Christmas Island History
Behind the laid-back multicultural ambience of Christmas Island today lies a fascinating and sometimes turbulent history.
It was the discovery of phosphate in 1888 which was to guide the island’s destiny for the next century. It’s a story of two men, George Clunies Ross and John Murray, and their quest to reap the rewards of phosphate with an imported workforce of Chinese, Malays and Sikhs, who often endured appalling conditions. The signs remain today of the island’s WWII history including a restored gun emplacement. You can also see signs of the Japanese invasion and occupation, when islanders and allied submarines successfully sabotaged the mine effort and hundreds of islanders were then shipped to Japanese prisoner of war camps in Indonesia.
Britain took possession of the Island in the name of Queen Victoria, but in 1946 it was placed under the jurisdiction of Singapore. In 1958, Britain transferred sovereignty to Australia, and the Island was made an Australian Territory.