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Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are one of Australia's territories
Capital West Island
Largest village Bantam (Home Island)
Official language(s) English (de facto)
Demonym Cocossian (Cocos Islandian)
Government Federal constitutional monarchy
 -  Queen Elizabeth II
 -  Administrator Brian Lacy
 -  Shire President Mohammad Said Chongkin
Territory of Australia
 -  Annexed by
British Empire

 -  Transferred to
Australian control

 -  Total 14 km2 
5.3 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0
 -  July 2009 estimate 596[1] (n/a)
 -  Density n/a/km2 (n/a)
n/a/sq mi
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Time zone (UTC+6½)
Internet TLD .cc
Calling code 61 891
An 1840 chart of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands

The Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, also called Cocos Islands and Keeling Islands, is a territory of Australia. There are two atolls and twenty-seven coral islands in the group. The islands are located in the Indian Ocean, about halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka.



NASA picture of the southern Cocos (Keeling) Islands

In 1609 Captain William Keeling was 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[citation needed] 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.[2] The workers were paid in a currency called the Cocos rupee a currency John Clunies-Ross minted himself and which could only be redeemed at the company store.[3]

On April 1, 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. He studied the natural history of the islands and collected specimens. His assistant Syms Covington 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 the Cape."


Annexed to the British Empire

The islands were annexed to the British Empire in 1857. 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 nineteenth century micronation.[citation needed]

World War I

On November 9, 1914, the islands became the site of the Battle of Cocos, one of the first naval battles of World War I. 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 SMS Emden, which was in turn surprised and destroyed by the Australian cruiser, HMAS Sydney.[4]

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. 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.[citation needed]

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 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.[citation needed]

On the night of 8–9 May 1942, fifteen 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, 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 War.[5]

On December 25, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-166 bombarded the islands but caused no damage.[6]

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 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 November 23, 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).[7] 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 reneged 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 his shipping company, an action which 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.


Cocos (Keeling) Islands

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.[citation needed] 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 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 twenty-four 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.

Table of the islets, with areas, numbered islets clockwise starting in the north:

Map of South Keeling Islands (1889)
Map of South Keeling Islands
Nr. Islet
(Malay name)
English name Area
1 Pulau Luar Horsburgh Island 1.04
2 Pulau Tikus Direction Island 0.34
3 Pulau Pasir Workhouse Island 0.00
4 Pulau Beras Prison Island 0.02
5 Pulau Gangsa Woeplace Islets <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.

Cocos (Keeling) Island is located on almost exactly the opposite side of the globe as Cocos Island, Costa Rica.



In 2010, there are an estimated 600+ inhabitants of the islands.[8] The population on the two inhabited islands generally is split between the ethnic Europeans on West Island (est. pop. 100) and the ethnic Malays on Home Island (est. pop. 500). A Cocos dialect of Malay and English are the main languages spoken, and 80% of Cocos Islanders are Sunni Muslim.


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[9][10] and depends heavily on the laws of Australia. The islands are administered from Canberra by the Attorney-General's Department[11] (before November 29, 2007[12] 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 Brian Lacy, who was appointed on 28 September 2009 and is also the Administrator of Christmas Island. These two Territories comprise Australia's Indian Ocean Territories. 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.[13]


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 Cooperative Society Ltd. employs construction workers, stevedores, and lighterage worker operations. Tourism employs others. The unemployment rate was 11.3% in 2006.[14]

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). There is one paved airport on the West Island, Cocos (Keeling) Island International Airport, to which National Jet Systems and Virgin Blue operate scheduled jet services from Perth, Western Australia; and a lagoon anchorage.


There are two schools in the archipelago. They are on the two inhabited islands - one is on West Island and the other on Home Island.

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.[15]


See also


  1. ^ Cocos (Keeling) Islands, The World Factbook, CIA. Accessed 14 April 2009.
  2. ^ The Clunies-Ross Chronicle
  3. ^ End of a kingdom
  4. ^ "HMAS Sydney (I)". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  5. ^ Cruise, Noel (2002). The Cocos Islands Mutiny. Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press. pp. 248. ISBN 1 86368 310 0. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 1977-06-28
  8. ^ CIA World Factbook
  9. ^ WebLaw - full resource metadata display
  10. ^ ComLaw Act Compilations - Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955 (34)
  11. ^ First Assistant Secretary, Territories Division (2008-01-30). "Territories of Australia". Attorney-General's Department. Retrieved 2008-02-07. "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." 
  12. ^ Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. "Territories of Australia". Retrieved 2008-02-07. "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." 
  13. ^
  14. ^ 2006 Census, Australian Bureau of Statistics
  15. ^ Paige Taylor, Crime in paradise lost in translation "The Australian", August 17, 2009

External links

Coordinates: 12°07′S 96°54′E / 12.117°S 96.9°E / -12.117; 96.9

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Cocos Islands article)

From Wikitravel

Quick Facts
Capital West Island
Government territory of Australia
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Area 14 sq km
Population 574 (July 2006 est.)
Language Malay (Cocos dialect), English
Religion Sunni Muslim 80%, other 20%
Calling Code +61
Internet TLD .cc
Time Zone UTC +6:30

The Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands (or simply Cocos Islands or Keeling Islands) is in the middle of the Indian Ocean some 2750km north-west of Perth, and 900km west south-west of Christmas Island.

For information on Cocos Island a nationally protected jungle-covered island and national park, 300m off the coast of Costa Rica. please see Cocos Island National Park.


There are two inhabited islands in the group West Island and Home Island.

Passenger ferries run to Direction Island every Saturday.

There are several uninhabited islands.

  • Horsburgh Island
  • North Keeling Island - A national park, with access only with permission from Parks Australia.
  • South Island


The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are located in the middle of the Indian Ocean some 2750km north-west of Perth, and 900km west south-west of Christmas Island, its closest neighbour. Cocos lies approximately 12° south and 96.5° east, locating the islands in the humid tropical zone.

There are 27 coral islands in the group. Captain William Keeling discovered the islands in 1609, but they remained uninhabited until the 19th century. Annexed by the UK in 1857, they were transferred to the Australian Government in 1955. The population on the two inhabited islands generally is split between the ethnic Europeans on West Island and the ethnic Malays on Home Island.

Grown throughout the islands, coconuts are the sole cash crop. 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 tourist industry.


Cocos experiences two main seasons which tend to overlap: the trade wind season from April / May to September / October and the calmer doldrum season from November through to April. Expect higher rainfall during March through to July. January through to August, may also generate the occasional low pressure system (usually between February and April). However these systems do not normally interfere with holiday plans. Rain usually falls in the evenings, bringing glorious sunny days! The average annual rainfall is 2000mm! Temperatures are fairly consistent no matter what the season, remaining around a comfortable 29°C with a minimum evening temperature rarely dropping below 20°C.


Flat, low-lying coral atolls, thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation.

Tourist Information

Monday: 0800 to 1700 Tuesday - Thursday: 0800 - 1430 Friday: 0800 - 1600 Saturday (early flight): 1300 - 1600 Saturday (late flight): 1400 - 1700 Sunday & Public Holidays: Closed

Cocos (Keeling) Islands Tourism Association Inc. PO Box 1030 Cocos (Keeling) Islands Indian Ocean WA 6799 Ph: +61 8 9162 6790 Fax: +61 8 9162 6696

  • There is one airport on West Island that receives two National Jet [1] flights a week from Perth, usually stopping over at Christmas Island and Exmouth either on the way or the way back. Oneway/return is A$840/$1680, with advance purchase returns available for $1098.
  • Every second Saturday, an additional flight from National Jet departs to the Islands operating every two weeks. Flight departs Perth at 0945 (WST) on an alternating schedule. More information can be obtained through your travel agent.
  • Virgin Blue [2] will commence services from Thursday 1 April 2010 with twice weekly flights to Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island and an additional third weekly flight to Christmas Island only which will be reassessed after six months, subject to demand. This service will be underwritten by the Federal Government.
  • The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are one and a half hours behind Western Standard Time (WST) and three and a half hours behind Eastern Standard Time (EST).
  • Australian citizens do not need a passport, but must carry some form of photographic identification.

By boat

There are no harbours.

Get around

A local bus service from West Island Settlement to the jetty operates approximately 20 minutes prior to the departure of the ferry to Home Island. On Saturday the ferry diverts to Direction Island to allow tourists and locals access to this remote paradise. The ferry returns in the afternoon to return you to West Island. Timetables are available from the Tourism office or the Duty Free Shop.

  • A Car Rental, +61 8 9162 7646. Contact Geof Christie for availability and rates.  edit
  • Cocos Autos, +61 8 9162 7661.  edit
  • AW & KJ James Car Hire, +61 8 9162 7717. Quality vehicles available for hire. Contact Ash or Kylie for availability and rates..  edit
  • Cocos Surf Shop, In the Airport Complex, +61 8 9162 6768.  edit
  • Supermarket, Clunies-Ross Avenue, +61 8 9162 6676 (fax: +61 8 9162 7605).  edit
  • Telecentre, (Administration building), +61 8 9162 7707. Open 5 days a week.  edit
  • Australia Post, +61 8 9162 6645 (fax: +61 8 9162 7500).  edit
  • Cocos Club, +61 8 9162 6688. Open 7 days a week.  edit


There are two restaurants on Cocos. The Tropika Restaurant is on West Island, whilst Bunga Melati is on Home Island.

Malay cuisine is a selection of rice, noodles, curry and chilli, featuring chicken, beef, lamb and seafood dishes. Food is prepared to be flavoursome and not particularly hot, unless requested. The Tropika caters to western style meals with a selection of meats, vegetables and salads available from the bistro. In the case of all three restaurants, meals are reasonably priced and rarely exceed AUD20.00 per person.

  • Tropika, (Located on West Island in the Cocos Beach Motel), +61 8 9162 6672.  edit
  • Bunga Melati, (Located on Home Island in the small business centre), +61 8 9162 7633. The restaurant will open for lunch or dinner on request.  edit

Don't want to eat at a restaurant? Usually, every third Friday, the different social clubs of Cocos prepare a "food night" at the Cocos Club. Excellently priced meals are offered along with raffles and good natured fun. Come along, share a meal. The Cocos Club also offers visitors a great venue to get to know the locals and join in with any activity that is happening.


This 28 room motel is centrally located right in the middle of town, right on the beach and only across the road from the Cocos Club, airport and a short walk to the supermarket. Many of the rooms have direct views to the Indian Ocean. Ideally suited to couples, singles or twin. Private ensuite and air conditioned. Three family rooms are available. On site restaurant - The Tropika.

Architecturally designed cottages, purpose built tourist accommodation, overlooking the golf course and the lagoon. They offer spacious bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, large undercover deck areas and on site BBQ area. Located within easy walking distance of the supermarket, Cocos Club, tennis courts, golf club, restaurants and other facilities.


Take cultural tours with some of the local tour operators or guide yourself around the islands to explore why they call the Cocos Islands a "nature and water lover's paradise".

During the year, as well as the traditional events such as Easter, New Year, Christmas etc, Cocos hosts a number of unique events. These include the annual Lagoon swim, where competitors swim from Home Island across the lagoon to West Island. Individuals or teams may enter and whether you are a serious contender or wish to join in with the Hash House Harriers (who always seem to get themselves disqualified for one thing or another), everyone has a load of fun. It finishes in the evening with dinner and presentations to the winners and boat drivers.

Other unique events are the mid-year Cocos Ball, quiz nights, Music & Wine festival, Ardmona Cup and Cocos Olympics. All visitors are encouraged to join in with these festivities and activities. Exact dates vary from year to year. Please check with the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Tourism Association before booking for particular events.

Don't forget visitors to the Island are also welcome to participate in the School Fete, Sports Carnival and concert events.

  • Cocos Diving, Cocos Dive, PO Box 1015, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean WA 6799,Australia, +61 8 9162 6515 (), [5]. AUD $200-2320.  edit
  • 2ND WIND SAILBOARDS, [6]. July through to August only.  edit
  • KEBUDAYAAN & HOME ISLAND CULTURAL EXPERIENCE TOUR. 7:30AM-2:30PM. $15 per adult, $10 per child 5-12 years.   edit
  • West Island Orientation Tour, Bookings are essential at the CKI Tourism Visitor's Centre. AUD $12 per adult, children below 16yrs free.  edit
  • Pulu Keeling National Park, ().  edit

Stay safe

Cyclone season is October to April.

Stay healthy

Fresh water resources are limited to rainwater accumulations in natural underground reservoirs.

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