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THE ENGLISH EXPLORER CAPTAIN JAMES COOK SIGHTED GRAND TERRE THE 4th of September 1774 and named it New Caledonia, as he liked to think it reminded him of the Scottish highlands, which the Romans had called Caledonia. Fourteen years later Louis XVI sent an expedition under the Comte de La Pérouse, but the expedition was lost in a cyclone off Vanikolo in the Solomons. Admiral Bruny D'Entrecasteaux was sent to find them three years later, and the Admiral and some of his crew landed and took a month to cross the north of Grande Terre on foot. The first Europeans to stay any longer were British and American whalers, who set up an oil extraction station on Lifou in the Loyalty Islands in 1840. Sandalwood cutters followed, and tensions rose, as the whalers and lumberjacks were hardly the cream of European society. By 1853, Napoleon III was looking for a strategic military location and, concerned that the British might get there first, he annexed Grande Terre under the pretext of protecting France's missions. Nouvelle-Calédonie was annexed on 24th  of September 1853 by admiral Febvrier Des Pointes who declared that „from this date on this land will be french and national property”.

The French saw the Pacific as a good place to dump their great unwashed masses, and they deported their first convicts in May 1864. Many were political prisoners from the Paris Commune, but others were the derelicts and petty thieves from the streets of the metropolis, who became known as ‘wretches in paradise’. By the time deportation was banned in 1897, 21,000 convicts had been sent.

After the war, the colony's status was changed into a French overseas territory.



Rhynochetos jubatus - Rhynochetidae


A Kagu was introduced as a symbol for the islands on coins issued 1949-‘52. It is unique for Nouvelle Calédonie.


The coat of arms of the territory, probably adopted not long after the change of status of the island was:

Arms: Per fess, the chief Azure, a Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus – Rhynochetidae), wings spread, proper i.e. Argent and Sable, billed Gules, standing on a hill Gules; the base Argent, three fesses wavy Vert, over all a pale Gules, charged with a branch of coral Argent.


The blue symbolizes the Pacific Ocean.

The Kagu is the national bird of Nouvelle Calédonie. It is sitting because it does not fly.

The mount symbolizes Grand Terre, l’Isle des Pins, Lifou, Maré and Ouvea.

The three waves symbolize the lagoons and the foam of the reefs,

The branch of coral sybolizes the troughs of the ocean and the location of Nouvelle Calédonie in the sea of coral. [1] 

A newer, unofficial coat-of-arms showed:



Arms: Gules, a kagu Argent, wings spread, standing on the top of a formation of five hills Or, in base a fess wavy Argent and in dexter chief a sun radiant Or.[2]

These arms were used in the seventies and eighties of the 20th century but the first arms were used up into the nineties.


The present logo of Nouvelle Calédonie depicts a giant sea-snail.


Æ See illustration in the head of this essay.


In the letterhead of the Government the logo is in color.



The black figure in  the logo is the silhouette of a traditional façade-top and symbolizes the local tradition. It is also depicted on the flag adopted 1 December 1984.


Armed Forces









The N.C. police badge, now obsolete, showed the crowned letter ‘P’ surrounded by a garland Argent, on a black five-sided shield. [3]

The cap-badge of the Nouvelle Calédonie police shows the bay of Noumea with a ship on the foreground, the city on the shore and the mountains on the background all proper. In the sky are the stars of the Southern Cross and the name NOUVELLE CALEDONIE, Or. The arms are on a native mask and in chief is the word POLICE, all Or. [4] The present breats-patch shows the flag of France charged with the map of Nouvelle Calédonie within a garland of oak and laurel In chief the word POLICE and the initials NC. [5]



The arms of the Nouvelle Calédonie gendarmerie shows a kagu and an outrigger canoe between two black local patterns, all in the colours of France. The arms are surrounded by the ornaments usual for all divisions of the French Gendarmerie



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© Hubert de Vries 2009-12-20. Updated: 2012-05-28



[1] According to a note by Ottfried Neubecker. Info: Roman Klimes.

[2] As on the letterhead of the Délégation de la  Nouvelle Calédonie in Paris (undated).

[3] Picture www.leboncoin.fr

[4] Picture militariadefoerier.com

[5] Picture www.delcampe.net

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