December 06 – Christmas Island(s)

Unzipping door number 6 of our outdoor ADVENTure calendar revealed an invitation to journey across the globe to fragile and threatened ecosystems. Today we’re off in search of islands, specifically Christmas islands.

There are seven Christmas islands , across the globe (as well as a Christmas Tree Island in Florida) . Our trek begins at the most renowned, the Territory of Christmas Island, a part of the Australian Commonwealth in the Indian Ocean. Christmas island received its title after being spotted on Christmas day, during an expedition in 1643 by William Mynors for the East India Company. In the early 20th Century mining for phosphate began on the island. Concerns about the impact of mining on endemic bird species grew in the 1970s and in 1980 a large portion of the island was designated by the Australian government as a national park. Today two thirds of the island is a national park, and it is famous for its endemic birds and red land crabs found in its forests.

As well as its red crab migration Christmas island has become well known for its controversial refugee and immigration detention centre, and the associated impacts on human rights and the local environment.

From here we’re setting course south east to skirt around Australia’s west coast before arriving at a nature reserve on the way to Tasmania. This Christmas island is one for the birds, with it being recognised as an important breeding ground for several species. Continuing to circle around the eastern edge of Australia, we head north for another wildlife sanctuary Kiritimati (a local spelling interpretation of James Cook’s name for the island, first spotted on Christmas eve). Here it’s possible to take in the local flora and fauna on the largest coral atoll in the world.

After Kiritimati, we set sail due west, across the Pacific and Indian oceans, to arrive in southern Myanmar. This Christmas island is one of hundreds in the Mergui archipelago, an area where biodiversity levels are threatened due to numerous human activities.

Little is documented about our final two tiny islands, which lie in Central and North America. Firstly the tropical Christmas island in Jamaica, and secondly, one with a drastically different climate, Christmas island in Alaska.

However, this only brings our total to six. There is one final Christmas Island. Yet, while carrying the name of an island this spot is no island. It is a small community in Nova Scotia, Canada, and although the population may be small, at this time of year it will be a busy one. Here there is a wee post office that endures a sudden surge in mail around the Christmas period. Every year hundreds of people from all over the world send cards and letters in order to get the prized post mark of three fir trees and ‘Christmas Island’ stamped on their mail. An unusual festive treat!

And so our trek from the Indian Ocean to the North Atlantic, via every Christmas island in between, comes to end. Of course like all islands, Christmas islands, are increasingly threatened environmentally, and if you’re interested in island conservation there are a huge number of resources and organisations out there to look into. A good place to start though, is with the study of island ecology and the group island conservation.org.

 

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