Îles Éparses de l’océan Indien

The Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean (Îles Éparses or Îles éparses de l’océan indien) consist of four small coral islands, an atoll, and a reef in the Indian Ocean, and have constituted the 5th district of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF) since February 2007.
They have never had a permanent population.
Two of the islands—Juan de Nova and Europa—and the Bassas da India atoll lie in the Mozambique Channel west of Madagascar, while a third island, Tromelin, lies about 450 kilometres (280 mi) east of Madagascar and the Glorioso Islands lies about 200 kilometres (120 mi) northwest of Madagascar.
Also in the Mozambique Channel is the Banc du Geyser, a reef under French control claimed by Madagascar since 1976. France and the Comoros view the Banc du Geyser as part of the Glorioso Islands.

The islands have been classified as nature reserves. Except for Bassas da India, they all support meteorological stations: those on the Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova, and Europa Island are automated. The station on Tromelin Island, in particular, provides warning of cyclones threatening Madagascar, Réunion, or Mauritius. Each of the islands, except Bassas da India and Banc du Geyser, has an airstrip of more than 1,000 metres (3,300 ft).

Mauritius, the Comoros, and Madagascar dispute France’s sovereignty over the islands. Mauritius claims Tromelin and argues that the island, discovered by France in 1722, was not ceded by the treaty of Paris in 1814.
Madagascar claims sovereignty over Glorioso Islands (Banc du Geyser included) despite the islands not having been a part of Malagasy Protectorate, but rather a part of colony of Mayotte and dependencies, then a part of French Comoros that had become a separately administered colony from Madagascar in 1946.  Madagascar claims Juan de Nova, and Europa and Bassas da India since 1972.
The Comoros claims the Glorioso Islands (Banc du Geyser included) too, as a part of the disputed French region of Mayotte.
The Seychelles claimed a part of Scattered Islands too before the France–Seychelles Maritime Boundary Agreement.


 

Bassas da India

Bassas da India

Bassas da India is an uninhabited, roughly circular French atoll that is part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Located in the southern Mozambique Channel, about halfway between Mozambique and Madagascar (about 385 km (239 mi) further east) and around 110 km (68 mi) northwest of Europa Island, the rim of the atoll averages around 100 m in width and encloses a shallow lagoon of depth no greater than 15 m.

Overall, the atoll is about 10 km (6 mi) in diameter, rising steeply from the seabed 3000 m below to encircle an area (including lagoon) of 80 km2 (31 sq mi). Its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), 123,700 km2 (47,761 sq mi) in size, is contiguous with that of Europa Island.

The atoll consists of ten barren rocky islets, with no vegetation, totalling 0.2 km² (.077 sq mi) in area. Those on the north and east sides are 2.1 to 3 m high, while those on the west and south sides are 1.2 m high.

The reef, whose coastline measures 35.2 km (22 mi), is completely covered by the sea from three hours before high tide to three hours afterward.
The region is also subject to cyclones, making the atoll a long-time maritime hazard and the site of numerous shipwrecks.

Map of Bassas da India – Click to enlarge

Jaguar Seamount and Hall Tablemount lie, respectively, about 40 and 70 km further southwest.

Mooring at Bassas da India requires a permit from the French Government. Fishing without such a permit may result in the boat being expelled or even confiscated.

History

Bassas da India was first recorded by Portuguese explorers in the early sixteenth century as the “Baixo da Judia” (“Jewess Shoals”). The Judia (“Jewess”, for the ancestry of its owner Fernão de Loronha) was the Portuguese ship that discovered the feature by running aground on it in 1506. The name became “Bassas da India” due to transcription errors by cartographers. The Santiago broke up on the shoal in 1585.

It was rediscovered by the Europa in 1774, whence the name “Europa Rocks”. The Malay was lost 27 July 1842 on the Europa Rocks.

In 1897, the shoal became a French possession, later being placed under the administration of a commissioner residing in Réunion in 1968. Madagascar became independent in 1960 and claims sovereignty over the shoal since 1972.


 

Île Europa

Île Europa – Click to enlarge

Europa Island (Île Europa) is a 28-square-kilometre (11 sq mi) low-lying tropical atoll in the Mozambique Channel, about a third of the way from southern Madagascar to southern Mozambique. The island had never been inhabited until 1820, when the French family Rosier moved to it. The island officially became a possession of France in 1897.

The island, garrisoned by a detachment from Réunion, has a weather station and is visited by scientists. Though uninhabited, it is part of the “Scattered Islands” of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands administrative region.

Europa Island was the setting of a 1968 episode of “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau”, partly focusing on the breeding habits of the green sea turtle.

he island is a nature reserve. Its vegetation consists of dry forest, scrub, euphorbia, the mangrove swamp, and the remains of a sisal plantation. It is one of the world’s largest nesting sites for green sea turtles. It is also home to goats introduced by settlers in the late 18th century.

The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a large and diverse population of breeding seabirds and other waterbirds. It is the only known breeding site outside Aldabra and Madagascar for Malagasy pond herons. Seabirds include the second largest colony in the western Indian Ocean of great frigatebirds (with up to 1100 pairs), Audubon’s shearwaters (up to 100 pairs, probably of the subspecies Puffinus lherminieri bailloni previously considered endemic to the Mascarene Islands), dimorphic egrets and Caspian terns.

Île Europa

The island is also home to an endemic subspecies of white-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus europae). There are three species of landbirds present, one of which is an endemic subspecies of the Malagasy white-eye (Zosterops maderaspatanus voeltzkowi). Additionally, the island is also home to its own species of hissing cockroach.

Climate

Climate is affected by the Agulhas Current with water temperatures usually above 30 °C, southeast trade winds during the (austral) winter and occasional cyclones.

History

While the island has probably been sighted by navigators since at least the 16th century, it takes its name from the British ship Europa, which visited it in December 1774. Ruins and graves on Europa island attest to several attempts at settlement from the 1860s to the 1920s. For example, the French Rosiers family moved to the island in 1860, but subsequently abandoned it.


 

Îles Glorieuses

Îles Glorieuses

The Glorieuses or Glorioso Islands (French: Îles Glorieuses or officially also Archipel des Glorieuses) are a group of French islands and rocks totalling 5 square kilometres (1,200 acres), at 11°33′S 47°20′ECoordinates: 11°33′S 47°20′E, in the Indian Ocean, about 160 kilometres (99 mi) northwest of Madagascar. In 2012, France founded parc naturel marin des Glorieuses, a marine protected area, to preserve the endangered flora and fauna of the islands. The Glorieuses have an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 48,350 square kilometres (18,670 sq mi). There are anchorages offshore, and Grande Glorieuse has a 1,300-metre (4,300 ft) long airstrip.

The archipelago consists of two islands, Grande Glorieuse (11°34′46.54″S 47°17′54.14″E) and Île du Lys, as well as eight rock islets (Roches Vertes): Wreck Rock (11°30′45.19″S 47°22′54.17″E), South Rock (11°35′43.76″S 47°18′6.66″E) and Verte Rocks (11°34′15.63″S 47°19′54.18″E) and three others that are unnamed. They form part of a coral reef and lagoon. Grande Glorieuses is roughly circular and measures about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) across. It is thickly vegetated, mainly by the remains of a coconut plantation and casuarina trees.

Île du Lys, located at 11°30′59.35″S 47°22′36.02″E about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) northeast of Grande Glorieuses, is about 600 metres (2,000 ft) long and consists of sand dunes and scrub with some mangroves. It was formerly quarried for phosphate (guano).

Îles Glorieuses – Click to enlarge

The climate is tropical and the terrain is low and flat, varying from sea level to 12 metres (39 ft). Île de Lys in particular is a nesting ground for migratory seabirds, and turtles lay eggs on the beaches.

History

Perhaps earlier known to Arab navigators, the Glorieuses were named and settled in 1880 by a Frenchman, Hippolyte Caltaux, who established a coconut plantation on Grande Glorieuse.
The archipelago became a French possession in 1892 when Captain Richard of the Primauget made a formal claim. In 1895, the Glorioso Island became a part of the colony of Mayotte and dependencies.

From 1914 to 1958 concessions to exploit the islands were given to Seychelles companies. The islands are today nature reserves with a meteorological station garrisoned by French troops (The French Foreign Legion). Despite Glorioso Islands never having been a part of Malagasy Protectorate but a part of the colony of Mayotte and dependencies, then a part of French Comoros, Madagascar claims sovereignty over the islands since 1972.
The Comoros claims Mayotte and Glorioso Islands. The Seychelles claimed the islands too before the France–Seychelles Maritime Boundary Agreement. In 2012, France founded parc naturel marin des Glorieuses, a marine protected area, to preserve the endangered flora and fauna of the islands.


 

Banc du Geysir

Banc du Geysir

Banc du Geyser (also Banc du Geysir) is a mostly submerged reef in the Mozambique Channel’s northeastern part, 125 km (78 mi) northeast from Mayotte, 112 km (70 mi) southwest of the Glorioso Islands, and 200 km (124 mi) off the northwestern coast of Madagascar.

The Banc is a dangerous oval-shaped reef 8 km (5 mi) long and 5 km (3 mi) wide that becomes exposed only at low tides, with the exception of some rock formations in the southern part of the reef. The rocks are generally 1.5 to 3 m (4 ft 11.1 in to 9 ft 10.1 in) in height; the largest is South Rock, with a height of 8 m (26 ft), similar to a boat under sail.

In the eastern part of the reef there are some sandy cays, 1 to 3 m (3 ft 3 in to 9 ft 10 in) in height covered with grass and small bushes. The entrance into the central lagoon is possible from a south-southeastern direction. There is an abundance of sea birds, and the cays are covered in tons of guano.

The Geysir Reef was first known by Arab sailors around the year 700, and was shown on some navigation-charts dated around 800. Around 1650 the reef was shown on Spanish maps as Arecife de Santo Antonio. The current name was given on 23 December 1678, when the British vessel Geysir ran on the reef.

France and the Comoros claim the Banc du Geyser as part of their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The reef is also claimed by Madagascar. From the French point of view, it is part of the EEZ of Glorioso Islands, one of their Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean.

Madagascar announced its annexation in 1976, presumably because of the possibility of oil fields in the vicinity but the Banc du Geyser is controlled in fact by the French forces armées de la zone sud de l’océan Indien.

In 2012, France included the reef in the parc naturel marin des Glorieuses, a marine protected area, to preserve the endangered flora and fauna of Glorioso Islands.

About 20 km (12 mi) southwest of Geysir is Zélée Bank, a deep submarine feature.


 

Île Juan da Nova

Île Juan da Nova – Click to enlarge

Juan de Nova Island (French: Île Juan da Nova (official), Île Juan de Nova (local)), also known as Saint-Christophe, is a French 4.4 square kilometres (1.7 sq mi) low, flat, tropical island in the narrowest part of the Mozambique Channel, about one-third of the way between Madagascar and Mozambique.
Anchorage is possible off the northeast of the island which also has a 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) airstrip. Administratively, the island is one of the Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean, a district of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. The island is garrisoned by French troops from Réunion and has a weather station.

Juan de Nova, about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) long and 1.6 kilometres (0.99 mi) at its widest, is a nature reserve surrounded by reefs which enclose an area (not a true lagoon like in an atoll) of roughly 40 square kilometres (15 sq mi). Forests, mainly of Casuarinaceae, cover about half the island. Sea turtles nest on the beaches around the island.

The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a very large colony of sooty terns, with up to 100,000 breeding pairs. It also has a much smaller colony of greater crested terns (with at least 50 breeding pairs recorded in 1994). Of at least seven species of landbirds present, most are probably introduced.

History

Île Juan da Nova

The island is named after Juan de Nova, a Galician admiral in the service of Portugal who came across the island in 1501. The island had never been inhabited when it became a possession of France in 1897. In 1921, France decided to transfer the administration of Juan de Nova from Paris to Tananarive in its colony of Madagascar and Dependencies. Before the independence of Madagascar, France transferred the administration to Saint-Pierre on Réunion Island.

Madagascar became independent in 1960 and claims sovereignty over the island since 1972. Guano (phosphate) deposits were exploited from the start of the 20th century until 1970.
The island was abandoned during World War II and was visited by German submariners. Installations, including a hangar, rail lines, houses and a jetty are in ruins.

Wrecks

The island lies on the sea route between South Africa and the northern tip of Madagascar. It is affected by strong currents, and has become the site of numerous wrecks. Most visible are the remains of the SS Tottenham which ran onto the southern fringing reef in 1911.


 

Île Tromelin

Île Tromelin

Tromelin Island (/ˌtroʊmlɪn ˈaɪlənd/; French: Île Tromelin, pronounced [il tʁɔmlɛ̃]) is a low, flat, island in the Indian Ocean about 500 kilometers north of Réunion, and about 450 kilometres (280 mi) east of Madagascar. Tromelin is administered as a French overseas territory; however, Mauritius claims sovereignty over the island, on grounds of its absence in the listing of the 8th article of the French version of the 1814 Paris Treaty. France and Mauritius have been negotiating for years in regard to a possible co-management of the island in the future.

Tromelin has facilities for scientific expeditions and a weather station. It is a nesting site for birds and green sea turtles.

As Tromelin is only 7 metres (23 ft) high studies could not determine if it is the summit of a volcano or an atoll.

Tromelin is about 1,700 metres (1.1 mi) long and 700 metres (0.43 mi) wide, with an area of 80 ha (200 acres), covered in scrub dominated by octopus bush and surrounded by coral reefs. There are no harbours or anchorages, so that access by sea is quite difficult. A 1,200-metre (3,900 ft) airstrip provides a link with the outside world.

The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because of its significance as a seabird breeding site. Both masked (with up to 250 pairs) and red-footed boobies (up to 180 pairs) nesting there. Sulidae populations have seriously declined in the western Indian Ocean with those on Tromelin among the healthiest remaining.

The island’s masked boobies are of the western Indian Ocean subspecies (Sula dactylatra melanops), of which Tromelin is a stronghold. The red-footed boobies constitute the only polymorphic population in the region, indicating its biogeographical isolation. Both great and lesser frigatebirds used to nest on the island. The breeding populations of both birds have since been extirpated, although they continue to use the island for roosting. There are no resident landbirds.

History

Map of Île Tromelin – Click to enlarge

The island was discovered by France in 1720s. It was recorded by the French navigator Jean Marie Briand de la Feuillée and named “Île des Sables” (‘Island of Sands’).

Wreck of the slave ship l’Utile

In 1761 the French ship Utile, carrying slaves from Madagascar to Mauritius, ran onto the reefs of the island. On September 27, 1761, the 123 person French officers with their crew left Tromelin abord the ship Providence, abandoning the slaves — sixty Malagasy men and women — on the desert island and promising to return and rescue them. When the crew of the ship reached Madagascar they requested the colonial authorities to send a ship to rescue the people on the island.

However, they met with a categorical refusal based on the fact that France was fighting the Seven Years’ War and no ship could be spared. Meanwhile, the people who had been left on the bleak little island built a shed with coral stones, for most wood had been used in the construction of the raft for the crew.
They also built a lookout on the highest point of the island in order not to miss the ship that would, they hoped, come to their rescue. They were all from the Central Highlands and were not used to the marine environment. Most died within the first few months.

Fifteen years later in 1776, Bernard Boudin de Tromelin (from whom the island takes its name), captain of the French warship La Dauphine, visited the island and rescued the survivors — seven women and an eight-month-old child.

Coast of Île Tromelin

The French claim to sovereignty dates from 29 November 1776, but Mauritius claims Tromelin, arguing that the island hadn’t been ceded to France by the treaty of Paris in 1814. The United Nations never recognized the Mauritian sovereignty over Tromelin. In 1954, France constructed a meteorological station and a landing strip on the island.

Sovereignty claims

It is a matter of dispute whether the building agreement transferred sovereignty of Tromelin from one to the other, and Mauritius claims the island as part of its territory, on the grounds that sovereignty was not transferred to France in 1814, and the island was thus part of the colony of Mauritius at the time of independence.
Indeed, as early as 1959, even before independence, Mauritius informed the World Meteorological Organization that it considered Tromelin to be part of its territory.
France and Mauritius reached a co-management treaty in 2010.

Tromelin has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 280,000 square kilometres (108,109 square miles), contiguous with that of Réunion. The island’s weather station, which warns of cyclones, is still operated by France and is staffed by meteorologists from Réunion.

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