World Facts

Caroline Island - The Millennium Island

Caroline Island was renamed Millennium Island to celebrate its unique position in regards to the arrival of the year 2000.

Caroline Island is believed to be the first region to see the sun on the first day of the new millennium. This is because of the unique location at the easternmost part of the globe within the Pacific Ocean. Though few human beings live in the island, it was the place where the first celebrations to usher in the year 2000 was held.

History of Caroline Island

The secluded island was first sighted by European explorers in 1606 who took charge of it in 1868. The name of the island, Carolina, was given in December 16, 1795 by a sailor called William Robert in honor of the daughter of Sir Stephen, though the name was officially changed to Caroline. Other ancient names include Thornton Island, Clark Island and Independence Island. Currently the island is ruled by the Kiribati Republic and attained independence in 1979. The island occupies a total of 24 square kilometers and is only 20 feet above the sea level. The island experiences temperatures at an average of 82 degrees Fahrenheit and receives 1,500 mm of rain annually.

The Renaming Process

The process of changing the name from Caroline to Millennium Island was initiated by the government of Kiribati on December 23, 1994. The process was to begin by altering the dateline so that the time zone would eliminate the confusion caused by different region of the country being in two different days. President Teburoro Tito spearheaded the adjustment of the International Date Line over 620 miles, a process that was to take effect in January 1995. The adjustment altered the island time to the Asian side conveniently making the island the first land on Earth to witness the sunrise on January 1, 2000 at 5:43 a.m local time. This ability to usher in the next one thousand years first made the cabinet legislate to call the island the Millennium Island.

Impact of the Name Change and Status

Once the change was effected, there were protests from other Pacific nations that had prepared to pride in ushering in the millennium. These were the Chatham Island of New Zealand and Tonga Island. This however did not prevent the Kiribati government from going on with organizing the ceremony to usher in the millennium which led to the country becoming a major tourism attraction site. This is despite the fact that the Island is 930 miles from the nearest town of Kiribati and 3,200 miles from North America.

The Millennium Island

By 1999, the final preparation to usher in the new century and officially rename the island had been completed. The President of the Republic of Kiribati flew to the island with a delegation of government officials and other tourists from across the globe to mark the occasion. Native dancers and media reporters from the capital, Tarawa, 600 miles away were also present. The government had invested in media equipment which broadcasted the event via satellite across the world. It is estimated that the event was watched by over one billion people in all continents. Though the sun could have been viewed 35 minutes earlier in other locations such as the Victor Bay, Millennium Island prides in being the first place to document the view.

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