Christmas Island

Christmas Island

Flight 41D; 2N, 157.5W, 3 Sept 1984

Geologically, the oldest atoll in the world's oceans is Christmas Island, lying just north of the equator in the Line Islands. Aboard the Discovery, the astronauts had one of the best views ever of Christmas Island, the old atoll more often than not being covered with towering cumulus clouds. The lagoon is nearly completely filled by coral growth. Only a shallow entrance exists on the northwest end, an entrance that is so small that supply ships during World War II lay offshore and unloaded supplies on a lighter to get them ashore. Coconut groves abound throughout the old lagoon; on the southern tip, where the Gilbert Islanders live; and on the short southern tip on the east side, where the main airstrip on the island is outlined on the wide, sandy beach. As is typical of tropical islands that maintain large old groves of coconut palms, visitors to Christmas Island are always impressed by the enormous land crabs that guard every road and pathway.

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