Photos of Cocos (Keeling) Islands

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands lie in the eastern Indian Ocean, about 2,900 km (1,800 mi) northwest of the Australian city of Perth. Comprised of coral atolls and islands, the archipelago includes North Keeling Island and the South Keeling Islands. This natural-color satellite image of the South Keeling Islands dates to 31 July 2009.

Coral atolls - which are largely composed of huge colonies of tiny animals - form atop islands. Over time the islands may subside, but the coral remains growing upward and generally forming complete or partial rings. Only some parts of the South Keeling Islands still stand above the water surface. In the north, the ocean overtops the coral.

Along the southern rim of this coral atoll, the shallow water appears aquamarine. The water darkens to navy blue as it deepens toward the central lagoon. Above the water line, coconut palms and other plants form a thick carpet of vegetation.

In 2005, the Australian Government issued a report on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, summarizing field research conducted between 1997 and 2005. Overall, the report noted, "the coral reef community at Cocos (Keeling) Islands is very healthy and in a stable period, with little impact from anthropogenic activities." Image courtesy of NASA.

Introduction

Background

British captain William KEELING discovered Cocos (Keeling) Islands in 1609 and they were named the Cocos Islands in 1622 for their coconut trees. Some maps began referring to them as the Keeling Islands in 1703. In 1825, Scottish trader John CLUNIES-ROSS was trying to get to Christmas Island but was blown off-course and landed on Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The next year, a British trader hired John’s brother to bring slaves and a harem of Malay women to create the first permanent settlement on the island. By the 1830s, the Clunies-Ross family had firmly established themselves as the leaders of the islands and they ruled Cocos (Keeling) Islands in a feudal style until 1978.

The UK annexed the islands in 1857 and administered them from Ceylon after 1878 and from Singapore after 1886. Cocos (Keeling) Islands hosted a cable relaying station and was attacked by the Germans in World War I. The Japanese similarly attacked the islands in World War II. The UK transferred the islands to Australia in 1955, which officially named the islands the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and in 1978, Australia bought all the land held by the Clunies-Ross family, ending their control of the islands’ governance. In a referendum in 1984, most islanders voted to integrate with Australia, and Western Australian laws have applied on the islands since 1992.

 

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Southeastern Asia, group of islands in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Indonesia, about halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka

Geographic coordinates

12 30 S, 96 50 E

Map references

Southeast Asia

Area

total: 14 sq km

land: 14 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: includes the two main islands of West Island and Home Island

country comparison to the world: 240

Area - comparative

about 24 times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical with high humidity, moderated by the southeast trade winds for about nine months of the year

Terrain

flat, low-lying coral atolls

Elevation

highest point: South Point on South Island 9 m

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m

Land use

agricultural land: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 100% (2018 est.)

Population distribution

only Home Island and West Island are populated

Natural hazards

cyclone season is October to April

Geography - note

note 1: there are 27 coral islands in the group; apart from North Keeling Island, which lies 30 km north of the main group, the islands form a horseshoe-shaped atoll surrounding a lagoon; North Keeling Island was declared a national park in 1995 and is administered by Parks Australia; the population on the two inhabited islands generally is split between the ethnic Europeans on West Island and the ethnic Malays on Home Island; the islands are thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation

note 2: site of a World War I naval battle in November 1914 between the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney and the German raider SMS Emden; after being heavily damaged in the engagement, the Emden was beached by her captain on North Keeling Island

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Cocos Islander(s)

adjective: Cocos Islander

Ethnic groups

Europeans, Cocos Malays

Languages

Malay (Cocos dialect) 68.8%, English 22.3%, unspecified 8.9%; note - data represent language spoken at home (2016 est.)

major-language sample(s):
Buku Fakta Dunia, sumber yang diperlukan untuk maklumat asas. (Malay)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Religions

Muslim (predominantly Sunni) 75%, Anglican 3.5%, Roman Catholic 2.2%, none 12.9%, unspecified 6.3% (2016 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: NA

15-24 years: NA

25-54 years: NA

55-64 years: NA

65 years and over: NA

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: NA

youth dependency ratio: NA

elderly dependency ratio: NA

potential support ratio: NA

Death rate

8.89 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 58

Net migration rate

NA (2021 est.)

Population distribution

only Home Island and West Island are populated

Infant mortality rate

total: NA

male: NA

female: NA (2021 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA (2021 est.)

Total fertility rate

NA (2021 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

Environment

Environment - current issues

freshwater resources are limited to rainwater accumulations in natural underground reservoirs; illegal fishing a concern

Climate

tropical with high humidity, moderated by the southeast trade winds for about nine months of the year

Land use

agricultural land: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 100% (2018 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands

conventional short form: Cocos (Keeling) Islands

etymology: the name refers to the abundant coconut trees on the islands and to English Captain William KEELING, the first European to sight the islands in 1609

Government type

non-self-governing overseas territory of Australia

Dependency status

non-self governing territory of Australia; administered from Canberra by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities & Regional Development

Capital

name: West Island

geographic coordinates: 12 10 S, 96 50 E

time difference: UTC+6.5 (11.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

none (territory of Australia)

Independence

none (territory of Australia)

National holiday

Australia Day (commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of Australian settlers), 26 January (1788)

Constitution

history: 23 November 1955 (Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955)

amendments: amended many times, last in 2020

Legal system

common law based on the Australian model

Citizenship

see Australia

Suffrage

18 years of age

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia General David HURLEY (since 1 July 2019)

head of government: Administrator Natasha GRIGGS (since 5 October 2017)

cabinet: NA

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Australian prime minister; administrator appointed by the governor general for a 2-year term and represents the monarch and Australia

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire Council (7 seats; members directly elected by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms with half the membership renewed every 2 years)

elections: last held in October 2017 (next to be held on 31 October 2019)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; composition - men 5, women 2, percent of women 28.6%

Judicial branch

highest courts: under the terms of the Territorial Law Reform Act 1992, Western Australia provides court services as needed for the island including the Supreme Court and subordinate courts (District Court, Magistrate Court, Family Court, Children's Court, and Coroners' Court)

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (territory of Australia)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (territory of Australia)

Flag description

the flag of Australia is used

National anthem

note: as a territory of Australia, "Advance Australia Fair" remains official as the national anthem, while "God Save the Queen" serves as the royal anthem (see Australia)

Economy

Economic overview

Coconuts, grown throughout the islands, 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.

Agricultural products

vegetables, bananas, pawpaws, coconuts

Industries

copra products, tourism

Labor force - by occupation

note: the Cocos Islands Cooperative Society Ltd. employs construction workers, stevedores, and lighterage workers; tourism is the other main source of employment

Budget

revenues: NA

expenditures: NA

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Exports - partners

United States 57%, Ireland 15% (2019)

Exports - commodities

computers, packaged medicines, precious metal watches, office machinery/parts, chemical analysis instruments (2019)

Imports - partners

Australia 73%, United Arab Emirates 15%, Netherlands 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

gold, x-ray equipment, cars, prefabricated buildings, packaged medicines (2019)

Exchange rates

Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -

1.311 (2017 est.)

1.3442 (2016 est.)

1.3442 (2015)

1.3291 (2014)

1.1094 (2013)

Communications

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: telephone service is part of the Australian network; an operational local mobile-cellular network available; wireless Internet connectivity available

domestic: local area code - 08

international: international code - 61 8; telephone, telex, and facsimile communications with Australia and elsewhere via satellite; satellite earth station - 1 (Intelsat)

Broadcast media

1 local radio station staffed by community volunteers; satellite broadcasts of several Australian radio and TV stations available (2017)

Transportation

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2019)

Roadways

total: 22 km (2007)

paved: 10 km (2007)

unpaved: 12 km (2007)

country comparison to the world: 221

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Port Refuge

Military and Security

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of Australia

Transnational Issues