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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 11:37 GMT
Celebrating on Chatham Island
Celebrations underway in the remote Pacific islands
Celebrations underway in the remote Pacific islands
By Jonathan Beale in the Chatham Islands

On a cold windswept hill on a small remote island, an extraordinary group of people gathered to welcome in the new millennium.

Into 2000
They included a descendant of the Chatham Island's original inhabitants.

The Moriori a peace loving people were all but wiped out when Maori and European settlers arrived over the last century.

For the ceremony, all cultures joined together for a Moriori blessing as well as a Christian and Maori prayer. As they faced the Pacific Ocean, a beacon was lit and school children sang.

Maori celebrations were held
A wedding ceremony for two islanders has also taken place under the glare of TV camera lights making it the first marriage of the millennium and helping put this little known island on the map.

The islanders feel they have largely been ignored by the rest of the world.

These islands are so remote and so small that they are not included on many world maps.

Many of the 750 inhabitants have been involved in the celebrations or packed into the island's one pub.

Elsewhere on the island, an international group of skydivers carried out the first parachute jump of the millennium - an event they will repeat at sunrise over the international date line.

Chatham islanders fiercely dispute other South Pacific islands' claims to be the first to see the sun rise.

However it is possible that the weather will prevent many seeing it here.

The Chatham Islands lie in the midst of the extreme conditions known to sailors as the Roaring Forties and it is possible they may not see the sun.

See also:

31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
24 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
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