Norfolk Island, a dependency of New South Wales, in the S. Pacific ocean, about 1,000 m. N. E. of Sydney, in lat. 28° 58' S., and lon. 167° 46' E. It is the largest and most delightful of a small cluster consisting of Norfolk, Nepean, and Philip islands, together with several islets, or rocks, called the Bird islands. It is about 5 m. long, with an average breadth of nearly 3 m.; area, about 14 sq. m. Its general elevation is 400 ft. above the sea, except on the N. W. corner, where Mt. Pitt rises to the height of 1,050 ft. The surface is very uneven, and the coast high and precipitous. The principal tree is the Norfolk island pine, which grows to a very great size, but the wood is of little use except for building. Maple, ironwood, a small species of palm, a gigantic fern having fronds 11 ft. in length, the lemon, guava, banana, yam, sweet potato, and arrowroot grow luxuriantly; and oranges, coffee, maize, and wheat may be raised. The climate is healthy and very agreeable. Horses, horned cattle, sheep, and other domestic animals have been introduced. - Norfolk island was discovered by Capt. Cook in 1774, and in 1787 was settled by convicts and freedmen from New South Wales; but it was abandoned in 1810, and the buildings were destroyed.
In 1825 it was made a penal establishment for incorrigible offenders among the convicts of New South Wales, for which, as there arc only two spots where a landing can be effected, and there even with danger, it was thought peculiarly well adapted. At one time the number of prisoners exceeded 2,000; large prisons and other buildings were erected, various improvements made, and a strong force kept order and prevented escape; notwithstanding which many convicts made their way to various South sea islands. The transportation of convicts to New South Wales having ceased, Norfolk island was abandoned in 1855. In 1857 the island was given by the British government to the descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty, 194 in number; and though some have since returned to Pitcairn, a number of them remain at Norfolk island.