow Purslane (Portulaca lutea) and Common Purslane (P. oleracea) is found. In the south and on the sandier parts, Sida fallax
Sida fallax
Sida fallax, known as ilima in Hawaiian, is a species of herbaceous flowering plant in the Hibiscus family, Malvaceae, that occurs on most of the Pacific Islands. The flowers are small, in diameter, have five petals, and are a golden yellow in color. Plants may be erect or prostrate and are found...

, also growing up to 2 m tall, is abundant. On the southeastern peninsula, S. fallax grows more stunted, and Polynesian Heliotrope, Yellow and Common Purslane as well as the spiderling
Boerhavia
Boerhavia, the spiderlings, is a genus of about 40 species of annual or perennial herbaceous plants in the four o'clock flower family, Nyctaginaceae. The common name refers to the appearance of a spider or spider's web given by the numerous long, slender and interlocking stems of the inflorescences...

 Boerhavia repens, the parasitic
Parasitic plant
A parasitic plant is one that derives some or all of its sustenance from another plant. About 4,100 species in approximately 19 families of flowering plants are known. Parasitic plants have a modified root, the haustorium, that penetrates the host plant and connects to the xylem, phloem, or...

 vine
Vine
A vine in the narrowest sense is the grapevine , but more generally it can refer to any plant with a growth habit of trailing or scandent, that is to say climbing, stems or runners...

 Cassytha filiformis, and Pacific Island Thintail (Lepturus repens) supplement it. The last species dominates in the coastal grasslands. The wetter parts of the lagoon shore are often covered by abundant growth of Shoreline Purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum
Sesuvium portulacastrum
Sesuvium portulacastrum, commonly known as shoreline purslane or "sea purslane", is a sprawling perennial herb that grows in coastal areas throughout much of the world.-Description:...

).

Perhaps the most destructive of the recently-introduced plants is Sweetscent (Pluchea odorata
Pluchea odorata
Pluchea odorata is a species of flowering plant in the aster family, Asteraceae, that is native to the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. Common names include Sweetscent, Salt Marsh Fleabane, and Shrubby Camphorweed. It inhabits wetlands and other...

), a camphorweed
Pluchea
Pluchea is a genus of flowering plant in the Asteraceae family. Members of this genus might be known as camphorweeds, plucheas, or less uniquely "fleabanes". Some are called sourbushes. There are at least 40 species in the genus. They are native to tropical and warm temperate areas...

, which is considered an invasive weed
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

 as it overgrows and displaces herbs and grasses. The introduced creeper Tribulus cistoides, despite having also spread conspicuously, is considered to be more beneficial than harmful to the ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

, as it provides good nesting sites for some seabird
Seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

s.

Birds





More than 35 bird species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 have been recorded from Kitirimati. As noted above, only the Bokikokiko
Bokikokiko
The Bokikokiko is a species of warbler in the Acrocephalidae family.It is found only on Kiritimati .-References:* BirdLife International 2004....

 (Acrocephalus aequinoctialis), perhaps a few Rimitara Lorikeets (Vini kuhlii) – if any remain at all – and the occasional Eastern Reef Egret
Eastern Reef Egret
The Eastern Reef Heron , also known as the Pacific Reef Egret or Eastern Reef Egret, is a kind of heron. They are found in many areas of Asia including the oceanic region of India, Southeast Asia, Japan, Polynesia, and in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.Pacific Reef Herons are medium-sized...

 (Egretta sacra) make up the entire landbird fauna. About 1,000 adult Bokikokikos are to be found at any date, but mainly in mixed grass/shrubland away from the settlements.

On the other hand, seabird
Seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

s are plentiful on Christmas Island, and make up the bulk of the breeding bird population. There are 18 species of seabirds breeding on the island, and Kitirimati is one of the most important breeding grounds anywhere in the world for several of these:

Phaethontiformes
  • Eastern Red-tailed Tropicbird
    Red-tailed Tropicbird
    The Red-tailed Tropicbird, Phaethon rubricauda, is a seabird that nests across the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the rarest of the tropicbirds, yet is still a widespread bird that is not considered threatened. It nests in colonies on oceanic islands....

     (Phaethon rubricauda melanorhynchus) – important breeding colony; 8,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline, fewer than 3,000 in 1984

Charadriiformes
Charadriiformes
Charadriiformes is a diverse order of small to medium-large birds. It includes about 350 species and has members in all parts of the world. Most Charadriiformes live near water and eat invertebrates or other small animals; however, some are pelagic , some occupy deserts and a few are found in thick...

  • Micronesian Black Noddy
    Black Noddy
    The Black Noddy or White-capped Noddy is a seabird from the tern family. It resembles the closely related Brown or Common Noddy , but is smaller with darker plumage, a whiter cap, a longer, straighter beak and shorter tail...

     (Anous minutus marcusi) – 20,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline
  • Little White Tern
    Little White Tern
    The Little White Tern or Little Fairy Tern is a subspecies of tern . It is sometimes considered a distinct species most closely related to the larger White Tern. It is found in French Polynesia and Kiribati.-References:* BirdLife International 2004. . Downloaded on 24 July 2007....

     (Gygis microrhyncha) – 8,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline
  • Central Pacific Sooty Tern
    Sooty Tern
    The Sooty Tern, Onychoprion fuscatus , is a seabird of the tern family . It is a bird of the tropical oceans, breeding on islands throughout the equatorial zone. Colloquially, it is known as the Wideawake Tern or just wideawake...

     (Onychoprion fuscatus oahuensis) – largest breeding colony in the world; around 7,000,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline
  • Spectacled Tern (Onychoprion lunatus) – important breeding colony; 6,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline
  • Central Blue-grey Noddy (Procelsterna cerulea cerulea) – important breeding colony, possibly the largest worldwide of this subspecies; 4,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline

Procellariiformes
Procellariiformes
Procellariiformes is an order of seabirds that comprises four families: the albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, storm petrels, and diving petrels...

  • Polynesian Storm-petrel
    Polynesian Storm-petrel
    The Polynesian Storm Petrel is a species of seabird in the Hydrobatidae family. It is placed in the monotypic genus Nesofregetta....

     (Nesofregetta fuliginosa) – important breeding colony; 1,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline
  • Phoenix Petrel
    Phoenix Petrel
    The Phoenix Petrel, Pterodroma alba is a medium-sized, up to long, tropical seabird with a wingspan of . It has a dark brown upperparts plumage, white below and whitish throat. Both sexes are similar....

     (Pterodroma alba) – largest breeding colony in the world; 24,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline
  • Christmas Shearwater
    Christmas Shearwater
    The Christmas Shearwater, Puffinus nativitatis, is a medium-sized shearwater of the tropical Central Pacific. It is a poorly known species due to its remote nesting habits, and it has not been extensively studied at sea either....

     (Puffinus nativitatis) – largest subpopulation worldwide on Motu Upua; 12,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline
  • Wedge-tailed Shearwater
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater
    The Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Puffinus pacificus is a medium-large shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. It is one of the shearwater species that is sometimes referred to as a Muttonbird, like the Sooty Shearwater of New Zealand and the Short-tailed Shearwater of Australia...

     (Puffinus pacificus) – among the very largest breeding colonies in the world; about 1,000,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline

Pelecaniformes
Pelecaniformes
The Pelecaniformes is a order of medium-sized and large waterbirds found worldwide. As traditionally—but erroneously—defined, they encompass all birds that have feet with all four toes webbed. Hence, they were formerly also known by such names as totipalmates or steganopodes...

  • Indopacific Lesser Frigatebird
    Lesser Frigatebird
    The Lesser Frigatebird, Fregata ariel, is a species of frigatebird.It nests in Australia, among other locations.There is a single record from the Western Palearctic, from Eilat in the Gulf of Aqaba....

     (Fregata ariel ariel) – important breeding colony; 9,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline
  • Central Pacific Great Frigatebird
    Great Frigatebird
    The Great Frigatebird is a large dispersive seabird in the frigatebird family. Major nesting populations are found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as a population in the South Atlantic....

     (Fregata minor palmerstoni) – important breeding colony; 12,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline, 6,500 afterwards
  • Austropacific Masked Booby
    Masked Booby
    The Masked Booby, Sula dactylatra, is a large seabird of the booby family, Sulidae. This species breeds on islands in tropical oceans, except in the eastern Atlantic; in the eastern Pacific it is replaced by the Nazca Booby, Sula granti, which was formerly regarded as a subspecies of Masked Booby...

     (Sula dactylatra personata) – important breeding colony; 3,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline
  • Indopacific Red-footed Booby
    Red-footed Booby
    The Red-footed Booby, Sula sula, is a large seabird of the booby family, Sulidae. As suggested by the name, adults always have red feet, but the colour of the plumage varies. They are powerful and agile fliers, but they are clumsy in takeoffs and landings...

     (Sula sula rubripes) – 12,000 birds before the 1982/83 decline


Christmas Island's lagoon and the saltflats are a prime location for migratory birds to stop over or even stay all winter. The most commonly migrants are Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone
The Ruddy Turnstone is a small wading bird, one of two species of turnstone in the genus Arenaria. It is now classified in the sandpiper family Scolopacidae but was formerly sometimes placed in the plover family Charadriidae...

 (Arenaria interpres), Pacific Golden Plover
Pacific Golden Plover
The Pacific Golden Plover is a medium-sized plover.The 23–26 cm long breeding adult is spotted gold and black on the crown, back and wings. Its face and neck are black with a white border and it has a black breast and a dark rump. The legs are black...

 (Pluvialis fulva), Bristle-thighed Curlew
Bristle-thighed Curlew
The Bristle-thighed Curlew, Numenius tahitiensis, is a large shorebird that breeds in Alaska and winters on tropical Pacific islands. It has a long, decurved bill and bristled feathers at the base of the legs. Its length is about 43 cm and wingspan about 84 cm...

 (Numenius tahitiensis) and Wandering Tattler
Wandering Tattler
The Wandering Tattler, Tringa incana , is a medium-sized wading bird. It is similar in appearance to the closely related Gray-tailed Tattler, T. brevipes...

 (Tringa incana); other seabird
Seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

s, wader
Wader
Waders, called shorebirds in North America , are members of the order Charadriiformes, excluding the more marine web-footed seabird groups. The latter are the skuas , gulls , terns , skimmers , and auks...

s and even dabbling ducks can be encountered every now and then.

See also "Extinction" below.

Other fauna


The only mammal native to the region is the common Polynesian Rat
Polynesian Rat
The Polynesian Rat, or Pacific Rat , known to the Māori as kiore, is the third most widespread species of rat in the world behind the Brown Rat and Black Rat. The Polynesian Rat originates in Southeast Asia but, like its cousins, has become well travelled – infiltrating Fiji and most Polynesian...

 (Rattus exulans), but even this would seem to have been introduced by native seafarers numerous centuries before Cook found Christmas Island in 1777. Black Rat
Black Rat
The black rat is a common long-tailed rodent of the genus Rattus in the subfamily Murinae . The species originated in tropical Asia and spread through the Near East in Roman times before reaching Europe by the 1st century and spreading with Europeans across the world.-Taxonomy:The black rat was...

s (Rattus rattus) were present at some time, perhaps introduced by 19th century sailors or during the nuclear tests. They have not been able to gain a foothold between predation
Predation
In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey . Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption...

 by cats and competitive exclusion by Polynesian Rats, and no Black Rat population is found on Christmas Island today.

Up to 2,000 feral cat
Feral cat
A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats are born in the wild; the offspring of a stray cat can be considered feral if born in the wild.In many parts of...

s can in some years be found on the island; the population became established in the 19th century. Their depredations seriously harm the birdlife. Since the late 19th century, they have driven about 60% of the seabird species from the mainland completely, and during particular dry spells they will cross the mudflats and feast upon the birds on the motus. Spectacled Tern chicks seem to be a favorite food of the local cat population. There are some measures being taken to ensure the cat population does not grow. That lowering the cat population by some amount would much benefit Christmas and its inhabitants is generally accepted, but the situation is too complex to simply go and eradicate them outright (which is theoretically possible; see Marion Island) - see below for details. A limited population of feral pigs exists. They were once plentiful and wreaked havoc especially on the Onychoprion
Onychoprion
Onychoprion, the "brown-backed terns", is a genus of seabirds in the tern family. Although the genus was first described in 1832 by Johann Georg Wagler the four species in the genus were until recently retained in the larger genus Sterna, the genus that most terns are in .Three of the four species...

and noddies
Anous
Anous is a genus of birds in the tern family. The genus as presently described consists of three species :* Brown Noddy or Common Noddy, Anous stolidus* Black Noddy, Anous minutus* Lesser Noddy, Anous tenuirostris...

. Pig hunting
Boar hunting
Boar hunting is generally the practice of hunting wild boars, but can also extend to feral pigs and peccaries. A full-sized boar is a large animal armed with sharp tusks which it uses to defend itself. Boar hunting has often been a test of bravery....

 by locals has been encouraged, and was highly successful at limiting the pig population to a sustainable level, while providing a source of cheap protein for the islanders.



There are some "supertramp
Supertramp (ecology)
In ecology, a supertramp species is any type of animal which follows the "supertramp" strategy of high dispersion among many different habitats, towards none of which it is particularly specialized...

" lizard
Lizard
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains...

s which have reached the island by their own means. Commonly seen are the Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) and the skink
Skink
Skinks are lizards belonging to the family Scincidae. Together with several other lizard families, including Lacertidae , they comprise the superfamily or infraorder Scincomorpha...

 Cryptoblepharus boutonii; the Four-clawed Gecko (Gehyra mutilata) is less often encountered.

Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) regularly nest in small numbers on Christmas Island. The lagoon is famous among sea anglers worldwide for its Bonefish
Bonefish
The bonefish is the type species of the Albulidae family, or bonefishes in order Albuliformes. It is amphidromous, living in inshore tropical waters, moving onto shallow mudflats to feed with the incoming tide, and retreating to deeper water as the tide ebbs...

 (Albula vulpes), and has been stocked with Oreochromis
Oreochromis
Oreochromis is a large genus of tilapiine cichlids, fishes endemic to Africa and the Middle East. Several species from this genus have been introduced far outside their native range, and are important in aquaculture...

tilapia
Tilapia
Tilapia , is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish from the tilapiine cichlid tribe. Tilapia inhabit a variety of fresh water habitats, including shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes. Historically, they have been of major importance in artisan fishing in Africa and the...

 to decrease overfishing
Overfishing
Overfishing occurs when fishing activities reduce fish stocks below an acceptable level. This can occur in any body of water from a pond to the oceans....

 of marine species. Though the tilapias thrive in brackish water
Brackish water
Brackish water is water that has more salinity than fresh water, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing of seawater with fresh water, as in estuaries, or it may occur in brackish fossil aquifers. The word comes from the Middle Dutch root "brak," meaning "salty"...

 of the flats, they will not last long should they escape into the surrounding ocean.

There are some crustacean
Crustacean
Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 50,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at , to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span...

s of note to be found on Christmas Island and in the waters immediately adjacent. The amphibious
Amphibious
Amphibious means able to use either land or water. In particular it may refer to:*Amphibious warfare, warfare carried out on both land and water*Amphibians, vertebrate animals of the Class Amphibia...

 Coconut Crab
Coconut crab
The coconut crab, Birgus latro, is a species of terrestrial hermit crab, also known as the robber crab or palm thief. It is the largest land-living arthropod in the world, and is probably at the upper size limit of terrestrial animals with exoskeletons in today's atmosphere at a weight of up to...

 (Birgus latro) is not as common as for example on Teraina
Teraina
Teraina, also known as Washington Island is a coral atoll in the central Pacific Ocean and part of the Northern Line Islands which belongs to Kiribati. Obsolete names of Teraina are Prospect Island and New York Island. The island is located approximately 4.71° North latitude and 160.76° West...

. Ghost crab
Ghost crab
Ghost crabs, also called sand crabs, are crabs of the genus Ocypode, common shore crabs in many countries. Characteristics of the genus include one claw being larger than the other, but this difference is not as marked as in male fiddler crabs....

s (genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Ocypode), Cardisoma carnifex
Cardisoma carnifex
Cardisoma carnifex is a species of terrestrial crab found in coastal regions from the east coast of Africa and the Red Sea across the Indo-Pacific to the Line Islands and the Tuamotu Archipelago. The range includes parts of northern Australia and the Cocos Islands....

and Geograpsus grayi land crab
Land crab
Gecarcinidae is a family of true crabs that are adapted for terrestrial existence, commonly known as land crabs. Similar to all other crabs, land crabs possess a series of gills. In addition, the part of the carapace covering the gills is inflated and equipped with blood vessels. These organs...

s, the Strawberry Land Hermit Crab
Strawberry land hermit crab
Coenobita perlatus, is a species of terrestrial hermit crab. It is known as the strawberry hermit crab because of its reddish orange colours. It is a widespread scavenger across the Indo-Pacific, and is also traded to hobby aquarists.-Description:...

 (Coenobita perlatus), and the introduced brine shrimp
Brine shrimp
Artemia is a genus of aquatic crustaceans known as brine shrimp. Artemia, the only genus in the family Artemiidae, has changed little externally since the Triassic period...

 Artemis salina which populates the saline ponds are also notable.

Conservation and extinction



In December 1960, the British colonial authority gazetted Christmas Island as a bird sanctuary under the 1938 Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony Wild Birds Protection Ordinance of 1938. Access to Cook Island, Motu Tabu and Motu Upua was restricted. Kititimati was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in May 1975, in accordance with the Wildlife Conservation Ordinance of the then self-governing colony. Ngaontetaake and the Sooty Tern
Sooty Tern
The Sooty Tern, Onychoprion fuscatus , is a seabird of the tern family . It is a bird of the tropical oceans, breeding on islands throughout the equatorial zone. Colloquially, it is known as the Wideawake Tern or just wideawake...

 breeding grounds at North West Point also became restricted-access zones. Two years later, active conservation measures got underway.

To a limited extent, permits to enter the restricted areas for purposes like research or small-scale ecotourism
Ecotourism
Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism...

 are given. Kiribati's Wildlife Conservation Unit participates in the Christmas Island Development Committee and the Local Land Planning Board, and there exists an integrated program of wildlife conservation and education. New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 is a major sponsor of conservation efforts on Christmas Island.

Egg collecting for food on a massive scale was frequent in the past but is now outlawed. It is to be noted that the Sooty Terns for example could sustain occasional collection of effectively all of a season's eggs (over 10 million), if given sufficient time to recover and if cats are absent. Even egg collecting on a scale that significantly decreases costly food imports thus in theory could be possible, but not until the cat and rat populations have been brought under control. Poaching
Poaching
Poaching is the illegal taking of wild plants or animals contrary to local and international conservation and wildlife management laws. Violations of hunting laws and regulations are normally punishable by law and, collectively, such violations are known as poaching.It may be illegal and in...

 remains a concern; with the population rising and spreading out on Christmas Island, formerly remote bird colonies became more accessible and especially the Red-tailed Tropicbirds and the Sula are strongly affected by hunting and disturbance. Tropicbirds are mainly poached for their feathers which are used in local arts and handicraft; it would certainly be possible to obtain them from living birds as it was routinely done at the height of the Polynesian civilization.

It may seem that the erstwhile numbers of seabirds may only ever be approached again by the wholesale eradication of the feral cats. While this has been since shown to be feasible, it is not clear whether even a severe curtailing of the cat population would be desirable. Though it previously was assumed that the small Polynesian Rat is of little if any harm for seabirds, even house mice
House mouse
The house mouse is a small rodent, a mouse, one of the most numerous species of the genus Mus.As a wild animal the house mouse mainly lives associated with humans, causing damage to crops and stored food....

 have been shown to eat seabird nestlings. Most nesting birds, in particularly Procellariiformes
Procellariiformes
Procellariiformes is an order of seabirds that comprises four families: the albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, storm petrels, and diving petrels...

, are now accepted to be jeopardized by Rattus exulans. The Christmas Island's cats are meanwhile very fond of young seabirds; it even seems that their behavior has shifted accordingly, with cats being less territorial
Territory (animal)
In ethology the term territory refers to any sociographical area that an animal of a particular species consistently defends against conspecifics...

 generally and congregating in numbers at active bird colonies, and generally eschewing rats when seabird chicks are in plenty.

Possession of an unneutered female cat on Christmas Island is illegal, and owners need to prevent their domestic cats from running wild (such animals are usually quickly killed in traps set for this purpose). Nighttime cat hunting has made little effect on the cat population. As noted above, vigorous protecting of active nesting grounds from cats by traps, poison and supplemented by shooting while otherwise leaving them alone to hunt rats may well be the optimal solution.

There is no reliable data on the environmental and public health impact of the nuclear tests conducted on the island in the late 1950s. A 1975 study claimed that there was negligible radiation hazard; certainly, fallout
Nuclear fallout
Fallout is the residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast, so called because it "falls out" of the sky after the explosion and shock wave have passed. It commonly refers to the radioactive dust and ash created when a nuclear weapon explodes...

 was successfully minimized. More recently however, a Massey University
Massey University
Massey University is one of New Zealand's largest universities with approximately 36,000 students, 20,000 of whom are extramural students.The University has campuses in Palmerston North , Wellington and Auckland . Massey offers most of its degrees extramurally within New Zealand and internationally...

 study of New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 found chromosomal translocation
Chromosomal translocation
In genetics, a chromosome translocation is a chromosome abnormality caused by rearrangement of parts between nonhomologous chromosomes. A gene fusion may be created when the translocation joins two otherwise separated genes, the occurrence of which is common in cancer. It is detected on...

s to be increased about threefold on average in veterans who participated in the tests; most of the relevant data remains classified to date however.

The 1982/83 "mega-El Niño" devastated seabird populations on Christmas Island. In some species, mortality
Mortality rate
Mortality rate is a measure of the number of deaths in a population, scaled to the size of that population, per unit time...

 rose to 90% and breeding success dropped to zero during that time. In general, El Niño conditions will cause seabird populations to drop, taking several years to recover at the present density of predators. Global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 impact on Christmas Island is thus unpredictable. El Niño events seem to become shorter but more frequent in a warmer climate. Much of the island's infrastructure and habitation, with the notable exception of the airport area, is located to the leeward and thus somewhat protected from storms. A rising sea level does not appear to be particularly problematic; the increasing flooding of the subsidiary lagoons would provide easily-observed forewarning, and might even benefit seabird populations by making the motus less accessible to predators. In fact, geological data suggests that Christmas Island has withstood prehistoric sea level changes well. The biggest hazard caused by a changing climate would seem to be more prolonged and/or severe droughts, which could even enforce the island's abandonment as they did in 1905. However, it is not clear how weather patterns would change, and it may be that precipitation increases.

Extinction


The type specimen of the Tuamotu Sandpiper
Tuamotu Sandpiper
The Tuamotu Sandpiper, Prosobonia cancellata, is an endangered member of the large wader family Scolopacidae, that is endemic to the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia. It is sometimes placed in the monotypic genus Aechmorhynchus...

 (Prosobonia cancellata) was collected on Christmas Island in 1778, probably on 1 or 2 January, during Captain Cook's visit. The expedition's naturalist
Naturalist
Naturalist may refer to:* Practitioner of natural history* Conservationist* Advocate of naturalism * Naturalist , autobiography-See also:* The American Naturalist, periodical* Naturalism...

 William Anderson
William Anderson (naturalist)
William Anderson was a Scottish naturalist, one of seven children of schoolmaster Robert Anderson and Jean...

 observed the bird, and it was painted by William Ellis (linked below). The single specimen was in Joseph Banks
Joseph Banks
Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, GCB, PRS was an English naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences. He took part in Captain James Cook's first great voyage . Banks is credited with the introduction to the Western world of eucalyptus, acacia, mimosa and the genus named after him,...

's collection at the end of the 18th century, but later was lost or destroyed. There is some taxonomic dispute regarding the Christmas Island population. As all Prosobonia seem(ed) to be resident birds unwilling to undertake long-distance migrations, an appropriate treatment would be to consider the extinct population the nominate subspecies, as Prosobonia cancellata cancellata or Christmas Island Sandpiper, distinct from the surviving Tuamotu Islands population more than 2,000 km (1,200 mi) to the southeast.

It may have been, but probably was not, limited to Christmas Island; while no remains have been found, little fieldwork has been conducted and judging from the Tuamotu Sandpiper's habits, almost all Line Islands
Line Islands
The Line Islands, Teraina Islands or Equatorial Islands, is a chain of eleven atolls and low coral islands in the central Pacific Ocean, south of the Hawaiian Islands, that stretches for 2,350 km in a northwest-southeast direction, making it one of the longest islands chains of the world...

 would have offered suitable habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

. The Christmas Island population of P. cancellata disappeared in the earlier part of the 19th century or so, almost certainly due to predation by introduced mammals. While Prosobonia generally manage to hold their own against Polynesian Rat
Polynesian Rat
The Polynesian Rat, or Pacific Rat , known to the Māori as kiore, is the third most widespread species of rat in the world behind the Brown Rat and Black Rat. The Polynesian Rat originates in Southeast Asia but, like its cousins, has become well travelled – infiltrating Fiji and most Polynesian...

s, they are highly vulnerable to the Black Rat
Black Rat
The black rat is a common long-tailed rodent of the genus Rattus in the subfamily Murinae . The species originated in tropical Asia and spread through the Near East in Roman times before reaching Europe by the 1st century and spreading with Europeans across the world.-Taxonomy:The black rat was...

 and feral cat
Feral cat
A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats are born in the wild; the offspring of a stray cat can be considered feral if born in the wild.In many parts of...

s. Given the uncertainties surrounding the introduction date and maximum population of the former, the cats seem to be the main culprits in the Christmas Island Sandpiper's extinction.


Given that the island was apparently settled to some extent in prehistoric times, it may already have lost bird species then. The geological data indicates that Christmas Island is quite old, was never completely underwater in the Holocene
Holocene
The Holocene is a geological epoch which began at the end of the Pleistocene and continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Quaternary period. Its name comes from the Greek words and , meaning "entirely recent"...

 at least, and thus it might have once harbored highly distinct wetland birds. The limited overall habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

 diversity on Christmas Island nonetheless limits the range of such hypothetical taxa, as does biogeography
Biogeography
Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species , organisms, and ecosystems in space and through geological time. Organisms and biological communities vary in a highly regular fashion along geographic gradients of latitude, elevation, isolation and habitat area...

 due to its remote location. At least one, possibly several Gallirallus
Gallirallus
Gallirallus is a genus that contains about a dozen living species of rails that live in the Australasian-Pacific region. Many of these, including the most well-known one - the bold and inquisitive weka of New Zealand - are flightless or nearly so; others, such as the Buff-banded Rail, can go for...

and/or Porzana
Porzana
Porzana is a genus of birds in the crake or rail family, Rallidae. It has a global distribution, contains 13 living species, and 4-5 recently extinct ones...

rails make the most likely candidates, given their former presence in the region and that conditions on Christmas Island would seem well suited. Perhaps a Todiramphus
Todiramphus
Todiramphus is a genus of kingfishers in the family Halcyonidae. The name is often spelt Todirhamphus but Todiramphus is the original valid spelling. There are around 20-22 extant species in the genus but the classification of several Pacific island forms is still unclear...

kingfisher
Kingfisher
Kingfishers are a group of small to medium sized brightly coloured birds in the order Coraciiformes. They have a cosmopolitan distribution, with most species being found in the Old World and Australia...

 was also present; such a bird would probably have belonged to the Sacred Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher
The Sacred Kingfisher is primarily a woodland kingfisher that occurs in mangroves, woodlands, forests, and river valleys of Australia, Lord Howe Is., Norfolk Is., New Guinea, N...

 (T. sanctus) group as that species today occurs as a vagrant in Micronesia
Micronesia
Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It is distinct from Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the east. The Philippines lie to the west, and Indonesia to the southwest....

, and related forms are resident in southeastern Polynesia
Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

. These birds would have fallen victim to the Polynesian rat
Polynesian Rat
The Polynesian Rat, or Pacific Rat , known to the Māori as kiore, is the third most widespread species of rat in the world behind the Brown Rat and Black Rat. The Polynesian Rat originates in Southeast Asia but, like its cousins, has become well travelled – infiltrating Fiji and most Polynesian...

 and, in the case of the rails which would have almost certainly been flightless, hunting by natives.


External links