Christmas Island is an atoll in the Indian Ocean. Atolls are rarely a single, ring-shaped island. Most atolls are a series of small islands, or islets, connected by shallow channels above the underlying coral foundation. Deeper channels, cut by harsh ocean waves and wind, connect an atoll's lagoon to the open ocean.

Photograph by Jean Fan, MyShot
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atoll Encyclopedic Entry

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Encyclopedic entry. An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef, island, or series of islets. The atoll surrounds a body of water called a lagoon.