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New Caledonia - Geography

New Caledonia is roughly 250 miles long farther than New York to Washington by about 30 wide, with an area of around 8,000 square miles. It is 750 miles from Australia, 6,500 from California, and 8,000 from the Panama Canal. Near the southern tip of the island, slightly up the west coast, lies the capital and principal port, Noumea, which has a landlocked harbor, one of the finest in the South Seas.

The Main Island resembles a long tongue of land bisected by a range of mountains running from north to south and rising to two high peaks: Mont Pani (1,628 m) in the North-East and Mont Humboldt (1,618 m) in the South-West. To the West, the vegetation is tinged with hues of yellow and brown (savannah, niaouli trees), while the more tropical East Coast is clothed in the darker green of dense, lush vegetation. Peridotite masses covered by thick mineral-rich lateritic mantles extend over large areas of the Main Islands 16,500 km. The fiery red lateritic soil is the source of New Caledonias wealth of nickel ore.

The endless ribbon of the barrier reef encircles the entire Main Island in an almost unbroken line, at a distance of a few nautical miles from the coast. The 1,600 km long barrier reef, the second longest in the world after Australias Great Barrier Reef, shelters a lagoon covering a total area of 24,000 km, of which 15,000 km are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To the East, four islands form the Loyalty Islands group: Lifou, Mar, Tiga and Ouva. Together with the Isle of Pines to the south, they are perfect island jewels. These are the islands best known to tourists but hundreds of other islands and islets lie dotted around the coastline of New Caledonia.

Although small in size (it is approximately the size of New Jersey) New Caledonia has a well-deserved reputation for biodiversity, both on land in the sea. Conservation International lists 3,270 species of plants, 9 species of mammal, 105 bird species, 70 species of reptile and 85 species of freshwater fish found on the islands. Amphibians, however, are absent from the list there are none found in New Caledonia. Of this large array of species, many are endemic. Of the plants, 74% are endemic as are 88% of the reptiles.

The barrier reef of New Caledonia is the second largest barrier reef in the world, measuring 1,600 kilometers in length. The reef surrounds a vast lagoon of about 23,400 square kilometers, and contains over 14,000 square kilometers of reef. Recent inventories have identified approximately 15,000 species living in the reefs and lagoons, including 1,950 species of fish, 5,500 species of mollusks and 5,000 species of crustaceans.

The Entrecasteaux Reefs, the Great Northern Lagoon, the Northeast Coastal Region, the Ouva and Beautemps-Beaupr atolls, the Western Coastal Region and the Great Southern Lagoon are the six clusters forming the serial site now included among the planets 200 natural UNESCO Heritage Sites. Home to an exceptional diversity of plant and wildlife, including 350 species of coral and around 1,600 species of fish, New Caledonia's coral reefs and associated ecosystems were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List on 7 July 2008. This was a first for Frances Overseas Territories, although France itself boasts around forty UNESCO Heritage Sites.

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Page last modified: 16-11-2017 18:42:31 ZULU