Christmas Island (Territory of Christmas Island) is a 135 sq km island in the Indian Ocean belonging to Australia. The island was discovered in 1643 by the Europeans and colonisation was begun in 1888 by England. In 1958, the island was passed over to Australia. The majority of the population consists of Chinese (61%), Malays (25%) and Europeans (11%). The island is largely a conservation area, and a national park has been established covering most of the islands area. Of particular note on Christmas Island are the red land crabs, which flock from the forest to the coast to mate in November each year in their millions and then lay their eggs in the sea.
Geography. The island is located south of Java and about 2,300 km north of Perth. The island measures about 135 sq km and has a core of volcanic rock (trachyte and basalt), and limestone, derived from the skeletons of foraminifera and corals (Scleractinia). It rises from a depth of 2,000 m below sea level to about 350 m above sea level.
Capital. In 1888, the first British settlement on the island was Flying Fish Cove (2,700 inhabitants), which is the capital of Christmas Island. There is a small harbour in the capital, used mainly by tourist's yachts. The city also has a small airport, Christmas Island (XCH).
Religion. About half of the population are Buddhist, 14% Christian and 10% Muslims. Languages spoken on the island are English, Chinese and Malay.