Nicobar Islands

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Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ănˈdəmən, nĭkˈōbär), union territory (2001 provisional pop. 356,265), India, in the Bay of Bengal. Port Blair, in the Andamans, is the capital. Comprising the Andaman Islands, or Andaman Archipelago (2,508 sq mi/6,496 sq km), in the north and the Nicobar Islands (707 sq mi/1,831 sq km) in the south, the two groups form an arc between SW Myanmar in the north and NW Sumatra, Indonesia, in the south. The territory chiefly exports tropical products and lumber. Tourism is economically important. The islands, less than 40 of which are inhabited, are administered by the home ministry in the central Indian government.

Known to Europeans since the 7th cent. A.D., the Andamans, consisting of some 550 mostly small islands, were the site of a British penal colony from 1858 to 1945. Barren Island, c.50 mi (80 km) east of the central Andamans, is the territory's and India's only active volcano. The population of the Andamans is made up of indigenous Negritos (numbering less than 1,000) and largely Bengali and Tamil settlers from the Indian mainland. Settlers greatly outnumber the indigenous peoples, hundreds of which died from epidemics in the late 19th cent. Some of the Negritos live largely isolated from the settlers and have preserved a Stone Age culture; their isolation is protected by the Indian government.

The Nicobars, which comprise 22 small islands, are separated from the Andamans by a channel that is 90 mi (145 km) wide. The native population is of Mongolic stock. The Nicobars became a British possession in 1869. Japanese forces occupied both archipelagos during World War II.

Since World War II and Indian independence, some of the islands have undergone significant population growth and economic development, include Indian military bases, and regular air and ship services connect the islands with the mainland. The islands were especially hard-hit by the Dec., 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami, because of their relative closeness to the epicenter (off NW Sumatra) of the earthquake that caused the waves; some 3,500 people are believed to have died.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nicobar Islands

 

a group of 19 islands, 12 of which are inhabited, between the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea in the Indian Ocean near the Indian mainland. They cover an area of 1,600 sq km.

The Nicobar Islands are a continuation of the Arakan Mountains and the chain of Andaman Islands. Maximum elevation is 642 m. The islands are formed primarily of schists and sandstone; the small islands are formed of coral limestone. There is a subequatorial monsoonal climate. Annual precipitation ranges from 2,200 to 3,200 mm. The southern islands are covered with tropical evergreen forests; the northern islands, with high grassy meadows. There are coconut palm plantations; there is also fishing (including sea cucumber, or trepang, and shellfish) and the gathering of birds’ nests.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.