Named in 1643 for the day of its discovery, the island was annexed and settlement began by the UK in 1888. Phosphate mining began in the 1890s. The UK transferred sovereignty to Australia in 1958. Almost two-thirds of the island has been declared a national park.
territorial flag; divided diagonally from upper hoist to lower fly; the upper triangle is green with a yellow image of the Golden Bosun Bird superimposed, the lower triangle is blue with the Southern Cross constellation, representing Australia, superimposed; a centered yellow disk displays a green map of the island
note:the flag of Australia is used for official purposes
Phosphate mining had been the only significant economic activity, but in December 1987 the Australian government closed the mine. In 1991, the mine was reopened. With the support of the government, a $34 million casino opened in 1993, but closed in 1998. The Australian government in 2001 agreed to support the creation of a commercial space-launching site on the island expected to begin operations in the near future.