New Caledonia Facts

New Caledonia Facts and History


New Caledonia is located in the Pacific Ocean, around 1,200 km east of Australia and 1,700 km northwest of New Zealand. The closest neighbor is Vanuatu to the northeast. There is a disagreement between the neighbors over ownership of the Matthew and Hunter Islands.

New Caledonia is part of Melanesia, which also includes Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. New Caledonia is the third largest state in the South Pacific, after New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

The country has been a French overseas territory since 1998 and an associate member of the EU since 1991.

It is made up of the main islands of Grand Terre, the Ile des Pins, the Loyalty Islands and the Iles Belep.

The country is rich in raw materials such as nickel, cobalt and chromium. These are found in the mountain range that extends from north to south over the main island, so New Caledonia has around 30% of the world’s known nickel deposits.

Name of the country New CaledoniaCollectivité d´outre mer
Form of government French overseas
Geographical location In the South Pacific, belonging to Melanesia
National anthem Marseillaise, the national anthem of France
Population approx. 25,000 (Credit: Countryaah: New Caledonia Facts)
Ethnicities approx. 42.5% Melanesians, approx. 37% Europeans, approx. 8.5% islanders from the island of Wallis, around 4% Polynesians, around 3.5% Indonesians and around 1.5% Vietnamese and 3% others combined.
Religions Roman Catholic around 60%, Protestants around 30% and others around 10%
Languages French is the official language, about 33 Melanian and Polynesian languages as well as English are spoken.
Capital Noumea
Surface New Caledonia covers an area of 19,060 km². Of this, 18,575 km² are land and 485 km² are water.
Highest mountain Mont Panie with a height of 1,628 m
Longest river Rivière Bleue
Largest lake in area Lac de Yaté
International license plate NCL
Currency Pacific Franc, Cour de Franc Pacifique
Time difference to CET + 10 h
International phone code + 687
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .nc

New Caledonia: History

Early history

New Caledonia’s islands are not of volcanic origin like the neighboring islands. It split off from the Urland Gondwana around 250 million years ago, just like New Zealand, for example. This led to the development of a unique flora. New Caledonia has around 3,500 different plants, two thirds of which are only found there.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, around 1,500 BC The first settlers from Vanuatu reached the islands. They belonged to the Lapita culture, which got its name from an archaeological excavation site near Koné on the skin brush. The Lapita culture was characterized by pottery with special patterns.

With the help of these pottery finds, the migrations of ethnic groups in the Pacific region can be determined and dated quite well. The Lapita culture spread from New Caledonia in the entire western Polynesian culture and then disappeared around the year 300 AD.

The Lapita people were Austronesians who had great seafaring skills and were extremely mobile because of that.

The Europeans are coming

During his journey with his ship, the “Resolution”, James Cook (1728-1779) discovered the islands in 1774 and named them New Caledonia in memory of Scotland.

James Cook was followed by whalers and traders from England and America.

The island was taken over by the French admiral Febvrier-Despointes in 1853. At the same time, huge deposits of raw materials were discovered, e.g. B. on nickel.

As settlers arrived and settled on tribal land, tension between the newcomers and the local Kanak population grew. In 1878 this led to a seven-month armed conflict.

With the Immigration Acts of 1894 by Governor Feillet, immigrants came from Indonesiaand Java, who were mostly employed in the mines.

New Caledonia was founded by France as a penal colony.

Penal colony

On May 9, 1864, the first prisoners came to the island of Nou. Approximately 21,000 convicts were sent to the island over the course of 33 years. The first to arrive had to build the prison and the Church of St. Joseph. In addition to thieves and prostitutes, political prisoners were also sent to New Caledonia, such as the Communards of the 1871 uprising, who were released in 1880. This was followed in the same year by the insurgents of the Kabyle revolt in Algeria. In 1895 they too received an amnesty.

The prison was officially closed in 1933.

It was extremely difficult for those released to return to their homeland, as the aim was to increase the population on the islands. Former prisoners, for example, had to pay for their own travel expenses. On the other hand, the travel expenses of their relatives to New Caledonia were covered by the authorities.


New Caledonia was evangelized by Protestant priests from Samoa who were members of the London Missionary Society. The first arrived on the île de Pines in 1841.

On Grande Terre, the main island, the French began missionary work in the northeast.

20th century until today

Around one million Americans were stationed on the islands during World War II. With these, the 20th century arrived.

After the Second World War, the former colony received the status of a French overseas territory. The local population became French in 1946 and was given the right to vote.

In 1950-1960 nickel mining brought wealth to the island.

The Kanak population increasingly strived for independence, especially with a view to Fiji and Papua New Guinea, which had achieved independence in 1970 and 1975 respectively. In 1984 and 1986 this led to violent clashes between the Kanak people and the whites. As a result, land reforms were initiated.

New Caledonia was French overseas territory until May 5, 1998. It has since enjoyed the status of a French overseas country with full autonomy.

New Caledonia Facts