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Crozet Islands

Crozet Islands

The Crozet Islands (Îles Crozet; or, officially, Archipel Crozet) are a sub-antarctic archipelago of small islands in the southern Indian Ocean. They form one of the five administrative districts of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.


Omitting tiny satellite islets and rocks, there are six islands (two of them rather island groups), mostly volcanic. From east to west:

No. Island or Group (English) Area Highest Peak Location
L'Occidental (Western Group)
1 Île aux Cochons (Pig Island) Mont Richard-Foy
2 Île des Pingouins (Penguin Island, literally Auk Island) Mont des Manchots
3 Îlots des Apôtres (Apostle Islets)(1) Mont Pierre
L'Oriental (Eastern Group)
4 Île de la Possession (Possession Island) Pic du Mascarin
5 Île de l'Est (East Island) Mont Marion-Dufresne
  Îles Crozet (Crozet Islands) Mont Marion-Dufresne 45°57' to 46°29'S
50°10' to 52°19'E

(1)group of two major islands (Grand Île - Big Island, and Petite Île - Little Island) and about 20 pinnacle rocks

The Eastern and Western Groups are 94.5 kilometres (58.7 mi) apart (from Île des Pingouins to Île de la Possession)

The Crozet Islands are uninhabited, except for the research station Alfred Faure (Port Alfred) on the East side of Île de la Possession, which has been continuously manned since 1963. Further scientific stations have been La Grande Manchotière and La Petite Manchotière.


Analysis of magnetic anomalies on the sea floor indicates that the Crozet Plateau, of which the islands form the highest points, formed some 50 million years ago. The islands are of volcanic origin, and basalt dating to at least 8.8 million years back has been found.


Precipitation is, with over 2000 millimetres (78.7 in) per year, very high. It rains on average 300 days a year, and winds exceeding 100 km/h (60 mph) occur on 100 days a year. The temperatures may rise to 18°C (64°F) in summer and rarely go below 5°C (41°F) even in winter.


The Crozet Islands were first discovered by the expedition of Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, a French explorer, who landed on January 24, 1772 on Île de la Possession, claiming the archipelago for France. He named the islands after his second-in-command Jules Crozet (He had already named Marion Island after himself).

In the early 19th century, the islands were often visited by sealers, to the extent that the seals had been nearly exterminated by 1835. Subsequently, whaling was the main activity around the islands, especially by the whalers from Massachusetts. In 1841 there were dozen whaleships around the islands. Within a couple of years this had increased to twenty from the United States alone. Such exploitation was short-lived, and the islands were rarely visited for the rest of the century.

Shipwrecks occurred frequently at the Crozet Islands. The British sealer, Princess of Wales, sank in 1821, and the survivors spent two years on the islands. The Strathmore was wrecked in 1875. In 1887, the French Tamaris was wrecked and her crew stranded on Île des Cochons. They tied a note to the leg of a Albatross, which was found seven months later in Fremantle. Alas, the crew was never recovered. Because shipwrecks around the islands were so common, for some time the Royal Navy dispatched a ship every few years to look for stranded survivors.

France originally administered the islands as a dependency of Madagascar, but they became part of the French Southern Territories in 1955. In 1938, the Crozet Islands are declared a nature reserve. In 1961, a first research station was set up, but it wasn't until 1963 that the permanent station Alfred Faure opened at Port Albert on Île de la Possession (both named after the first leader of the station). The station is staffed by 18 to 30 people (depending on the season) and does meteorological, biological, and geological research and maintains a seismograph.


The Crozet Islands are home to four species of penguins. Most abundant are the Macaroni Penguin, of which some 2 million pairs breed on the islands, and the King Penguin. The Eastern Rockhopper Penguin also can be found, and there is a small colony of Gentoo Penguins, as well as Black-faced Sheathbills.

Other animals living on the Crozet Islands include fur seals, Southern Elephant Seals, petrels, and albatross, including the Wandering Albatross.

Killer whales have been observed preying upon many of the aforementioned species. The Transient Orcas of Crozet Islands are famous for intentionally beaching (and later un-stranding) themselves while actively hunting the islands' breeding seal population. This is a very rare behaviour, most often seen in the Patagonia region of Argentina, and is thought to be a learned skill passed down through generations of individual Orca families.

The Crozet Islands have been a nature reserve since 1938. Introduction of foreign species (mice, rats, and subsequently cats for pest control) has caused severe damage to the original ecosystem. The pigs that had been introduced on Île des Cochon and the goats brought to Île de la Possession—both as a food resource—have been exterminated.

An on-going concern is overfishing of the Patagonian Toothfish and the Albatross population is monitored. The waters of the Crozet Islands are patrolled by both the French and Greenpeace.

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