Christmas Island has an incredibly festive name. It became known as Christmas Island because early discoverers landed on the island on Christmas day 1643. The capital of the Island is called Flying Fish Cove but many maps simply refer to the capital as ‘The Settlement’ as it was the first British settlement on the island. Despite its remarkable history, it is the nature on the island that is most appealing.
The island is shaped like a small dog with a national park covering nearly all of the island (only the dog’s head is not part of it). It is home to some incredible wildlife all though none are poisonous (despite it technically being part of Australia). The most incredible nature on the island though is the red crabs. There are approximately 50 million red crabs inhabiting the island and for large parts of the year, they go unnoticed. They live among the rocks and in the forest and are deep in the areas of the national park.
Once a year though they crabs must migrate from the inland to the beaches of Christmas Island. This journey usually takes place in November or December each year as the dry season ends. They do this so they can lay their eggs.
Once they reach the beach the males dig holes in the sand so that they can mate with the female crabs. The male job is done and they begin their journey back inland. The women’s job is just beginning. They must now stay inside these holes for around two weeks until they are ready to leave their eggs in the water. Once they drop their eggs they also retreat inland. Once the babies are born they instinctively know to start to march inland and find a home among the rocks. In five years’ time, they will be old enough and mature enough to make the journey themselves.
The island is incredibly proud of the red crab march and it is something that people travel from far and wide to see. It is said that if you spot the crabs marching across a road or open area it can appear as if the whole floor is one red color, like blood flowing across the open road.
The locals do their best to ensure that no one obstructs the crabs. They have built mini bridges and tunnels to allow the crabs to cross safely but once the largest population is migrating officials have to take to the street to divert traffic and people away from the main crossing points.
It is an incredible moment in nature that can still be witnessed in this island that is barely touched by modern developments. In recent years though Christmas Island has become more famous for being the island that Australia uses to house some immigrants. The Immigration Detention Centre is located on the Island and can hold approximately 1,000 inhabitants. It has faced numerous protests since its construction due to the poor conditions of the center. After numerous legal proceedings, the center was closed in 2018 but re-opened in 2019. It has since been used as a quarantine facility during the coronavirus pandemic.
The incredible beauty of the crabs on their long march to the ocean, where locals do their best to ensure this march can be completed as peacefully as possible clearly contrasts with the struggles of the immigrants on Christmas Island. They too have endured a hard journey but while the crabs reach their final destination with happiness, the immigrants of Christmas Island are forced into horrible living conditions. While man rarely treats nature in the right way it is a sad day when it treats its fellow humans even worse.