December 25 – Discovery of Christmas Island

Posted on December 25, 2014

For centuries, this island in the South Pacific had very little interference from people.

The English man who named it didn't mess with it. He didn't even land on it! He sailed right on by on this date in 1643. Guess why he named it Christmas Island?

The English and Dutch navigators had it on their navigational charts from then on, but the small island, which is about the size of a city, didn't make it onto maps until 1666. Finally, in 1688, another English navigator landed on the island. He found it uninhabited.

Still, no one moved there, no one explored the island or exploited its resources, until the mid-1800s. By the late 1800s, Great Britain annexed the island (grabbed control of it from absolutely nobody, for practically no reason except “because we can!”), and a small settlement was created there to collect timber and supplies for the businesses springing up on an entirely different island!

The one resource...

I guess we can assume, from this lack of interest in the island, that there were not golden nuggets and sparkling diamonds lying around. Instead, what WAS lying around was a lot of bird poop.

Bird poop is generally called guano, along with bats and seals and other sea creatures. Guano is a great source for phosphates and other minerals that are important to growing plants. People began to mine the guano on Christmas Island, to be used mostly in fertilizer, in the 1890s.

And the winners are...

All that NOT being messed with for all those centuries means that there is a lot of endemism on the island. That means that there are an unusual number of unique plant and animal species not seen anywhere else in the world!

So, obviously, those particular species benefitted from the centuries of isolation. But also, many biologists and nature lovers are interested in the the lifeforms found on the island.

By the way, Christmas Island is now a territory of Australia.

One of the best, most Christmas-y critters on Christmas Island:

During Red Crab migration, some roads are closed to protect the crabs.

Can you see why they closed this road?

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the Eggnog Riot

No “L” Day 

Christmas birthdays 

Plan ahead:

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