pinetrees, 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 (there had been an earlier Polynesian settlement) 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. Many of the old prison colony buildings have been restored and contribute to the island's main industry, tourism. Norfolk Island pine and Kentia palm seeds and avocados are exported. There are natural gas deposits south of the island.
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. The island was governed under the Norfolk Island Act of 1979, which granted limited self-rule to the territory, established a legislative assembly, and gave the island federal- and state-level powers. Financial problems led to Australian legislation in 2015 ending the island's autonomy and reducing it to local administrative status in 2016, treating the territory administratively as part of New South Wales.
See study by M. Hoare (1971).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Pacific Islands Political Geography