Blessed to be a Blessing!
Total Land Area: 18, 575km2
Number of Islands:12
Population: 213,000 (Kanaks 44%, Europeans 34%)
Main Island: Gande Terre
Languages: French plus 30 distinct Kanal=k languages
Political Status: Self-goverening territory of France
Head of State: French President
Head of Government: Philippe Gomes
Currency: Pacific franc
New Caledonia is located in southwest Pacific. It comprises a main island, Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, and several smaller islands with a land area of 18,575 square kilometres. The population was estimated in January 2009 to be 249,000. The capital and largest city of the territory is Nouméa. The currency is the Pacific Franc.
The island of New Caledonia is rich in mineral resources, including nickel, chrome, iron, cobalt, manganese, silver, gold, lead, and copper. It is densely forested in some places, but almost all the kauri pine that was once an important export has been cut down. Nickel mining and smelting are the principal industries, and tourism and fishing are also important. There is subsistence farming, and cattle and poultry are raised. New Caledonia receives substantial financial support from France.
New Caledonia is the fourth largest producer of nickel in the world and has one of the highest average incomes per capita in the Pacific.
New Caledonia is considered one of the world's most critically endangered and botanically most important hotspots. The country still shelters an extraordinary diversity of unique, endemic, and extremely primitive plants and animals, as well as the second largest coral reef in the world.
Since 1986 the United Nations Committee on Decolonization has included New Caledonia on theUnited Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. New Caledonia is set to decide whether to remain within the French Republic as an autonomous overseas collectivity or become anindependent state in a referendum to be held between 2014 and 2019.
New Caledonia was settled by successive waves of migration dating back many hundreds of years before European colonization. Captain James Cook named the main island (after the Latin name for name for
Scotland) after landing on the northern coast in 1774.
The first missionaries from the London Missionary Society and the Marist Brothers arrived in the 1840s. The French took possession of the island in 1853, officially to protect the French missionaries but in effect to counteract the growing British influence in the region. From 1864 to 1922, New Caledonia became a penal colony, receiving 40,000 transported prisoners.
Whalers operated off New Caledonia during the 19th century. Sandalwood traders were welcome but as supplies of sandalwood diminished, the traders became abusive, operating a new form of trade, "Blackbirding". Blackbirding was a euphemism for enslaving people from New Caledonia, theLoyalty Islands, New Hebrides, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands to work in sugar cane plantations in Fiji and Queensland. The trade ceased at the start of the 20th century. The victims of this trade were called Kanakas like all the Oceanian people, after the Hawaiian word for 'man'. This label was later shortened to Kanak, and adopted by the indigenous population after the French annexation.