New Caledonia Facts
The islands of the Pacific are usually divided into three areas: Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
Countries in Melanesia are
Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. New Caledonia, an Overseas Territory of France, is also included in the Melanesian group.
New Caledonia consists of the main island, known as Grande Terre, the Isle of Pines, the Loyalty Islands and a number of small islands.
Grande Terre was part of the giant continent of Gondwana which started to break apart over one hundred million years ago.
The Loyalty Islands - Lifou, Mare and Ouvea - are atolls.
The highest point in New Caledonia is Mont Panie (1,628 m).
Migrating groups arrived in the western Pacific around fifty thousand years ago.
People known as the Lapita migrated to the region around fifteen thousand BC. They were given this name after Lapita in New Caledonia, one of the first places where Lapita pottery was discovered.
A number of ancient rock carvings (petroglyphs) can be seen in New Caledonia.
The indigenous population of New Caledonia are the Kanaks who arrived in the archipelago around three thousand years ago.
New Caledonia is called Kanaky by the Kanak people.
James Cook (1728-1779), the British Captain of Scottish descent, named New Caledonia after the Latin name for Scotland. On the same voyage, Cook named Vanuatu the New Hebrides.
Missionaries from the London Missionary Society settled on the Loyalty Islands in 1840. French missionaries arrived in 1843.
In the nineteenth century many Melanesians were taken to Fiji and Queensland in Australia where they were made to work on plantations.
New Caledonia became a French possession in 1853.
Jules Garnier, a mining engineer, discovered nickel in New Caledonia in 1864.
In 1864 France set up a penal colony in New Caledonia. The prison closed in 1897.
New Caledonia became an Overseas Territory of France in 1956.
The 1998 Noumea Accord allowed for increased autonomy for New Caledonia over a fifteen to twenty year period. Up to three referenda, carried out between 2013 and 2015, will determine independence from France.