New Caledonia Country Overview

By | January 26, 2022


The western Pacific Ocean was populated 50,000 years ago. Then the Austronesians came to the area. The various groups of people who settled in the Melanesian archipelagos are known as Lapita. These arrived in New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands around 1,500 BC. The Lapita were skilled navigators and farmers and influenced much of this area of the Pacific.

Starting in the 11th century, Polynesians came to the islands and mixed with the local population. Europeans spotted the islands in the late 18th century. English explorer James Cook sighted Grande – Terre in 1774 and named it New Caledonia, in honor of the highlands of Scotland to which the Romans called Caledonia.

British and American whalers became interested in New Caledonia and tensions over it increased. Europeans used alcohol and tobacco among other things, to exchange them for inputs. Contact with Europeans brought diseases such as dysentery, influenza, syphilis and leprosy. Many natives died from these diseases. Tensions turned into hostilities and in 1849 the Cutter’s crew was killed and eaten by the Pouma clan. The trade of the natives of the islands also emerged, along with those of Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, to be used as slaves on sugar plantations in Fiji and Queensland.

According to shopareview, the trade lasted until the beginning of the 20th century. Catholic and Protestant missionaries arrived during the 19th century. These had a profound impact on indigenous culture. They insisted that the natives should wear clothes and introduced cricket and tea, they also eradicated many of the local customs and traditions. Colonized by France during the first half of the 19th century, the island was converted into a French possession in 1853. It served as a penal colony for four decades after 1864. Since 1986, New Caledonia appears on the list of non-self-governed territories of the United Nations.

In this list are places like American Samoa, the Falkland Islands and Tokelau among others. Agitations demanding independence from the Frente Socialista de Liberación Nacional Canaco (Front de Libération National Kanak Socialiste FLNKS) began in 1985. The FLNKS (led by Jean Marie Tjibaou, assassinated in 1989) demanded the creation of the Independent State of Kanaky. The problems culminated in 1988 with the bloody hostage taking in Ouvéa. This led to the granting of greater autonomy with the Matgnon Accords of 1988 and the Nouméa Accords in 1998.

Name’s origin

The name Caledonia is derived from the Latin name of the region that currently corresponds to Scotland. The name Kanaky is also used in French, English, and local indigenous languages. This name is preferred by Melanesian nationalists. The word comes from Kanaka, a Polynesian word meaning human, used by Polynesians to refer to themselves. The word was later used by the French to designate all the natives of the islands of the southern Pacific Ocean, including the Melanesians(other than the Polynesians) of New Caledonia.

The word was derived from Canaque in French, and became a derogatory term. Between 1960 and 1970, when the native Melanesians began to organize into political parties and request their independence, this derogatory word was used as a symbol of political emancipation and pride.


New Caledonia is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean about 1,200 km east of Australia and 1,500 km northeast of New Zealand. The island nation of Vanuatu is located to the northeast. New Caledonia is made up of a main island, Grande Terre, and several smaller islands such as the Belep Archipelago to the north of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands to the east of Grande Terre, the Isle of Pines to the south, and the Chesterfield Islands. and Bellona to the west. Grande Terre is by far the largest island, and the only one with mountains.

It has an area of 16,372 km² and is elongated from northwest to southeast, measuring 350 km long by 50-70 km wide. A mountain range runs the length of the island and has 5 peaks over 1500 m. The highest point is Mount Panie at 1,628 meters above sea level.


New Caledonia is located in the Tropic of Capricorn, between 19º and 23º south latitude. The climate of the islands and [tropical, the rain is seasonal and is brought by the winds that usually run from the east. Average annual precipitation is 1,500 mm in the Loyalty Islands, 2,000 mm in the lower parts of Grande Terre and between 2,000 mm and 4,000 mm in the higher areas of Grande Terre.

New Caledonia Country Overview