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New Caledonia

New Caledonia is the third largest island in the Pacific: only New Zealand and New Guinea are larger.

On first sight in 1774, the British navigator James Cook found a similarity between the mountainous terrain of the Grande Terre and Scotland, named "Caledonia" by the Romans, creating the name New Caledonia.

From 1943, one million US soldiers were stationed on the island because of its role as a major allied base in the Pacific during WWII. 

Unlike most of its island neighbours, New Caledonia does not have volcanic origins: the island is actually a chunk of continent that has drifted into the Pacific over millions of years.

New Caledonia’s multiculturalism is typified by a well-known description of the island: “a taste of France in the South Pacific”.

New Caledonia is the largest producer of nickel in the world: it is thought to have 25% of the world’s nickel contained in the archipelago.

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© 2014 Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)