Kiritimati or Christmas Island is an island in the Republic of Kiribati. It is one of the largest coral islands in the world today. The name comes from the fact that James Cook of England reached the island on Christmas Day in 1777. The area has adopted the time zone “UTC+14,” which is the earliest time on earth when a new day begins. This make Republic of Kiribati the first country where the sun rises.
Prior to the discovery by Cook, the island was used by Polynesians as a temporary port, but there were no permanent residents. The current inhabitants are mostly Micronesians who speak Kiribati (or English), the same Micronesian language as the mainland Gilbert Islands. Geographically, however, the islands belong to Polynesia, unlike the Gilbert Islands, which belong to Micronesia.
The main industries are tourism (diving and other leisure industries and bird watching) for international tourists and the production of natural salt, a specialty product. The latter is famous as “Christmas Island salt,” and a Japanese company sometimes sells potato chips made with this salt for a limited time.
Fiji Airways, a Fijian airline, resumed a weekly Boeing 737 flight between Honolulu and Nadi with a stopover at Kirisimati Island in May 2010. The route had been temporarily suspended since September, 2008 due to the condition of the runway at the Kasidi International Airport in Kirisimati, which was not up to safety standards.
The United Kingdom and the United States conducted atmospheric nuclear tests in 1957-1958 and 1962, respectively. In total, more than 20 tests were conducted. All of the tests were conducted at high altitude on the southeast side of the island or at a distance from the island, and because of the prevailing easterly trade winds, the radiation effects on the island were minimal. A lawsuit was filed by the troops who served on the island during the test period.
Because of its equatorial location at the same longitude and latitude as Hawaii (1.5°N), the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) (now the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)) planned a landing test site for HOPE-X, an unmanned space plane. However, the HOPE-X project itself was cancelled, and the landing test site plan also disappeared. From September to November 2002, the High Speed Flight Demonstration (HSFD) Phase I flight demonstration was conducted as part of the HOPE-X project .