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The Territory of Christmas Island is an Australian external territory comprising the island of the same name. Christmas Island is located in the Indian Ocean, around 350 kilometres (220 mi) south of Java and Sumatra and around 1,550 kilometres (960 mi) north-west of the closest point on the Australian mainland. It has an area of 135 square kilometres (52 sq mi).
Christmas Island had a population of 1,843 residents as of 2016, the majority of whom live in settlements on the northern tip of the island. The main settlement is Flying Fish Cove. Around two-thirds of the island’s population is estimated to have Malaysian Chinese origin (though just 21.2% of the population declared a Chinese ancestry in 2016), with significant numbers of Malays and European Australians as well as smaller numbers of Malaysian Indians and Eurasians. Several languages are in use, including English, Malay, and various Chinese dialects. Islam and Buddhism are major religions on the island, though a vast majority of the population does not declare a formal religious affiliation and may be involved in ethnic Chinese religion.
The first European to sight the island was Richard Rowe of the Thomas in 1615. The island was later named on Christmas Day (25 December) 1643 by Captain William Mynors but only settled in the late 19th century. Its geographic isolation and history of minimal human disturbance has led to a high level of endemism among its flora and fauna, which is of interest to scientists and naturalists. The majority (63 percent) of the island is included in the Christmas Island National Park, which features several areas of primary monsoonal forest. Phosphate, deposited originally as guano, has been mined on the island since 1899.
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