From Academic Kids

Missing image
NASA photograph of Kiritimati Island, taken from the International Space Station.

Kiritimati, also officially called Christmas Island— not to be confused with the Australian Territory of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean—is a Pacific atoll re-discovered on December 24, 1777 by Captain James Cook. Kiritimati is the Kiribati spelling of "Christmas" (in Gilbertese, a "ti" combination is pronounced "s"; thus "kee-rees-mass"). The atoll is one of the Northern Line Islands. It has the largest land area of any coral atoll in the world: 575 square kilometers (222 square miles). As such, it comprises over 70% of the land area of the Republic of Kiribati. Because of its size and area, it is believed to be the oldest atoll in the world.

There are four villages on the atoll: London, Tabwakea, Banana (Banana Wells), and Poland. Banana is near the airport (Cassidy Airport) but will be relocated closer to London to prevent contamination of the groundwater. Many of the place names are from Father Emmanuel Rougier, a former French priest who leased the island from 1917 to 1939 and planted there some 800,000 coconut trees. He lived in his Paris house (now, only small ruins), and across the Channel (main entrance to the lagoon) founded Londres (now London, the main village), as a port. La colline de Joe (Joe's Hill) is the highest point on the atoll (less than 12 m).

Some toponyms come from the nuclear test period (like Banana and Main Camp). There is a Japanese NASDA satellite tracking station and an airport (Aeon Field) for their now-canceled HOPE-X project (a space shuttle).

Kiritimati: detailed map
Kiritimati: detailed map

The island has 5,000 inhabitants, and 2 representatives in the Maneaba ni Maungatabu. The ministry of the Line and Phoenix Group is located in London. There are also two new high schools (one Catholic, one Protestant) on the road between Tabwakea and Banana.

Currently there are no more flights from Honolulu. Previously (ended on April 26, 2004) a charter flight of Air Kiribati (done by Aloha Airlines) connected Christmas to Honolulu every week with a Boeing 737. A provisonal Gulfstream G1 shortly replaced it. A large jetty, handling some cargo, was built by the Japanese.

The fauna and the flora are unique, but the island is affected by regular, severe droughts. Most of the foodstuffs have to be imported. Exports of the island include aquarium fish, coconuts, and seaweeds. There was previously some tourism, which was ended by the lack of regular (Kiribati) fr:le Christmas (Kiribati) it:Kiritimati ja:クリスマス島 fi:Kiritimati sv:Kiritimati


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