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St. Paul Island
Île Saint-Paul
MottoLiberté, égalité, fraternité
AnthemLa Marseillaise
Map of St. Paul Island

Île Saint-Paul (St. Paul Island) is an island forming part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands in the Indian Ocean, with an area of 6 km² (2.3 sq mi). It is located about 85 km (53 mi) southwest of the larger Île Amsterdam, and 3,000 km (1,900 mi) south of Réunion. During sailing ship days captains would occasionally use the island as a check on their navigation before heading north. A scientific research cabin on the island is used for scientific or ecological short campaigns, but there is no permanent population.

Along with Île Amsterdam, it is part of the district of the Overseas Territory of the Southern and Antarctic French Lands (TAAF), under the authority of a senior administrator on Réunion.

Île Saint-Paul is one of three islands which is an antipode of the United States, corresponding to Firstview, Colorado. The other two antipodes are Île Amsterdam and Kerguelen Island.

Contents

Description

Île Saint-Paul is triangular in shape, and measures no more than 3 mi (4.8 km) at its widest. It is the top of an inactive volcano, and is rocky with steep cliffs on the east side. The thin stretch of rock that used to close off the crater collapsed in 1780, admitting the sea through a 100 m (330 ft) channel; the entrance is only a few meters deep, thus allowing only very small ships or boats to enter the crater itself. The interior basin, 1 km (0.62 mi) wide and 50 m (160 ft) deep, is surrounded by steep walls up to 270 m (890 ft) high. There are active thermal springs.

There is a cool ocean climate and the slopes of the volcano are covered in grass. The island is an important breeding ground for a number of seabirds including an endemic subspecies of Medium-billed Prion (Pachyptila salvini macgillivrayi).

(See Amsterdam and Saint-Paul Islands temperate grasslands for more detail of the flora and fauna)

History

Île Saint-Paul was first discovered in 1559 by Portuguese sailors and there were further sightings of the island through the 17th century. The first detailed description of it (and possibly the first landing) was by William De Vlamingh in 1696.

Saint-Paul was occasionally visited by explorers, fishermen, and seal hunters in the 18th and 19th centuries, among which was the American sealer General Gates, which called at the island in April 1819. George William Robinson, an American sealer, was left on the island to hunt seals, and stayed there for 23 months until the General Gates returned for him in March 1821. Robinson subsequently returned to Saint-Paul in 1826 to gather sealskin, sailing from Hobart aboard his own vessel, the schooner Hunter.

France's claim to the island dates from 1843, when a group of fishermen from Réunion, interested in setting up a fishery on Saint-Paul, pushed the Governor of Réunion to take possession of both Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Island. This was performed by means of an official decree dated 8 June 1843, and on 1 July, Martin Dupeyrat, commanding the ship L'Olympe, landed on Amsterdam Island and then on Saint-Paul on 3 July, and hoisted the tricolor. The only surviving evidence of this claim is an inscribed rock situated on the edge of Saint-Paul's the crater lake, inscribed "Pellefournier Emile Mazarin de Noyarez, Grenoble, Canton de Sassenage, Département de l'Isère, 1844". All fishery operations were, however, abandoned in 1853, when the French government renounced its possession of the two islands.[1]

The first good map of the island was not drawn up until 1857, when the Austrian frigate Novara landed a team which studied the flora, fauna, and geology from November to December.[2]

In 1871 a British troop transport, HMS Megaera, was wrecked on the island. Most of the 400 persons on board had to remain upwards of three months before being taken off.

In September 1874 a French astronomical mission conveyed by the sailing ship La Dive spent just over three months on Saint-Paul to observe the transit of Venus; geologist Charles Vélain took the opportunity to make a significant geological survey of the island.

In 1889 Charles Lightoller, who was later to become famous as the Second Mate of the RMS Titanic, was shipwrecked here for eight days when the sailing barque Holt Hill ran aground. He describes the shipwreck and the island in his autobiography, Titanic and Other Ships. Lightoller speculated that pirates may have used the island and their treasure could be buried in its caves.[3]

In 1892 the crew of the French sloop Bourdonnais, followed by the ship L'Eure in 1893, took possession Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Island in the name of the French government.

In 1928, the Compagnie Générale des Íles Kerguelen recruited René Bossière and several Bretons and Madagascans to establish a spiny lobster cannery on Saint-Paul, "La Langouste Française". When the company went bankrupt in 1931, seven of its employees were stranded on the island. Five died, the two survivors were finally rescued in 1934. This event has since come to be known as Les Oubliés de Saint-Paul ("the forgotten ones of St. Paul"). [4][5]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Reppe, Xavier (1957). Aurore sur l'Antarctique. Nouvelles Éditions Latines. p. 32.  
  2. ^ Vélain, Charles (1878). Description géologique de la presqu'île d'Aden, de l'île de la Réunion, des îles Saint-Paul et Amsterdam. A. Hennuyer. p. 232.  
  3. ^ Lightoller, C.H. (1935), Titanic and other ships, I. Nicholson and Watson, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0301011h.html  
  4. ^ Les oubliés de lle Saint-Paul, by Daniel Floch. 1982.
  5. ^ "St. Paul and Amsterdam Island: A History of Two Islands." Discoverfrance.com. [1] There is a fictionalized description of the island in Robert Stone's novel "Outerbridge Reach" (1992).

References

  • LeMasurier, W. E.; Thomson, J. W. (eds.) (1990). Volcanoes of the Antarctic Plate and Southern Oceans. American Geophysical Union. p. 512 pp. ISBN 0-87590-172-7.  

External links

Coordinates: 38°43′48″S 77°31′20″E / 38.73°S 77.52222°E / -38.73; 77.52222

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