Incredible Islands – Christmas Island

You would probably imagine that a place named Christmas Island would be a winter wonderland, but nothing could be further from the truth as Christmas Island has a tropical climate and is located in the Indian Ocean, which is pretty far from the North Pole.

Christmas Island was so named because it was discovered on Christmas Day in 1643. It is quite remote, being located 360kms south of Indonesia, and it is administered by Australia, although it is 2600kms to the northwest of Perth, Western Australia.

It is definitely not a tropical atoll, having quite difficult terrain and some great sea cliffs which get pounded by the huge Indian Ocean swells. These are very treacherous cliffs and a great number of refugees on a flimsy boat were wrecked on the rocks recently, resulting in the deaths of many.

There is a settlement on the island, with the major industry being phosphate mining. There is also a huge refugee detention centre on the island which handles people who are trying to enter Australia by way of boat from Indonesia.

However, the real reason for Christmas island being special is for its flora and fauna, particularly its land crabs, which exists in their millions and which live of the detritus created by the tropical forests.

The annual red crab mass migration is considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world, and it is certainly unique.

Each November red crabs, which live on land, migrate to the waters which surround the island to spawn. It is estimated that about 120 million of these spiders are on the move at this time, and they form a very large red moving carpet.

Breeding is usually synchronized island wide. The rains provide moist overcast conditions for crabs to make their long and difficult journey to the sea. The timing of the migration breeding sequence is also linked to the phases of the moon, so that eggs may be released by the female Red Crabs into the sea precisely at the turn of the high tide during the last quarter of the moon. It is thought that this occurs at this time because there is the least difference between high and low tides. The sea level at the base of the cliffs and on the beaches, where the females release their eggs, at this time varies the least for a longer period, and it is therefore safer for the females approaching the water’s edge to release their eggs.

The red crabs are only one of fourteen known species of land crab to live on the island, but their migration is so dramatic that crab crossing, which are just tunnels, have been built under the roads at know migration points to put some halt to the carnage which occurs when a car drives by.

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