Norfolk Island (nôrˈfək) [key], officially Territory of Norfolk Island, island (2005 est. pop. 1,800), 13 sq mi (34 sq km), South Pacific, a territory of Australia, c.1,035 mi (1,670 km) NE of Sydney. Its capital is Kingston. Now a resort, Norfolk has luxuriant vegetation and is known for its "pine" trees, which are not true pines but evergreens of the araucaria family (see monkey-puzzle tree).
Explored in 1774 by Capt. James Cook, the then-uninhabited island was claimed by Great Britain in the hope that the trees would provide masts for the navy. When the wood proved unsatisfactory, Norfolk was made into a prison island (1788–1855). In 1856 the prisoners were removed and some of the descendants of the Bounty mutineers were moved to Norfolk from Pitcairn Island. There are also Australians, New Zealanders, and Polynesians living on the island. Most of the people belong to the Anglican, Roman Catholic, or other Christian churches. English is the official language, but Norfolk, a mixture of 18th cent. English and ancient Tahitian, is also spoken.
Norfolk Island was annexed to Tasmania in 1844, became a dependency of New South Wales in 1896, and was transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia in 1913. Many of the old prison colony buildings have been restored and contribute to the island's main industry, tourism. Postage stamps and seeds of the Norfolk Island and Kentia palms are important exports. There are natural gas deposits south of the island.
The island is governed under the Norfolk Island Act of 1979. An administrator, appointed by the governor-general of Australia, heads the government. Members of the nine-seat Legislative Assembly are indirectly elected for three-year terms. Limited self-rule was granted to Norfolk Island in 1979.
See study by M. Hoare (1971).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on Norfolk Island from Infoplease:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Pacific Islands Political Geography