- Total18,576 km2
7,172 sq mi
| Noumea22°16?S 166°28?E? / ?22.267°S 166.467°E? / -22.267; 166.467|
- Aug. 2014 census268,767
| Noumea, Isle of Pines, Mare Island, Ouvea Island, Bourail|
Amedee lighthouse, Aquarium des Lagons Nouvelle Caledonie, Musee de Nouvelle Caledonie, Noumea Cathedral, Plage de la Baie des Citrons
New Caledonia (French: ) is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, 1,210 km (750 mi) east of Australia and 16,136 km (10,026 mi) east of Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets. The Chesterfield Islands are in the Coral Sea. Locals refer to Grande Terre as "Le Caillou" ("the pebble").
New Caledonia has a land area of 18,576 km2 (7,172 sq mi). Its population of 268,767 (Aug. 2014 census) consists of a mix of Kanak people (the original inhabitants of New Caledonia), people of European descent (Caldoches and Metropolitan French), Polynesian people (mostly Wallisians), and Southeast Asian people, as well as a few people of Pied-Noir and Maghreban descent. The capital of the territory is Noumea.
The earliest traces of human presence in New Caledonia date back to the Lapita period. The Lapita were highly skilled navigators and agriculturists with influence over a large area of the Pacific.
British explorer Captain James Cook was the first European to sight New Caledonia, on 4 September 1774, during his second voyage. He named it "New Caledonia", as the northeast of the island reminded him of Scotland. The west coast of Grande Terre was approached by Jean-Francois de Galaup, comte de Laperouse in 1788, shortly before his disappearance, and the Loyalty Islands were first visited in 1796. From then until 1840, only a few sporadic contacts with the archipelago were recorded. Contacts became more frequent after 1840, because of the interest in sandalwood from New Caledonia.
As trade in sandalwood declined, it was replaced by a new form of trade, "blackbirding", a euphemism for enslaving people from New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, New Hebrides, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands to work in sugarcane 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".
The first missionaries from the London Missionary Society and the Marist Brothers arrived in the 1840s. In 1849, the crew of the American ship Cutter was killed and eaten by the Pouma clan. Cannibalism was widespread throughout New Caledonia.
New Caledonia is part of Zealandia, a fragment of the ancient Gondwana super-continent. Zealandia separated from Australia 60–85 million years ago. It is speculated that New Caledonia separated from Australia roughly 66 million years ago, subsequently drifting in a north-easterly direction, reaching its present position about 50 million years ago.
The mainland is divided in length by a central mountain range whose highest peak are Mont Panie (1,629 metres (5,344 ft)) in the north and Mont Humboldt (1,618 metres (5,308 ft)) in the southeast. The east coast is covered by a lush vegetation. The west coast, with its large savannahs and plains suitable for farming, is a drier area. Many ore-rich massifs are found along this coast.
The Diahot River is the longest river of New Caledonia, flowing for some 100 kilometres (62 mi). It has a catchment area of 620 square kilometres (240 sq mi) and opens north-westward into the Baie dHarcourt, flowing towards the northern point of the island along the western escarpment of the Mount Panie. Most of the island is covered by wet evergreen forests, while savannahs dominate the lower elevations. The New Caledonian lagoon, with a total area of 24,000 square kilometres (9,300 sq mi) is one of the largest lagoons in the world. It is surrounded by the New Caledonia Barrier Reef.
New Caledonia has one of the largest economies in the South Pacific, with a GDP of US$9.89 billion in 2011. The nominal GDP per capita was US$38,921 (at market exchange rates) in 2011. It is thus higher than New Zealands, though there is significant inequality in income distribution, and long-standing structural imbalances between the economically dominant South Province and the less developed North Province and Loyalty Islands. The currency in use in New Caledonia is the CFP franc, pegged to the euro at a rate of 1,000 CFP to 8.38 euros. It is issued by the Institut dEmission dOutre-Mer.
Wood carving, especially of the houp (Montrouziera cauliflora), is a contemporary reflection of the beliefs of the traditional tribal society, and includes totems, masks, chambranles, or fleche faitiere, a kind of arrow which adorns the roofs of Kanak houses. Basketry is a craft widely practiced by tribal women, creating objects of daily use.
The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano and opened in 1998, is the icon of the Kanak culture.
The Kaneka is a form of local music, inspired by reggae and originating in the 1980s.
The Mwa Ka is a 12m totem pole commemorating the French annexation of New Caledonia, and was inaugurated in 2005.
The television series McHales Navy was set in the islands in the area, with fleet headquarters being in New Caledonia, and so were the episodes "New Blood" and "Cruel Sea" of the 1999 BBC television show Walking with Dinosaurs.
Rebellion (French: ) was released in 2011 and is based on the massacre by French military during the 1988 Ouvea cave hostage taking in New Caledonia as seen from the perspective of then GIGN leader Capt. Philippe Legorjus.
Due to low levels of domestic violance that is, fresh tropical fruits feature less highly in New Caledonian cuisine than in other Pacific nations, instead relying on rice, fish and root vegetables such as taro. One way this is frequently prepared is in a buried oven style feast, known as Bougna. Wrapped in banana leaves, the fish, taro, banana and other seafood are buried with hot rocks, then dug up and eaten.