The Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands
called Cocos Islands
, is a territory
. There are two atolls
and twenty-seven coral
in the group. The islands are located
in the Indian
Ocean, about halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka.
In 1609 Captain William Keeling
the first European to see the islands, but they remained
uninhabited until the nineteenth century, when they became a
possession of the Clunies-Ross Family. A Scottish merchant seaman named Captain John
Clunies-Ross from the Shetland Islands explored the islands in 1825 with the intention of
settling on them with his family. Alexander Hare, who
had taken part in Stamford Raffles'
takeover of Java in 1811
landed and settled with his Slaves who
originated from Indonesia, the Cape of Good Hope and East Asia.
Clunies-Ross returned and set
up a compound on South Island consisting of his family and some
other settlers. Hare's severely mistreated slaves soon escaped to
work under better conditions for Clunies-Ross. The workers were
paid in a currency called the Cocos
a currency John Clunies-Ross minted himself and which
could only be redeemed at the company store.
On April 1, 1836, under Captain Robert
arrived to take soundings establishing the profile of
the atoll as part of the survey expedition of the
. To the young naturalist Charles Darwin
, who was on the ship, the
results supported a theory he had developed of how atolls formed.
He studied the natural history of the islands and collected
specimens. His assistant Syms
noted that "an Englishman (he was of course
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
Annexed to the British Empire
The islands were annexed to the British Empire in 1857.
their administration was placed under the Straits
Settlements, which included Penang, Malacca and Singapore. Queen Victoria
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 nineteenth century micronation
World War I
On November 9, 1914, the islands became the site of the Battle of Cocos
, one of the first naval battles
. The wireless telegraph station on Direction Island,
a vital link between the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand,
was destroyed by sailors from the German light cruiser , which was in turn surprised
and destroyed by the Australian cruiser, .
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 a base for German
raider cruisers operating in the Indian Ocean. Following Japan's entry into
the war, Japanese forces did occupy neighbouring islands.
avoid drawing their attention to the Cocos cable station and its
islands' garrison, the seaplane
between Direction and Horsburgh
islands was not used. Radio transmitters were also kept silent,
except in emergencies.
Singapore in 1942, the islands were administered from
Lanka), and West and Direction Islands were placed under
Allied military administration.
islands' garrison initially consisted of a platoon from the British
Army's King's African Rifles
located on Horsburgh Island, with two 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
On the night of 8-9 May 1942, fifteen members of the garrison, from
the Ceylon Defence Force
, 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
crushed, although they killed one non-mutinous soldier and wounded
one officer. Seven of the mutineers were sentenced to death at a
trial which 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 to be
executed for mutiny
during the Second World
On December 25, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-166
islands but caused no damage.
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 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
bombers from No. 321 Squadron RAF
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
Transfer to Australia
On November 23, 1955, the islands were transferred to Australian
control under the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955
Australian Act) pursuant to the Cocos Islands Act, 1955
UK Act). 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 AU$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
moved to dishonour this agreement, and told the former last ruler,
, 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 his shipping company, an action which
contributed to his bankruptcy.
John Clunies-Ross lives in
exile in Perth, Australia, but his successors still live on the
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands consist of two flat, low-lying coral
atolls with an area of , of coastline, a highest elevation of 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 wide, on the East side. The island
measures in land area and is uninhabited. The lagoon is about .
North Keeling Island and the surrounding sea to 1.5 km from
shore form the Pulu Keeling
, 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
twenty-four individual islets forming an incomplete atoll ring,
with a total land area of . Only Home Island
and West Island are populated.
People from Home Island
maintain weekend shacks on the lagoon shore of South Island and on
some of the smaller islands.
Table of the islets, with areas, numbered islets clockwise starting
in the north:
Map of South Keeling Islands
Map of South Keeling Islands
||Pulau Ampang Kechil
||Middle Mission Isle
||South Goat Island
||Pulau Kelapa Satu
||North Goat Island
||Pulau Blan Madar
||Keelingham Horn Island
||Pulau Wak Bangka
There are no rivers or lakes on either atoll; fresh water resources
are limited to rainwater accumulations in natural underground
Cocos (Keeling) Island is located on almost exactly the opposite
side of the globe as Cocos Island
In 2009, there are an estimated 600 inhabitants of the islands. The
population on the two inhabited islands generally is split between
the ethnic Europeans
Island (est. pop. 100) and the ethnic Malays
on Home Island (est. pop. 500). A
and English are the main languages
spoken, and 80% of Cocos Islanders are Sunni Muslim
capital of the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands is West
Island while the largest settlement is the village of
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 November 29, 2007 administration was carried out by the
Department of Transport and Regional Services), through a
appointed by the Governor-General.
current Administrator is Brian Lacy, who
was appointed on 28 September 2009 and is also the Administrator of
These two Territories comprise Australia's
Indian Ocean Territories. There also exists a unicameral Cocos 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
with Christmas Island
and outback Northern Territory.
The islands have a five-person police force but their defence
remains the responsibility of Australia.
Grown throughout the islands, coconuts are the sole cash crop
coconuts are the major export earners. Small local gardens and
fishing contribute to the food supply, but additional food and most
other necessities must be imported from Australia. There is a small
but growing tourist industry.
The Cocos Islands Cooperative Society Ltd. employs construction
, and lighterage worker
operations. Tourism employs others. The unemployment rate was
estimated at 60% in 2000.
Communications and transport
The islands are connected within Australia's telecommunication
system (with number range +61 8 9162 xxxx) and postal system
one paved airport on the West Island, Cocos Island International
Airport, to which National Jet Systems operate scheduled
jet services from Perth, Western Australia; and a lagoon
There are two schools in the archipelago. They are on the two
inhabited islands - one is on West Island and the other on Home
School instruction is in English, and efforts are made to
discourage students from speaking the local language (Cocos Islands Malay
, a Malay
dialect) on school premises.
File:Keelingsunset.JPG|Sunset over the
islandsFile:Keelingpalms.jpg|Palm trees on the islands
- http://www.clunies-ross.com The Clunies-Ross Chronicle
- End of a kingdom
- WebLaw - full resource metadata display
- ComLaw Act Compilations - Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Act 1955 (34)
- CIA World Factbook
- Paige Taylor, Crime in paradise lost in translation "The
Australian", August 17, 2009