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Amsterdam Island

For the Amsterdam Island in the Svalbard archipelago, see Amsterdamøya.
Amsterdam Island
(New Amsterdam)

Île Amsterdam
Motto: "Liberté, égalité, fraternité"
Anthem: La Marseillaise
Orthographic projection centred over Île Amsterdam.
Île Amsterdam
Nickname: Nouvelle Amsterdam

Map of Île Amsterdam.
Geography
Coordinates

37°49′33″S 77°33′17″E / 37.82583°S 77.55472°E / -37.82583; 77.55472

Area 55 km2 (21.2 sq mi)
Length 10 km (6 mi)
Width 7 km (4.3 mi)
Highest elevation 867 m (2,844 ft)
Highest point Mont de la Dives
Country
Demographics
Population 25
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Location of Île Amsterdam in the Indian Ocean

Île Amsterdam (French pronunciation: ​[ilamstəʁˈdam], also known as Amsterdam Island, New Amsterdam, or Nouvelle Amsterdam, is an island named after the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It lies in the southern Indian Ocean. It is part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands and, together with neighbouring Île Saint-Paul 85 km (53 mi) to the south, forms one of the five districts of the territory. Its base, the Martin-de-Viviès research station, first called Camp Heurtin, then La Roche Godon, and the only settlement on the island, is the capital of the territory and is home to about 30 (non-permanent) inhabitants involved in biological, meteorological and geomagnetic studies.

History

Discovery

The island was discovered by the Basque Spanish explorer Juan Sebastián Elcano on 18 March 1522, in the course of his voyage of global circumnavigation. However, he did not name the island. Having found the island unnamed, Dutch captain Anthonie van Diemen named it Nieuw Amsterdam after his ship on 17 June 1633.[1] The first recorded landing was made in December 1696 by Dutchman Willem de Vlamingh.[2]

18th century

French Captain Pierre François Péron (not to be confused with François Péron) says he was marooned from 1792 to 1795 on the island. Peron's Memoires, in which he describes his experiences, were published in a limited edition which is an expensive collectors' item.[3][4][5] There was confusion in the early days between Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands. In February 1793 Sir George Staunton on his way to China on board the H.M.S. Lion found a sealer named Perron and four others on the southern of the two islands, now called Saint Paul Island.

19th century

In Autumn 1833 the British ship Lady Munro was wrecked at the island and 21 survivors were picked up two weeks later by a sealing vessel.[6]

In January 1871 an attempt to settle the island was made by a party led by Heurtin, a French resident of Réunion Island. After seven months there, their attempts to raise cattle and grow crops were unfruitful and they returned to Réunion, abandoning the cattle on the island.[7]

The islands of Île Amsterdam and Île Saint-Paul were first claimed by Martin Dupeyrat for France in 1843. However, the governor of Réunion refused to ratify the act of possession and France took formal control only in October 1892.[1]

20th century

The islands were attached to Madagascar in 1924 and became a French colony. The first French base on Amsterdam was established in 1949, and was originally called Camp Heurtin. The Global Atmosphere Watch still maintains a presence on Amsterdam.

Territorial claims

Amsterdam island, along with Saint Paul Island, is considered by some Mauritian parties as a national territory. The question of Mauritian sovereignty over the two islands was raised in 2007 by the leader of the opposition, Paul Raymond Berenger. This new claim could be raised in discussions with France, along with a claim to Tromelin Island which has been officially maintained for a long time.[8]

Environment

Geography

The volcanic island is a potentially active volcano which last erupted in 1792. It has an area of 55 km2 (21 sq mi), measuring about 10 km (6.2 mi) on its longest side, and reaches as high as 867 m (2,844 ft) at the Mont de la Dives. The high central area of the island, at an elevation of over 500 metres (1,600 ft), containing its peaks and caldera, is known as the Plateau des Tourbières (in English the Plateau of Bogs). The cliffs that characterise the western coastline of the island, rising to over 700 metres (2,300 ft), are known as the Falaises d'Entrecasteaux after 18th century French navigator Bruni d'Entrecasteaux.[9]

Climate

Île Amsterdam has a mild, oceanic climate, with a mean annual temperature of 13 °C (55.4 °F), rainfall of 1,100 mm (43.3 in), persistent westerly winds and high levels of humidity.[10]

Climate data for Martin-de-Vivies, Amsterdam Island
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 19.5
(67.1)
19.8
(67.6)
18.7
(65.7)
17.3
(63.1)
15.4
(59.7)
14.0
(57.2)
13.3
(55.9)
13.3
(55.9)
13.8
(56.8)
14.7
(58.5)
15.9
(60.6)
18.0
(64.4)
16.1
(61)
Daily mean °C (°F) 16.6
(61.9)
17.0
(62.6)
16.1
(61)
15.0
(59)
13.3
(55.9)
12.0
(53.6)
11.3
(52.3)
11.1
(52)
11.6
(52.9)
12.3
(54.1)
13.5
(56.3)
15.5
(59.9)
13.8
(56.8)
Average low °C (°F) 14.3
(57.7)
14.5
(58.1)
13.7
(56.7)
12.9
(55.2)
11.2
(52.2)
9.8
(49.6)
9.3
(48.7)
9.0
(48.2)
9.5
(49.1)
10.1
(50.2)
11.3
(52.3)
13.2
(55.8)
11.6
(52.9)
Precipitation mm (inches) 96
(3.78)
78
(3.07)
82
(3.23)
102
(4.02)
110
(4.33)
113
(4.45)
104
(4.09)
95
(3.74)
83
(3.27)
85
(3.35)
90
(3.54)
81
(3.19)
1,119
(44.06)
Mean monthly sunshine hours 177 145 134 110 107 99 104 121 123 141 150 170 1,581
Source: NOAA[11]

Flora and fauna


Vegetation

Phylica arborea trees occur on Amsterdam which, though the trees are also found on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island, is the only place where they formed a low forest. It was called the Grand Bois, which covered the lowlands of the island until the 19th century, and of which only eight fragments remain.[12]

Birds

The island is home to the endemic Amsterdam Albatross, which breeds only on the Plateau des Tourbières. Other rare species are the Great Skua, Antarctic Tern and Western Rockhopper Penguin. The Amsterdam Duck is now extinct, as are the local breeding populations of several petrels.[13] The Common Waxbill has been introduced.[14] Both the Plateau des Tourbières and Falaises d'Entrcasteaux have been identified as Important Bird Areas by BirdLife International, the latter for its large breeding colony of Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses.[9]

Mammals

There are no native land mammals. Subantarctic fur seals and southern elephant seals breed on the island. Introduced mammals include the house mouse and brown rat. Feral cats are present.[14]

A distinct breed of wild cattle, Amsterdam Island cattle, also inhabits the island. They originate from the introduction of five animals by Heurtin during his brief attempt at settlement of the island in 1871,[14] and by 1988 had increased to an estimated 2,000. Following recognition that the cattle were damaging the island ecosystems, a fence was built restricting them to the northern part of the island.[13]

See also

References

Further reading

  • Pierre François Péron, Mémoires du Capitaine Péron, sur ses Voyages aux Côtes d’Afrique, en Arabie, a l’Île d’Amsterdam, aux Îles d’Anjouan et de Mayotte, aux Côtes Nord-Oeust de l’Amérique, aux Îles Sandwich, a la Chine, etc., Paris 1824
  • Alfred van Cleef, The lost island. Alone among the fruitful and multiplying, Metropolitan, New York 2004 (ISBN 978-0-8050-7225-9)

External links

  • photos of Ile Amsterdam and St.Paul (French site)
  • Ile Amsterdam visit (photos from a tourist's recent visit)
  • French Colonies—Saint-Paul & Amsterdam Islands, Discover France
  • French Southern and Antarctic Lands at the CIA World Factbook

Coordinates: 37°49′33″S 77°33′17″E / 37.82583°S 77.55472°E / -37.82583; 77.55472

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