Geography of New Caledonia

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New Caledonia is located in Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia. Its geographic coordinates are 21 30 S, 165 30 E. New Caledonia consists of the main island of New Caledonia (one of the largest in the Pacific Ocean), the archipelago of Iles Loyaute, and numerous small, sparsely populated islands and atolls.

Area: total: 18,575 square kilometers; land: 18,275 square kilometers; water: 300 square kilometers; ranking compared to other countries in the world: 155. It is about slightly smaller than New Jersey. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Land Boundaries: total: 0 kilometers; Coastline: 2,254 kilometers; Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nautical miles; exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles.

Topography: coastal plains with interior mountains. Elevation: highest point: Mont Panie 1,628 meters; lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 meters.

Land Use: agricultural land: 10.4 percent (2018 estimate). Arable Land: 0.4 percent (2018 estimate); permanent crops: 0.2 percent (2018 estimate); permanent pasture: 9.8 percent (2018 estimate); forest: 45.9 percent (2018 estimate); other: 43.7 percent (2018 estimate). Irrigated Land: 100 square kilometers (2012). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Volcanoes: Matthew and Hunter Islands are historically active

Climate: tropical; modified by southeast trade winds; hot, humid. Natural Hazards: cyclones, most frequent from November to March


Ocean islands are basically divided into three types: 1) "low" coral and sand islands; 2) "high" islands (usually exposed peaks and ridge-tops of submerged mountains and volcanos); and 3) parts of the continental shelf. Some continental islands were mountains and hills along the coast during last Ice Age when ocean levels were lower.

Low islands or cays were formed on coral shoals from reef sediments. Atoll islands are low islands (See Below). Seabird dropping fertilize the soils of some of these islands, which allow scrubby forest to take root. Others are battered regularly by storms and are little more than shifting piles of sand. Some patches of sand are so low they disappear during low tide and lose their status as islands.

High islands generally have better soil and a better supply of water than low islands. Low islands support only a few species of plant because there little topsoil and this soil has a high salt content. Although they often have no visible water sources they often are positioned over water lenses that trap rain water and can provide fresh water through wells.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: CIA World Factbook, 2023; “Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Volume 2: Oceania,” edited by Terence E. Hays, 1991, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated August 2023

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