Christmas Island gets its name from the date of its discovery, On Christmas Eve, 1777, Capt. James Cook first located the uninhabited island. He noted its location and assigned the name but did little else with his discovery.
The first inhabitants arrived in 1882 and raised coconuts and fished the fertile waters around the island. Weather problems have limited the coconut industry but the island still remains a top fishing location with tourists from around the world traveling there for tarpon and other bonefish angling. The island was also an Allied base during World War II when it served to protect the air route between Hawaii and Australia.
Nearby Malden Island was part of British nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War period. Lodging and other facilities used by the personnel involved with the testing was located on Christmas Island. The last of the military presence was removed from the island in 1969.
Christmas Island is now a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to preserving the unique plant and animal resources there. About 1,400 people inhabit a small portion of the northern part of the island. Most of these people are of Chinese ethnicity.
Visitors to the island have limited access to the most ecologically sensitive areas. Other parts of the island are available for visitors.
Christmas Island is governed by Australia. The island is located in the Indian Ocean near the International Date Line and is one of the first inhabited parts of the world to start each New Year. Visitors commonly arrive at Cassidy International Airport on the north end of the island. Commercial air service is available once per week. The tourism industry is relatively small and largely based on the fishing resources. Other industries on the island include coconut growing and processing and some commercial fishing.
The island has occasionally received refugees from Indonesia. There have also been efforts by the Australian government to reject these refuges. An immigrant detention centre is located on the island.