New Caledonia is a large island in the south-western Pacific which hardly ever makes the headlines. It will do soon, however, as it prepares for a referendum on independence.
The island was named by James Cook in 1774, became a French colony in 1853 and a French Overseas Territory in 1946. All its citizens today are fully French citizens.
When New Caledonia is in the news its usually about unique flora and wildlife, from tool-craft intelligent wild crows, almost flightless Kagus and the world’s largest gecko. But what makes New Caledonia strategically important is nickel – it has 10 per cent of the world’s reserves.
James Cook briefly set foot on the island and thought that it looked Caledonian. Like Scotland in 2014, today the territory is preparing for a referendum on independence from France, due by the end of 2018.