Cocos (Keeling) Islands
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Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
|Motto: Maju Pulau Kita (Malay)
"Our developed island"
|Largest village||Bantam (Home Island)|
|Official languages||English (de facto)|
|Government||Federal constitutional monarchy|
|-||Shire President||Aindil Minkom|
|Territory of Australia|
5.3 sq mi
|-||July 2009 estimate||596 (241)|
|Currency||Australian dollar (
|Time zone||CCT (UTC+06:30)|
|Calling code||61 891|
|ISO 3166 code||CC|
The Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, also called Cocos Islands and Keeling Islands, is a territory of Australia, located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Christmas Island and approximately midway between Australia and Sri Lanka.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 3 Government
- 4 Economy
- 5 Strategic importance
- 6 Communications and transport
- 7 Media
- 8 Education
- 9 Culture
- 10 Gallery
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands consist of two flat, low-lying coral atolls with an area of 14.2 square kilometres (5.5 sq mi), 26 kilometres (16 mi) of coastline, a highest elevation of 5 metres (16 ft) and thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation. The climate is pleasant, moderated by the southeast trade winds for about nine months of the year and with moderate rainfall. Cyclones may occur in the early months of the year.
North Keeling Island is an atoll consisting of just one C-shaped island, a nearly closed atoll ring with a small opening into the lagoon, about 50 metres (160 ft) wide, on the east side. The island measures 1.1 square kilometres (270 acres) in land area and is uninhabited. The lagoon is about 0.5 square kilometres (120 acres). North Keeling Island and the surrounding sea to 1.5 km (0.93 mi) from shore form the Pulu Keeling National Park, established on 12 December 1995. It is home to the only surviving population of the endemic, and endangered, Cocos Buff-banded Rail.
South Keeling Islands is an atoll consisting of 24 individual islets forming an incomplete atoll ring, with a total land area of 13.1 square kilometres (5.1 sq mi). Only Home Island and West Island are populated. The Cocos Malays maintain weekend shacks, referred to as pondoks, on most of the larger islands.
|1||Pulau Luar||Horsburgh Island||1.04|
|2||Pulau Tikus||Direction Island||0.34|
|3||Pulau Pasir||Workhouse Island||<0.01|
|4||Pulau Beras||Prison Island||0.02|
|5||Pulau Gangsa||Closed sandbar, now part of Home Island||<0.01|
|6||Pulau Selma||Home Island||0.95|
|7||Pulau Ampang Kechil||Scaevola Islet||<0.01|
|8||Pulau Ampang||Canui Island||0.06|
|9||Pulau Wa-idas||Ampang Minor||0.02|
|10||Pulau Blekok||Goldwater Island||0.03|
|11||Pulau Kembang||Thorn Island||0.04|
|12||Pulau Cheplok||Gooseberry Island||<0.01|
|13||Pulau Pandan||Misery Island||0.24|
|14||Pulau Siput||Goat Island||0.10|
|15||Pulau Jambatan||Middle Mission Isle||<0.01|
|16||Pulau Labu||South Goat Island||0.04|
|17||Pulau Atas||South Island||3.63|
|18||Pulau Kelapa Satu||North Goat Island||0.02|
|19||Pulau Blan||East Cay||0.03|
|20||Pulau Blan Madar||Burial Island||0.03|
|21||Pulau Maria||West Cay||0.01|
|22||Pulau Kambling||Keelingham Horn Island||<0.01|
|23||Pulau Panjang||West Island||6.23|
|24||Pulau Wak Bangka||Turtle Island||0.22|
There are no rivers or lakes on either atoll. Fresh water resources are limited to water lenses on the larger islands, underground accumulations of rainwater lying above the seawater. These lenses are accessed through shallow bores or wells.
In 2010, the population of the islands is estimated at just over 600. The population on the two inhabited islands generally is split between the ethnic Europeans on West Island (estimated population 100) and the ethnic Malays on Home Island (estimated population 500). A Cocos dialect of Malay and English are the main languages spoken, and 80% of Cocos Islanders are Sunni Muslim.
In 1814, a Scottish merchant seaman named Captain John Clunies-Ross stopped briefly at the islands on a trip to India, nailing up a Union Jack and planning to return and settle on the islands with his family in the future.
However, a wealthy Englishman named Alexander Hare had similar plans, and hired a captain – coincidentally, Clunies-Ross' brother – to bring him and a harem of forty Malay women to the islands, where he hoped to set up his own private residence. Hare had previously served as governor of a colony in Borneo and found that "he could not confine himself to the tame life that prosy civilisation affords".
When Clunies-Ross returned two years later with his wife, children and mother-in-law, and found Hare already established on the island and living with a private harem, a feud grew instantly between the two men. Clunies-Ross' eight sailors, "began at once the invasion of the new kingdom to take possession of it, women and all".
On 1 April 1836, HMS Beagle under Captain Robert FitzRoy arrived to take soundings establishing the profile of the atoll as part of the survey expedition of the Beagle. To the young naturalist Charles Darwin, who was on the ship, the results supported a theory he had developed of how atolls formed, which he later published as The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs. He studied the natural history of the islands and collected specimens. Darwin's assistant Syms Covington noted that "an Englishman [he was in fact Scottish] and HIS family, with about sixty or seventy mulattos from the Cape of Good Hope, live on one of the islands. Captain Ross, the governor, is now absent at the Cape."
Annexation by the British Empire
The islands were annexed by the British Empire in 1857. This annexation was carried out by Captain Stephen Grenville Fremantle in command of HMS Juno. Fremantle claimed the islands for the British Empire and appointed Ross II as Superintendent. In 1867, their administration was placed under the Straits Settlements, which included Penang, Malacca and Singapore. Queen Victoria granted the islands in perpetuity to the Clunies-Ross family in 1886. The Cocos Islands under the Clunies-Ross family have been cited as an example of a 19th-century micronation.
World War I
On the morning of 9 November 1914, the islands became the site of the Battle of Cocos, one of the first naval battles of World War I. A landing party from the German cruiser SMS Emden captured and disabled the wireless and cable communications station on Direction Island, but not before the station was able to transmit a distress call. An Allied troop convoy was passing nearby, and the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney was detached from the convoy escort to investigate.
Sydney spotted the island and Emden at 09:15, with both ships preparing for combat. The longer range of Emden's guns meant she was able to fire first, but the German ship was unable to inflict disabling damage on the Australian cruiser before Sydney closed into range and opened up with her more powerful main guns. At 11:20, the heavily damaged Emden beached herself on North Keeling Island. The Australian warship broke to pursue Emden's supporting collier, which scuttled herself, then returned to North Keeling Island at 16:00. At this point, Emden's battle ensign was still flying: usually a sign that a ship intends to continue fighting. After no response to instructions to lower the ensign, two salvoes were shot into the beached cruiser, after which the Germans lowered the flag and raised a white sheet. Sydney had orders to ascertain the status of the transmission station, but returned the next day to provide medical assistance to the Germans.
134 personnel aboard Emden were killed, and 69 were wounded, compared to only 4 killed and 16 wounded aboard Sydney. The German survivors were taken aboard the Australian cruiser, which caught up to the troop convoy in Colombo on 15 November, then transported to Malta and handed over to the British Army. An additional 50 German personnel from the shore party, unable to be recovered before Sydney arrived, commandeered a schooner and escaped from Direction Island, eventually arriving in Constantinople. Emden was the last active Central Powers warship in the Indian or Pacific Oceans, which meant troopships from Australia and New Zealand could sail without naval escort, and Allied ships could be deployed elsewhere.
World War II
During World War II, the cable station was once again a vital link. Allied planners noted that the islands might be seized as an airfield for German raider cruisers operating in the Indian Ocean. Following Japan's entry into the war, Japanese forces occupied neighbouring islands. To avoid drawing their attention to the Cocos cable station and its islands' garrison, the seaplane anchorage between Direction and Horsburgh islands was not used. Radio transmitters were also kept silent, except in emergencies.
After the Fall of Singapore in 1942, the islands were administered from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and West and Direction Islands were placed under Allied military administration. The islands' garrison initially consisted of a platoon from the British Army's King's African Rifles, located on Horsburgh Island, with two 6-inch (152.4 mm) guns to cover the anchorage. The local inhabitants all lived on Home Island. Despite the importance of the islands as a communication centre, the Japanese made no attempt either to raid or to occupy them and contented themselves with sending over a reconnaissance aircraft about once a month.
On the night of 8–9 May 1942, 15 members of the garrison, from the Ceylon Defence Force, mutinied under the leadership of Gratien Fernando. The mutineers were said to have been provoked by the attitude of their British officers and were also supposedly inspired by anti-imperialist beliefs. They attempted to take control of the gun battery on the islands. The Cocos Islands Mutiny was crushed, but the mutineers killed one non-mutinous soldier and wounded one officer. Seven of the mutineers were sentenced to death at a trial that was later alleged to have been improperly conducted. Four of the sentences were commuted, but three men were executed, including Fernando. These were to be the only British Commonwealth soldiers executed for mutiny during the Second World War.
Later in the war, two airstrips were built, and three bomber squadrons were moved to the islands to conduct raids against Japanese targets in South East Asia and to provide support during the planned reinvasion of Malaya and reconquest of Singapore. The first aircraft to arrive were Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIIIs of No. 136 Squadron RAF. They included some Liberator bombers from No. 321 (Netherlands) Squadron RAF (members of exiled Dutch forces serving with the Royal Air Force), which were also stationed on the islands. When in July 1945 No. 99 and No. 356 RAF squadrons arrived on West Island, they brought with them a daily newspaper called Atoll which contained news of what was happening in the outside world. Run by airmen in their off-duty hours, it achieved fame when dropped by Liberator bombers on POW camps over the heads of the Japanese guards. In 1946, the administration of the islands reverted to Singapore.
Transfer to Australia
On 23 November 1955, the islands were transferred to Australian control under the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955 (an Australian Act) pursuant to the Cocos Islands Act, 1955 (a UK Act). Mr H J Hull was appointed the first Official Representative (now Administrator) of the new Territory. He had been a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Australian Navy and was released for the purpose. Under Commonwealth Cabinet Decision 1573 of 9 September 1958, Mr Hull's appointment was terminated and John William Stokes was appointed on secondment from the Northern Territory Police. A media release at the end of October 1958 by the Minister for Territories, Mr Hasluck, commended Mr Hull's three years of service on Cocos.
Stokes served in the position from 31 October 1958 to 30 September 1960. His son's boyhood memories and photos of the Islands have been published. C.I. Buffett MBE from Norfolk Island succeeded him and served from 28 July 1960 to 30 June 1966, and later acted as Administrator back on Cocos and on Norfolk Island. In 1974, Ken Mullen wrote a small book about his time with wife and son from 1964 to 1966 working at the Cable Station on Direction Island.
In the 1970s, the Australian government's dissatisfaction with the Clunies-Ross feudal style of rule of the island increased. In 1978, Australia forced the family to sell the islands for the sum of A$6,250,000, using the threat of compulsory acquisition. By agreement, the family retained ownership of Oceania House, their home on the island. However, in 1983, the Australian government reneged on this agreement, and told John Clunies-Ross that he should leave the Cocos. The following year the High Court of Australia ruled that resumption of Oceania House was unlawful, but the Australian government ordered that no government business was to be granted to Clunies-Ross's shipping company, an action that contributed to his bankruptcy. John Clunies-Ross now lives in Perth, Western Australia. However, some members of the Clunies-Ross family still live on the Cocos.
Extensive preparations were undertaken by the government of Australia to prepare the Cocos Malays to vote in their referendum of self-determination. Discussions began in 1982, with an aim of holding the referendum, under United Nations supervision, in mid-1983. Under guidelines developed by the UN Decolonization Committee, residents were to be offered 3 choices: full independence, free association, or integration with Australia. The latter was preferred by both the islanders and the Australian government. However, a change in government in Canberra following the March 1983 Australian elections delayed the vote by one year. While the Home Island Council stated a preference for a traditional communal consensus "vote", the UN insisted on a secret ballot. The vote was held on 6 April 1984, with all 261 eligible islanders participating, including the Clunies-Ross family: 229 voted for integration, 21 for Free Association, 9 for independence, and 2 failed to indicate a preference.
The 2004 earthquake and tsunami centered off the western shore of Sumatra, Indonesia, prompted early worries about the Cocos, but no casualties were reported (see Countries affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake).
The capital of the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands is West Island while the largest settlement is the village of Bantam (Home Island). Governance of the islands is based on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955 and depends heavily on the laws of Australia. The islands are administered from Canberra by the Attorney-General's Department (before 29 November 2007 administration was carried out by the Department of Transport and Regional Services), through a non-resident Administrator appointed by the Governor-General.
The current Administrator is Jon Stanhope, who was appointed on 5 October 2012 and is also the Administrator of Christmas Island. These two Territories comprise Australia's Indian Ocean Territories. The Australian Government provides Commonwealth-level government services through the Christmas Island Administration and the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. As per the Federal Government's Territories Law Reform Act 1992, which came into force on 1 July 1992, Western Australian laws are applied to the Cocos Islands, "so far as they are capable of applying in the Territory."; non-application or partial application of such laws is at the discretion of the federal government. The Act also gives Western Australian courts judicial power over the islands. The Cocos Islands remain constitutionally distinct from Western Australia, however; the power of the state to legislate for the territory is power delegated by the federal government. The kind of services typically provided by a state government elsewhere in Australia are provided by departments of the Western Australian Government, and by contractors, with the costs met by the federal government.
There also exists a unicameral Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire Council with seven seats. A full term lasts four years, though elections are held every two years; approximately half the members retire each two years. Federally, Cocos (Keeling) Islanders form the electorate of Lingiari with Christmas Island and outback Northern Territory.
The islands have a five-person police force but their defence remains the responsibility of Australia.
There is a small and growing tourist industry focused on water-based or nature activities.
Small local gardens and fishing contribute to the food supply, but most food and most other necessities must be imported from Australia or elsewhere.
The Cocos Islands are geostrategically important because of their proximity to Indian Ocean and South China Sea shipping lanes. The United States Armed Forces have planned to construct airbases on the Cocos Islands, capable of supporting drone-based espionage and surveillance over the South China Sea. Euronews described the plan as providing Australian support for increased American presence in Southeast Asia, but likely to upset Chinese officials. James Cogan has written for the World Socialist Web Site that airbase construction at Cocos is one component of Obama's "pivot" towards Asia, facilitating control of the sea lanes between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and potentially allowing US forces to enforce a blockade against China. After plans to construct airbases were leaked to the Washington Post, Australian defense minister Stephen Smith stated that the Australian government views "Cocos as being potentially a long-term strategic location, but that is down the track."
Communications and transport
The islands are connected within Australia's telecommunication system (with number range +61 8 9162 xxxx) and postal system (post code: 6799). Public phones are located on both West Island and Home Island. A reasonably reliable GSM mobile phone network (number range +61 406 xxx), run by CiiA (Christmas Island Internet Association), operates on Cocos (Keeling) Islands. SIM cards (full size) and recharge cards can be purchased from the Telecentre on West Island to access this service. There is one paved airport on the West Island, Cocos (Keeling) Island International Airport, to which Virgin Australia operates scheduled jet services from Perth, Western Australia via Christmas Island. There is also a lagoon anchorage between Horsburgh and Direction islands for larger vessels, while yachts have a dedicated anchorage area in the southern lee of Direction Island.
After 1952, the airport at Cocos Islands was a stop for airline flights between Australia and South Africa, and Qantas and South African Airways stopped there to refuel. The arrival of long range jet aircraft ended this need in 1967.
.cc is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Cocos (Keeling) Islands. It is administered by VeriSign through a subsidiary company eNIC, which promotes it for international registration as "the next .com"; .cc was originally assigned in October 1997 to eNIC Corporation of Seattle WA by the IANA. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also uses the .cc domain, along with .nc.tr.
Internet access on Cocos is provided by CiiA (Christmas Island Internet Association), and is supplied via satellite ground station on West Island, and distributed via a wireless PPPoE-based WAN on both inhabited islands. Casual internet access is available at the Telecentre on West Island, and the Indian Ocean Group Training office on Home Island.
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands have access to a range of modern communication services. Four television stations broadcast from Western Australia via satellite. These are ABC, SBS, WIN and GWN. A local radio station, 6CKI – Voice of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, is staffed by community volunteers and provides some local content.
Cocos Island receives four channels from Western Australia via satellite:
- SBS One
- WIN Television (Affiliate of Nine Network Perth)
- GWN7 (Affiliate of Seven Network Perth)
Cocos Island receives only four channels because digital television is not yet available.
From 2013 onwards, Cocos Island will receive four Malaysian channels via satellite:
There is a school in the archipelago, Cocos Islands District High School, with campuses located on West Island (Kindergarten to Year 10), and the other on Home Island (Kindergarten to Year 6). CIDHS is part of the Western Australia education School instruction is in English on both campuses, with Cocos Malay teacher aides assisting the younger children in Kindergarten, Pre-Preparatory and early Primary with the English curriculum on the Home Island Campus. English is encouraged, rather than Cocos Malay being discouraged.
Compass stand from the bridge of HMAS Sydney, which destroyed the SMS Emden, installed at Port Macquarie, New South Wales, in 1929.
The last bombing raid of World War II by 99, 356 and 321 Squadrons is cancelled, 15 August 1945.
- Index of Cocos (Keeling) Islands-related articles
- Banknotes of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
- Cocos Malays
- King of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
- Pearl Islands (Isla de Cocos, Panama; Cocos Island, Costa Rica).
- Transport in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
- "Cocos (Keeling) Islands". The World Factbook. CIA. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
- Joshua Slocum, "Sailing Alone Around the World", p. 212
- Some Account of the Keeling Isles (October 1830) Gleanings in Science, pp.293–301
- The Clunies-Ross Chronicle
- Morning Post (London) 20/3/1835
- End of a kingdom
- Keynes, Richard (2001), Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary, Cambridge University Press, pp. 413–418
- "The Cocos Islands". The Chambers's Journal 76: 187–190. 1899.
- Cruise, Noel (2002). The Cocos Islands Mutiny. Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press. p. 248. ISBN 1-86368-310-0.
- Fail, J.E.H. "FORWARD STRATEGIC AIR BASE COCOS ISLAND". www.rquirk.com. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- "28 June 1977". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Commons).
- Stokes, Tony (2012). Whatever Will Be, I'll See: Growing Up in the 1940s, 50s and 60s in the Northern Territory, Christmas and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Tony Stokes. p. 238. ISBN 9780646575643.
- Cocos Keeling, the islands time forgot (1974). Ken Mullen. published by Angus & Robertson, Sydney. 122 pages.
- Kenneth Chen, "Pacific Island Development Plan: Cocos (Keeling) Islands- The Political Evolution of a Small Island Territory in the Indian Ocean" (1987): Mr Chen was Administrator, Cocos Islands, from December 1983 – November 1985.
- WebLaw – full resource metadata display
- ComLaw Act Compilations – Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955 (34)
- First Assistant Secretary, Territories Division (30 January 2008). "Territories of Australia". Attorney-General's Department. Retrieved 7 February 2008. "The Federal Government, through the Attorney-General's Department administers Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Jervis Bay, and Norfolk Island as Territories."[dead link]
- Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. "Territories of Australia". Archived from the original on 16 December 2007. Retrieved 7 February 2008. "As part of the Machinery of Government Changes following the Federal Election on 29 November 2007, administrative responsibility for Territories has been transferred to the Attorney General's Department."
- "Commonwealth of Australia Administrative Arrangements Order made on 18 September 2013". Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 18 September 2013.
- Territories Law Reform Act 1992
- 2006 Census, Australian Bureau of Statistics
- Cogan, James, "US Marines begin operations in northern Australia." World Socialist Web Site, 14 April 2012.
- Whitlock, Craig, "U.S., Australia to broaden military ties amid Pentagon pivot to SE Asia", The Washington Post, 26 March 2012.
- Grubel, James, "Australia open to US spy flights from Indian Ocean."[dead link] Euronews, 28 March 2012.
- McGuirk, Rod, "Australia to Welcome 250 US Marines next Month, Plays down Proposal for Indian Ocean Air Base."[dead link] Associated Press, 27 March 2012.
- Kidman, Alex, "." Gizmodo, 8 February 2012.
- Maj-General J. T. Durrant (SA Air Force, Commanding Officer, Cocos Islands), watched by Wing Commander "Sandy" Webster (Commanding Officer, 99 Squadron), Squadron Leader Les Evans (Acting Commanding Officer, 356 Squadron) and Lieutenant Commander W. van Prooijen (Commanding Officer, 321 Squadron).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cocos (Keeling) Islands.|
- Shire of Cocos (Keeling) Islands homepage
- Areas of individual islets[dead link]
- Atoll Research Bulletin vol. 403[dead link]
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands Tourism website
- Noel Crusz, The Cocos Islands mutiny, reviewed by Peter Stanley (Principal Historian, Australian War Memorial).
- History of Cocos (Keeling) Islands
- The man who lost a "coral kingdom"