Caroline Island

Caroline Island should not be confused with the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific.
Missing image
NASA orbital photo of Caroline Island. North is to the upper right. The two largest islets are Nake Islet (top) and South Islet (bottom).

Caroline Island, also known as Millennium Island, is an uninhabited coral atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, part of the territory of Kiribati, located at Template:Coor dm. It is best known as the first point of land on earth to have entered the year 2000, based upon official local time, due to a 1995 realignment of time zones and its location as the easternmost of the Line Islands.



The crescent-shaped atoll (3.76 square km in area), consists of roughly 38 islets surrounding a shallow, narrow lagoon of roughly 6 km by 0.5 km. Caroline extends approximately 9.2 km from north to south, and is about 1.6 km wide at its widest point on South Islet. At their highest point, the islets rise only 6 meters above sea level.

The island is surrounded by a dangerous reef, ending approximately a mile out from the southern end. There are no natural anchoranges, landings are generally made at a break in the reef at the northwest corner of South Islet. A freshwater lens exists below the largest islets at the north and south, and wells have been constructed to obtain water for previous settlements (two on South Islet, one on Nake Islet).

Named islets include: Nake Islet and Long Islet at the northern end of the atoll; Pig Islet, Brothers Islet, and Arundel Islet along the eastern side of the lagoon; Bird Islet west of the lagoon, and South Islet at the southern tip of the atoll.

Flora and fauna

Caroline Island is considered to be the most untouched of the Line Islands, and was at one point under consideration for designation as a World Heritage Site.

Caroline Island is an important breeding site for a number of species of seabirds, most notably the Sooty Tern (a colony dominates the eastern islets) and the Great Frigatebird. Caroline Island is home to one of world's largest populations of the Coconut crab (Birgus latro). Other notable fauna include Tridacna clams and Green Turtles. Thick groves of Pisonia trees grow on most of the islets.


The first recorded sighting of Caroline Island occurred on December 16, 1795, by Captain William Robert Broughton of the HMS Providence. Caroline Island was again sighted in 1821 by the English whaling ship Supply and was then named Thornton Island for the ship's captain. There is, however, evidence of prior settlement by Polynesian peoples on both South Islet and the northernmost Nake Islet.

In 1872, the island was leased by the British government to Houlder Brothers, who conducted minimal guano mining on the island. In 1883, an expedition of American astronomers traveled from Peru to Caroline Island aboard the USS Hartford to observe the May 6 total solar eclipse. A French expedition also observed the eclipse from Caroline, and the United States Navy mapped the atoll.

In 1846, a small stock-raising and copra community was established on the island. In 1868, Caroline was claimed by the British vessel HMS Reindeer, who noted 27 residents in a settlement on the South Islet. The island's settlement slowly decreased in population; by 1926, there was only 10 residents, and in 1936, the settlement consisted of only two Tahitian families before its end in the late 1930s. The island has been uninhabited since then.

The entire island is presently owned by the government of the Republic of Kiribati. It is occasionally visited by copra gatherers. Caroline was also leased to a French Polynesian entrepreneur in the 1990s; he established a small homestead on one of the islets and reportedly had plans for the development of the atoll.

The atoll has also been known under the names of Hirst Island, Clark Island and Independence Island.

Time zone realignment

On December 23, 1994, the Republic of Kiribati announced a change of time zone for the Line Islands, to take effect January 1, 1995. This adjustment effectively moved the International Date Line over 1000 kilometers to the east, placing all of Kiribati on the Asian side of the date line, despite the fact that Caroline Island's longitude of 150 degrees west should place it at UTC−10 rather than its current time zone of UTC+14. Caroline Island now has the same time as the Hawaiian Islands (the Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time Zone), but one day earlier, despite the fact that it is located 30 degrees to the east of the "natural" location of the international date line at 180 degrees longitude.

In 1999, in order to capitalize upon the massive public interest in celebrations marking the arrival of the year 2000, Caroline Island was officially renamed Millennium Island. Although the island was uninhabited, a special celebration was held on the island, performed by native entertainers from Kiribati, attended by Kiribati president Teburoro Tito and broadcast by satellite worldwide.


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