Christmas Island

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Christmas Island (10°25'S 105°43'E) is an Australian territory 2300 kilometres north-west of Perth, WA (but is 1040 km closer to Java than Australia). Of its 135 km2, around 60% has been declared national parks.

The island is the summit of a steep submarine mountain that rises, in a progression of slopes and terraces, to a plateau of up to 361 m above sea level. The plateau comprises mainly limestone and layers of igneous rock rises steeply to a central plateau that falls steeply to the sea in a series of slopes and terraces.

A narrow tropical reef, which plunges sharply to the seabed, encircles the island. There is very little coastal shelf. Some of the steepest drop-offs on the planet can be found within 20 m of the coastline, with the ocean floor plunging to around 500 m depth within a 200 m width. These undersea formations, which are home to a spectacularly diverse range of sea-life, are a very popular destination for divers.

Christmas Island is also famous for its red crabs, which migrate across the island every year to spawn in the sea, in synchronisation with the moon. Their migration, which often creates mayhem by blocking roads, and the sheer abundance of land crabs is unmatched anywhere and is considered one of the wonders of the natural world.

Christmas Island has a tropical equatorial climate. During the wet season, from December to April, the island experiences the north-west monsoons. The monsoon season occasionally brings cyclones close to the island, causing strong winds, rain and rough seas, but no cyclone has passed directly over the island since settlement. For the rest of the year the south-east trade winds lower the temperature and humidity, and thus there is less rain.

Traditionally, phosphate mining (the phosphate being a product of bird droppings) has been a major contributor to the island's economy, but in recent years tourism and related industries have begun to move to the fore.

Reference

Geoscience Australia. 2006. "Cocos (Keeling) Islands". Retrieved 15 August 2008 from http://www.ga.gov.au/education/facts/dimensions/externalterr/christma.htm