Île Amsterdam

Île Amsterdam (French pronunciation: ​[ilamstɛʁdam]), also known as Amsterdam Island, New Amsterdam, or Nouvelle Amsterdam, is an island of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands in the southern Indian Ocean that together with neighbouring Île Saint-Paul 85 km (53 mi) to the south forms one of the five districts of the territory. The research station at Martin-de-Viviès, first called Camp Heurtin and then La Roche Godon, is the only settlement on the island and is the seasonal home to about thirty researchers and staff studying biology, meteorology, and geomagnetics.

The island is roughly equidistant to the land masses of Madagascar, Australia, and Antarctica – as well as the British Indian Ocean Territory and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (about 3,200 kilometres, 2,000 mi from each).

The island is named after the ship Nieuw Amsterdam, which is in turn named after the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (named after the Dutch capital Amsterdam) that later became New York City in the United States.

Amsterdam Island
(New Amsterdam)

Île Amsterdam
Flag of Île Amsterdam
Orthographic projection centred over Île Amsterdam.
Orthographic projection centred over Île Amsterdam.
Île Amsterdam
Nickname: Nouvelle Amsterdam
AmsterdamIsl Map
Map of Île Amsterdam.
Coordinates37°49′33″S 77°33′17″E / 37.82583°S 77.55472°E
Area55 km2 (21 sq mi)
Length10 km (6 mi)
Width7 km (4.3 mi)
Highest elevation867 m (2,844 ft)
Highest pointMont de la Dives


The island was discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan Sebastián de Elcano on 18 March 1522 during his circumnavigation of the Earth. 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]

French Captain Pierre François Péron claims 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, now an expensive collectors' item.[3][4][5] There was confusion in the early days between Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands.

The first sealers landed in 1789.[6] Between that date and 1876, 47 sealing vessels are recorded at the island, 9 of which were wrecked. Relics of the sealing era can still be found.[7]

The island was a stop on the Macartney Mission during its voyage to China in 1793. [8]

On 11 October 1833 the British barque Lady Munro was wrecked at the island. Of the 97 persons aboard, 21 survivors were picked up two weeks later by a United States sealing schooner, General Jackson.[9]

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]

In January 1871 an attempt to settle the island was made by a party led by Heurtin, a French resident of Réunion. After seven months, their attempts to raise cattle and grow crops were fruitless, and they returned to Réunion, abandoning the cattle on the island.[10]

In May 1880 HMS Raleigh circumnavigated the island searching for a missing ship the Knowsley Hall. A cutter and gig were despatched to the island to search for signs of habitation. There was a flagpole on Hoskin Point and 50–70 yards (46–64 m) north were two huts, one of which had an intact roof and contained three bunks, empty casks, an iron pot and the eggshells and feathers of sea-birds. There was also an upturned serviceable boat in the other hut, believed to belong to the fishermen who visited the island.[11]

The islands were attached to the French colony of Madagascar from 21 November 1924 until 6 August 1955 when the French Southern and Antarctic Lands was formed. (Madagascar gained independence in 1958.)

The first French base on Île Amsterdam was established in 1949, and was originally called Camp Heurtin.

The Global Atmosphere Watch still maintains a presence on Île Amsterdam.

Amateur radio

From 1987–98, there were frequent amateur radio operations from Amsterdam Island. There was a resident radio amateur operator in the 1950s, using callsign FB8ZZ.[12]

In January 2014 Clublog listed Amsterdam and St Paul Islands as the seventh most-wanted DXCC entity.[13] On 25 January 2014 a DX-pedition landed on Amsterdam Island using MV Braveheart and began amateur radio operations from two separate locations using callsign FT5ZM. The DX-pedition remained active until 12 February and achieved over 170,000 two-way contacts with amateur radio stations worldwide.


Wave cloud
A large Kelvin wake cloud formation, caused by lee waves from Île Amsterdam (lower left).


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 (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 the 18th-century French navigator Bruni d'Entrecasteaux.[14]


Île Amsterdam has a mild, oceanic climate under the Köppen climate classification, with a mean annual temperature of 14 °C (57.2 °F), rainfall of 1,100 mm (43.3 in), persistent westerly winds and high levels of humidity.[15] Under the Trewartha climate classification the island is well inside the maritime subtropical zone due to its very low diurnal temperature variation keeping means high.

Flora and fauna

Phylica arborea
Phylica arborea grove


Phylica arborea trees occur on Amsterdam, which is the only place where they form a low forest, although the trees are also found on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island. It was called the Grand Bois ("Great Forest"), which covered the lowlands of the island until forest fires set by sealers cleared much of it in 1825. Only eight fragments remain.

Some sailors from HMS Raleigh landed on the island on 27 May 1880. They described the vegetation as[11]

Rough ground, grass several feet high, myrtle 10–15 feet (3.0–4.6 m) high in sheltered ravines, sedge, ferns (principally polypodium) and cabbages, grown into bushes with stumps several inches thick in the garden ....


The island is home to the endemic Amsterdam albatross, which breeds only on the Plateau des Tourbières. Other rare species are the brown skua, Antarctic tern and western rockhopper penguin. The Amsterdam duck is now extinct, as are the local breeding populations of several petrels. There was once possibly a species of rail inhabiting the island, as a specimen was taken in the 1790s (which has been lost), but this was either extinct by 1800 or was a straggler of an extant species.[19] The common waxbill has been introduced.[20] 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.[14]


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.[20]

A distinct breed of wild cattle, Amsterdam Island cattle, also inhabited the island from 1871 to 2010. They originated from the introduction of five animals by Heurtin during his brief attempt at settlement of the island in 1871,[20] 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.[19] In 2007 it was decided to eradicate the population of cattle entirely, resulting in the slaughter of the cattle between 2008 and 2010.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b http://www.btinternet.com/~sa_sa/amsterdam/amsterdam_history_early.html Archived October 23, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Het Scheepvaartmuseum – Maritieme Kalender Archived March 26, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Statewide County HI Archives: News, USGenWeb Archives Archived November 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Forum Rare Books: In the news, Antiquariaat Forum
  5. ^ Péron (captain) (1824). Mémoires du capitaine Péron sur ses voyages aux côtes d'Afrique, en Arabie, à l'île d'Amsterdam, aux îles d'Anjouan et de Mayotte, aux côtes nord-ouest de l'Amérique, aux îles Sandwich, à la Chine, etc. Brissot-Thivars.
  6. ^ Headland, R.K. (ed.) (2018) Historical Antarctic Sealing Industry, Cambridge, Scott Polar Research Institute, p.166.
  7. ^ Headland, p.166.
  8. ^ Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age. Alfred A. Knopf. 2018. ISBN 978-0307961730.
  9. ^ Chronological List of Antarctic Expeditions and Related Historical Events. Cambridge University Press. 1989. ISBN 978-0-521-30903-5.
  10. ^ Carroll, Paul (2003-06-29). "Amsterdam/St Paul: Discovery and early history". The South Atlantic and Subantarctic Islands. Archived from the original on 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  11. ^ a b "Editorial". The Cornishman (109). 12 August 1880. p. 4.
  12. ^ R. M. Holoch (2012-09-16). "FT5/Z – Amsterdam / St. Paul Islands and a Special Appeal". Archived from the original on 2014-03-03.
  13. ^ Clublog Most wanted list, updated Monthly Archived October 31, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ a b BirdLife International. (2012). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Falaises d'Entrecasteaux. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 2012-01-08. Archived July 10, 2007, at WebCite
  15. ^ Ile Amsterdam Archived November 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Nouvelle Amsterdam (984)" (PDF). Fiche Climatologique: Statistiques 1981–2010 et records (in French). Meteo France. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 26, 2018. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  17. ^ "Climate Normals for Martin de Vivies 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  18. ^ "Station Martin de Vivies" (in French). Meteo Climat. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
  19. ^ a b Micol, T.; & Jouventin, P. (1995). Restoration of Amsterdam Island, South Indian Ocean, following control of feral cattle. Biological Conservation 73(3): 199–206.Restoration of Amsterdam Island, South Indian Ocean, following control of feral cattle Archived February 1, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ a b c Amsterdam Island – Introduced fauna Archived May 11, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Sophie Lautier: "Sur l'île Amsterdam, chlorophylle et miaulements".

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
  • Cleef, Alfred van (2004). The Lost Island. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-8050-7225-9.

External links

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

Acaena magellanica

Acaena magellanica, commonly called buzzy burr or greater burnet, is a species of flowering plant whose range includes the southern tip of South America and many subantarctic islands.

Amsterdam Island

Amsterdam Island may refer to the following:

Amsterdam Island, Indonesia, an island in West Papua

Amsterdam Island (Spitsbergen), a Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean

Île Amsterdam, a French island in the Indian Ocean

Tongatapu, an island of Tonga, once named Amsterdam

Amsterdam Island cattle

Amsterdam Island cattle were a rare feral breed of cattle (Bos taurus) that were introduced in 1871 and existed in isolation on Amsterdam Island, a small French territory in the southern Indian Ocean. The population was eradicated in 2010 in the course of an environmental restoration program.

Amsterdam albatross

The Amsterdam albatross or Amsterdam Island albatross, Diomedea amsterdamensis, is a huge albatross which breeds only on Amsterdam Island in the southern Indian Ocean. It was only described in 1983, and was thought by some researchers to be a sub-species of the wandering albatross, D. exulans. BirdLife International and the IOC recognize it as a species, James Clements does not, and the SACC has a proposal on the table to split the species. More recently, mitochondrial DNA comparisons between the Amsterdam albatross, the wandering albatross Diomedea exulans, the Antipodean albatross D. antipodensis and the Tristan albatross D. dabbenena, provide clear genetic evidence that the Amsterdam albatross is a separate species.

Amsterdam and Saint-Paul Islands temperate grasslands

The Amsterdam and Saint-Paul Islands temperate grasslands is an ecoregion comprising two volcanic islands in the southern Indian Ocean. The only way to visit the islands is on the French research vessel Marion Dufresne II which services the Martin-de-Viviès research station on Amsterdam Island.

Amsterdam wigeon

The Amsterdam wigeon (Mareca marecula, formerly Anas marecula), also known as the Amsterdam Island duck or Amsterdam duck, was a species of anatid waterfowl, endemic to Île Amsterdam (Amsterdam Island), French Southern Territories. This flightless species is only known from bones and was presumably driven extinct by visiting sealers and the rats they introduced.A 1696 sighting by William de Vlaming of "four-footed animals" in the reeds of Amsterdam Island may have been of this duck, as there are no native land mammals on the island. No naturalist visited Amsterdam Island until 1874, by which time it was infested with rats from visiting ships, and the duck was extinct.The first bones of this species to be discovered, in 1955–56, were thought to most closely resemble those of a garganey. In 1987 bones of at least 33 individuals were recovered from rock cavities, revealing a very small duck with a short pointed bill like a wigeon's. Strong legs and reduced breastbone and wings show it was flightless. The skull's reduced salt glands indicate it was drinking little seawater, and its bones were recovered from sea level up to 500 m, suggesting it was not living on the coast. It was named Anas marecula, after the former wigeon genus Mareca.During his visit to Île Saint-Paul (St Paul Island) on 2 February 1793, explorer John Barrow mentioned the presence of "a small brown duck, not much larger than a thrush" that was "the favourite food of the five sealers living on the island". Because Amsterdam Island is 80 km away, these ducks would represent an independent case of dispersal and flightlessness, similar to the Amsterdam wigeon, but a different species.

Crambus viettellus

Crambus viettellus is a moth in the family Crambidae. It was described by Stanisław Błeszyński and R.J. Collins in 1962. It is found in the French Southern Territories, where it has been recorded from Île Amsterdam in the Indian Ocean.

Dusky dolphin

The dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) is a dolphin found in coastal waters in the Southern Hemisphere. Its specific epithet is Latin for "dark" or "dim". It is very closely genetically related to the Pacific white-sided dolphin, but current scientific consensus holds they are distinct species. The dolphin's range is patchy, with major populations around South America, southwestern Africa, New Zealand, and various oceanic islands, with some sightings around southern Australia and Tasmania. The dusky dolphin prefers cool currents and inshore waters, but can also be found offshore. It feeds on a variety of fish and squid species and has flexible hunting tactics. The dusky dolphin is known for its remarkable acrobatics, having a number of aerial behaviours. The status of the dolphin is unknown, but it has been commonly caught in gill nets.

Falaises d'Entrecasteaux

The Falaises d'Entrecasteaux (in English the Cliffs of Entrecasteaux, named after 18th century French navigator Bruni d'Entrecasteaux) comprise the cliffs, which reach heights of over 700 m, along the west coast of Amsterdam Island, a small French territory in the southern Indian Ocean.

Indian yellow-nosed albatross

The Indian yellow-nosed albatross (Thalassarche carteri) is a member of the albatross family, and is the smallest of the mollymawks. In 2004, BirdLife International split this species from the Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross; however Clements has not split it yet, and the SACC has not either, but recognises the need for a proposal.


Martin-de-Viviès, or La Roche Godon, formerly Camp Heurtin, is a research station and the only settlement on the Île Amsterdam and Île Saint-Paul islands of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands in the southern Indian Ocean. It lies on the north coast of Amsterdam Island and houses about thirty people.It was named after Paul de Martin de Viviès who, with ten others, spent the winter of 1949 on the island.

The station was originally named Camp Heurtin and has been in operation since 1 January 1981, superseding the first station, La Roche Godon.

The Global Atmosphere Watch is one of the programs that the station participates in.

Phylica arborea

Phylica arborea, also known as the Island Cape myrtle, is a shrub or small tree with narrow needle-like dark green leaves, downy silver on the underside, and with greenish white terminal flowers. Usually a shrub or procumbent tree, it may reach 6–7 m in height in sheltered locations. It is found on various isolated islands, including the Tristan da Cunha group and Gough Island, in the South Atlantic Ocean, as well as Amsterdam Island in the southern Indian Ocean.

Pierre François Péron

French Captain Pierre François Péron, born in 1769 at Lambézellec, near Brest, was a French sailor and trading captain who sailed to many different locations in the late 18th century. He owned his ship until it was captured by the British, following which he became a sealer and adventurer.

Captain Péron reports that he was marooned three years (from 1792 to 1795) on New Amsterdam Island or Île Amsterdam. He wrote an account about being marooned for 40 months gathering sealskins on that lonely Southern Indian Ocean island.

There was confusion in the early days between Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands. In February 1793 Sir George Staunton was on his way to China on Lion as secretary to the Macartney embassy on the East Indiaman Hindostan. At Île Amsterdam they found a sealer named Perron and 4 others on the southern of the two islands, now called Saint Paul Island.

Later, Lion captured the French ship Emélie, the vessel that had landed the sealers. Deprived of the ship that had landed them, Péron and his men spent some 40 months marooned on the island until Captain Thomas Hadley, in Ceres, rescued them in late 1795 and took them to Port Jackson.After being rescued, Péron travelled via Tasmania to the convict settlement at Sydney Cove. While in Sydney Péron found that the store of seal skins he left behind had been brought in the American trading ship Otter. He negotiated with the captain, Ebenezer Dorr ("Dawes") and was given the post of first officer until the skins were sold in China. Otter then engaged in the sealskin and fur transport from the American Pacific coast to China. While leaving Sydney, Péron assisted in the escape of Thomas Muir of Huntershill, a Scottish lawyer tried in 1793 in Edinburgh for sedition and sentenced to transportation to New South Wales in 1794. Péron's chronicles describe the escape and the voyage across the Pacific.The Otter then became the first known European merchant vessel to visit Tonga where several escaped convicts landed. After sighting Niue, the Otter reached Pukapuka on 3 April 1796. Peron, Thomas Muir and a small party landed ashore but the inhabitants did not allow them to inspect the island. Trading later took place near the ship as adzes, mats and other artifacts were exchanged for knives and European goods.

This island was given the name "Isles de la Loutre" (Otter Islands) by Péron: "Everything united to convince us that we had the right to attribute to ourselves the honour of having discovered three new islands; and with this conviction I gave them the name of Otter Islands [Isles de la Loutre] which was the name of our vessel. In order to distinguish them we named the eastern one 'Peron and Muir' (Motu Ko), the one to the north 'Dorr' (Pukapuka), and the name of 'Brown' (Motu Kotowa) was given to the third, after one of our officers." PeronFrom Pukapuka the Otter sailed to Nootka Sound where furs were obtained and Muir was transferred to the Spanish vessel Sutil under José Tobar y Tamariz and taken to Monterey where he was received by governor Diego Borica. In his accounts, Péron writes about the Pacific Northwest and its natives, as well as an interesting account about the Hawaiian Islands. Most notable is a visit to California, by then a Spanish colony, including a stay at Monterey in 1796. This was the first time an American ship entered California waters. Péron found Monterey somewhat backward at the time.Péron then travelled to San Blas, Mexico City, Veracruz, Havana, and Cádiz, finally reaching France.In 1804 Péron retired to his chateau in Piage. He was appointed mayor in 1805 and again in 1815, but in 1825 he settled in Saumur, where he became first deputy mayor until 1830.Péron's Memoires, in which he describes his survival alone on Île Amsterdam, were published in a limited edition and are now an expensive collectors' item. His account contains notes on British Columbia, Vancouver Island, and the Queen Charlotte Islands, descriptions of California, particularly of his visit to Monterey in 1796, Tasmania and New South Wales in Australia, Hawaii and Sumatra. His memoires include descriptions of storms, shipwrecks, as well as situations of misery and hardship of all kinds. Péron’s memoirs are well-written and described many interesting events in the life of a sea captain who travelled in most of the then still little-known world where Western commerce was fast developing.Péron died in 1846 at Luynes.

Plateau des Tourbières

The Plateau des Tourbières (in English the Plateau of Bogs) comprises the highest upland region of Amsterdam Island, a small French territory in the southern Indian Ocean. Over 500 m above sea level, it contains the island’s highest peaks: Mont de la Dives (881 m), Grande Marmite (742 m) and Mont Fernand (731 m).

Salvin's prion

Salvin's prion, Pachyptila salvini, also known as medium-billed prion, is a species of seabird in the petrel family Procellariidae.

Solar eclipse of August 1, 1943

An annular solar eclipse occurred on August 1, 1943. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon's apparent diameter is smaller than the Sun's, blocking most of the Sun's light and causing the Sun to look like an annulus (ring). An annular eclipse appears as a partial eclipse over a region of the Earth thousands of kilometres wide.

Annularity was visible in the southern Indian Ocean, with the only land being Île Amsterdam in French Madagascar (now belonging to French Southern and Antarctic Lands). A partial solar eclipse was visible from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, eastern Madagascar, Antarctica's Wilkes Land.

Southern elephant seal

The southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) is one of the two species of elephant seals. It is the largest member of the clade Pinnipedia and the order Carnivora, as well as the largest extant marine mammal that is not a cetacean. It gets its name from its massive size and the large proboscis of the adult male, which is used to produce very loud roars, especially during the breeding season. A bull southern elephant seal is about 40% heavier than a male northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris), more than twice as heavy as a male walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), and six to seven times heavier than the largest living terrestrial carnivorans, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) and the Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi).

Subantarctic fur seal

The subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) is found in the southern parts of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans. It was first described by Gray in 1872 from a specimen recovered in northern Australia—hence the inappropriate specific name tropicalis.

Île Saint-Paul

Île Saint-Paul (Saint Paul Island) is an island forming part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (Terres australes et antarctiques françaises, TAAF) in the Indian Ocean, with an area of 6 km2 (2.3 sq mi; 1,500 acres). The island is located about 85 km (46 nmi) southwest of the larger Île Amsterdam (55 km2 (21 sq mi)), 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) northeast of the Kerguelen Islands, and 3,000 km (1,600 nmi) southeast of Réunion. It is an important breeding site for seabirds. A scientific research cabin on the island is used for scientific or ecological short campaigns, but there is no permanent population. It is under the authority of a senior administrator on Réunion.

Climate data for Martin-de-Vivies, Amsterdam Island (1981–2010, extremes 1950–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 26.4
Average high °C (°F) 20.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 17.5
Average low °C (°F) 14.7
Record low °C (°F) 7.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 88.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 9.3 8.7 10.5 12.4 16.7 18.3 17.9 17.1 14.8 14.6 11.6 10.4 162.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 177 145 134 110 107 99 104 121 123 141 150 170 1,581
Source #1: Météo France[16]
Source #2: NOAA (sun 1961–1990),[17] Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)[18]
Outlying territories of European countries
United Kingdom

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