Christmas Island discovered 375 years ago | DW Travel | DW | 18.12.2018
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Christmas Island discovered 375 years ago

On December 25, 1643 Dutch seafarers sighted an island in the Indian Ocean. Its discovery at Christmas determined its name. And later another Christmas island was discovered in the Pacific Ocean.

The first Christmas Island lies in the Indian Ocean between Australia and Indonesia and was first seen by the Dutch sailor William Mynors and his crew on Christmas Day 1643. The 135 square kilometre patch of volcanic origin with its 1400 inhabitants has been part of Australia since 1957.

Flagge der Weihnachtsinsel (picture-alliance/blickwinkel/McPHOTO/K. Steinkamp)

Flag of Christmas Island

Divers in particular are attracted to the areas off the island, as the colourful underwater world attracts with colourful coral reefs and the presence of majestic whale sharks that visit the bays between November and April.

Weihnachtsinsel Krabbe (Imago/OceanPhoto/R. Dirscherl)

Christmas Island red crab

The fauna of the Christmas Island is also fascinating, with around 80,000 seabirds nesting here every year and red crayfish migrating regularly along the island's beaches.

Inspiration for "Treasure Island"

The other Christmas Island, about 375 square kilometers in size, is an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, has about 5000 inhabitants and is located south of Hawai. It belongs to the island state Kiribati.

Satellitenbild Kiribati (picture-alliance/NASA)

Satellite picture of Kiribati

The Brit James Cook discovered the island on December 24, 1777 and called it Christmas Island. In the national language the word became Kiritimati, a transcription of the English "Christmas". Less than 6000 travellers visit the coasts of the island state of Kiribati every year. Christmas Island in particular is internationally known as one of the best places where sport fishermen can fish bony fish.

Flagge Kiribati (picture-alliance/blickwinkel/McPHOTO/K. Steinkamp)

Flag of Kiribati

Even celebrities have been there: the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson visited atolls of the island state Kiribati more than 200 years ago. Allegedly, the well-known author wrote many essays and essays on his journey, which he is said to have later processed into masterpieces such as "Treasure Island".

Luftaufnahme von Abrolhos Islands (picture-alliance/blickwinkel/A. Niehues)

Eastern Islands, Houtman-Abrolhos Archipelago, Australia

Easter as eponym for the name

By the way, not only the discovery at the end of December is a nice occasion to name an island after a holiday. The best example is the Easter Islands, of which there are several: On the one hand, a group of islands located 60 kilometres off the Australian coast and belonging to the Houtman-Abrolhos archipelago bears this name.

BG Chile Osterinsel im Pazifik (picture-alliance/imagebroker/FB-Fischer)

Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean

In the South East Pacific there is another Easter Island, which belongs politically to Chile and geographically to Polynesia. On April 5, 1722 the expedition of the Dutch Jacob Roggeveen explored the lonely island with its mysterious and huge heads carved from tuff. The Europeans called it Easter Island "because it was Easter Sunday", as Carl Friedrich Behrens from Rostock, a member of Roggeveen's crew, succinctly noted. The island, also called Rapa Nui, has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 1995.

Watch video 01:29

Viewer video of Easter Island

is/ks (kna, dpa)

 

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