Crozet Islands

The Crozet Islands (French: 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.

Crozet Islands

Îles Crozet
Flag of Crozet Islands
Orthographic projection centred over the Îles Crozet.
Orthographic projection centred over the Îles Crozet.
One of the Crozet Islands
Crozet Islands is located in Indian Ocean
Crozet Islands
Crozet Islands
LocationIndian Ocean
Coordinates46°25′S 51°59′E / 46.417°S 51.983°ECoordinates: 46°25′S 51°59′E / 46.417°S 51.983°E
ArchipelagoCrozet Islands
Total islands6
Major islands3
Area352 km2 (136 sq mi)
Highest elevation1,090 m (3,580 ft)
Highest pointMont Marion-Dufresne
Overseas territoryFrench Southern and Antarctic Lands
DistrictCrozet Islands
Population18 (winter)
30 (summer)


The Crozet Islands were discovered on 24 January 1772 by the expedition of French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, aboard Le Mascarin. His second-in-command Jules (Julien-Marie) Crozet landed on Île de la Possession, claiming the archipelago for France.[2] The expedition continued east and landed at New Zealand, where Captain Marion and much of his crew were killed and cannibalized by Maori.[3] Crozet survived the disaster, and successfully led the survivors back to their base at Mauritius. In 1776 Crozet met James Cook at Cape Town, at the onset of Cook's third voyage.[3] Crozet shared the charts of his ill-fated expedition, and as Cook sailed eastward he stopped at the islands, naming the western group Marion and the eastern group Crozet.[2] In the following years, sealers visiting the islands referred to both the eastern and western groups as the Crozet Islands, and Marion Island became the name of the larger of the two Prince Edward Islands, which were discovered by Captain Marion on the same expedition.[2]

In the early 19th century, the islands were often visited by sealers, to the extent that the seals had been nearly exterminated by 1835. Between 1804 and 1911, 153 vessels visited the island for seals, seven of which wrecked on the coast.[4] Subsequently, whaling was the main activity around the islands, especially by the whalers from Massachusetts. In 1841 there were a 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 an albatross, which was found seven months later in Fremantle, but 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. The steamship Australasian also checked for survivors en route to Australia.[5]

Between 1924 and 1955, France administered the islands as a dependency of Madagascar. Crozet Islands became part of the French Southern Territories in 1955. In 1938, the Crozet Islands were declared a nature reserve. In 1961, a first research station was set up, but it was not until 1963 that the permanent station Alfred Faure opened at Port Alfred 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, maintains a seismograph and a geomagnetic observatory (IAGA code: CZT). The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization ( CTBTO ) has listening equipment on the island after the CTBTO disclosed that two of its stations, the other being on Ascension Island, detected what is believed to be an underwater, non-nuclear explosion off the coast of Argentina and believed to be a fatal accident of the ARA San Juan submarine in 2017.[6][7]


The islands lie on the Antarctic Plate roughly between the Kerguelen hotspot and Madagascar and southern Africa. The oldest East Island formed roughly 9 million years ago from a hotspot[8] which has continued forming islands to the west until, ostensibly, the present.[9] Despite this apparently young age, no volcanic activity has been observed to date on any of the islands.


Not including minor islets or rock reefs etc., the Crozet group consists of six islands. From west to east:

No. Island or Group (English) Area Highest Peak Location
L'Occidental (Western Group)
1 Île aux Cochons (Pig Island) 67 km2 (26 sq mi) Mont Richard-Foy, 770 m (2,526 ft) 46°06′S 50°14′E / 46.100°S 50.233°E
2 Île des Pingouins (Penguin Island, literally Auk Island) 3 km2 (1.2 sq mi) Mont des Manchots 340 m (1,115 ft) 46°25′S 50°24′E / 46.417°S 50.400°E
3 Îlots des Apôtres (Apostle Islets)(1) 2 km2 (0.8 sq mi) Mont Pierre, 289 m (948 ft) 45°57′S 50°25′E / 45.950°S 50.417°E
L'Oriental (Eastern Group)
4 Île de la Possession (Possession Island) 150 km2 (58 sq mi) Pic du Mascarin, 934 m (3,064 ft) 46°24′S 51°46′E / 46.400°S 51.767°E
5 Île de l'Est (East Island) 130 km2 (50 sq mi) Mont Marion-Dufresne, 1,090 m (3,576 ft) 46°25′S 52°12′E / 46.417°S 52.200°E
  Îles Crozet (Crozet Islands) 352 km2 (136 sq mi) Mont Marion-Dufresne, 1,090 m (3,576 ft) 45°57' to 46°29'S
50°10' to 52°19'E
Crozet Map
Map of the Crozet Islands

(1) Group of two major islands (Grande 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. Previous scientific stations included La Grande Manchotière and La Petite Manchotière.


The Crozet islands have a maritime-influenced tundra climate (Köppen climate classification, ET). Monthly temperatures average around 2.9 °C (37 °F) and 7.9 °C (46 °F) in winter and summer respectively.[10] Precipitation is high, with over 2,000 mm (78.7 in) per year. 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 (64.4 °F) in summer and rarely go below −5 °C (23 °F) even in winter.

Flora and fauna

The islands are part of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands tundra ecoregion that includes several subantarctic islands. In this cold climate plant life is mainly limited to grasses, mosses and lichens, while the main animals are insects along with large populations of seabirds, seals and penguins.[10]

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, home to 700,000 breeding pairs; half the world's population.[13] The eastern rockhopper penguin also can be found, and there is a small colony of gentoo penguins. There is also an endemic subspecies of the duck Eaton's pintail. Other birds include black-faced sheathbills, petrels, and albatross, including the wandering albatross.

Mammals living on the Crozet Islands include fur seals, and southern elephant seals. Killer whales have been observed preying upon the seals. The transient killer whales of the 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. These killer whales also seem to stay around the Crozet Islands year-round, feeding on mostly seals during the summer, and then feeding on penguins for the winter.

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 Cochons and the goats brought to Île de la Possession—both as a food resource—have been exterminated.

Another on-going concern is overfishing of the Patagonian toothfish, as well as the albatross population, which is being monitored. The waters of the Crozet Islands are patrolled by the French government.

In popular culture

A 2012 French film, Les Saveurs du Palais, begins and ends with scenes in the Crozet Islands. The film's protagonist, a grandmotherly chef from the Périgord region of France who signed on as cook for the research station, had once been the personal chef to President François Mitterrand.

In the 1978 novel Desolation Island, the fifth book in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey–Maturin series, the fictional frigate HMS Leopard is severely damaged by a collision with an iceberg in the southwestern Indian Ocean. The crew attempts to make landfall for repairs on one of the Crozet Islands, but they miss the island and continue to drift towards the east, unable to reverse direction.


Marion Dufresne - Crozet

The Marion Dufresne off the "port" of Crozet. East Island in the background.

Crozet - Manchots

One of the penguin colonies of the islands

Crozet Islands eastern group - STS088

The Eastern Group


Crozet Islands causing a Von Karman Vortex street to form under low clouds.

See also


  1. ^ a b Official organisational chart
  2. ^ a b c Mills, William J (2003). Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 166–167. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b Hough, Richard (1995). Captain James Cook: A Biography. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 259–260. ISBN 978-0393315196.
  4. ^ R.K. Headland, Historical Antarctic Sealing Industry, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, 2018, p.166.
  5. ^ "THE CROZET ISLANDS". The Express And Telegraph. XXVI, (7, 584). South Australia. 21 March 1889. p. 3 (Second Edition.). Retrieved 4 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "'Explosion' dashes sub crew survival hopes". 23 November 2017 – via
  7. ^ "Submarino ARA San Juan: cómo se detectó la explosión y qué podría significar". La Nacion. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  8. ^ Marie Meyzen, Christine; Marzoli, Andrea; Bellieni, Giuliano; Levresse, Gilles (July 2016). "Magmatic Activity on a Motionless Plate: the Case of East Island, Crozet Archipelago (Indian Ocean)". Journal of Petrology. 57 (7): 1409–1436. doi:10.1093/petrology/egw045. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  9. ^ Quilty, Patrick G. (2007). "ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION OF THE SUB-ANTARCTIC ISLANDS: THE FOUNDATION" (PDF). Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania. 141 (1). Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Southern Indian Ocean Islands tundra". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
  11. ^ "Moyennes 1981/2010: France (Terres Australes)" (in French). Météoclimat. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  12. ^ "STATION Alfred Faure" (in French). Météoclimat. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  13. ^ Bost, Charles-André (31 October 2015). "King penquins face longer commute". New Scientist. 228 (3045): 17.

Further reading

  • LeMasurier, W. E.; Thomson, J. W., eds. (1990). Volcanoes of the Antarctic Plate and Southern Oceans. American Geophysical Union. ISBN 0-87590-172-7.
  • Church, Ian (1985). Survival on the Crozet Islands: The Wreck of the Strathmore in 1875. Waikanae, New Zealand: Heritage Press. ISBN 0-908708-02-5.

External links

Black-bellied storm petrel

The black-bellied storm petrel (Fregetta tropica) is a species of seabird in the family Oceanitidae.

It is found in Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Bouvet Island, Brazil, Chile, Falkland Islands, French Polynesia, French Southern Territories, Madagascar, Mozambique, New Zealand, Oman, Peru, Saint Helena, São Tomé and Príncipe, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Uruguay, and Vanuatu.

Black-faced sheathbill

The black-faced sheathbill (Chionis minor), also known as the lesser sheathbill or paddy bird, is one of only two species of sheathbills, aberrant shorebirds which are terrestrial scavengers of subantarctic islands.

Blue petrel

The blue petrel (Halobaena caerulea) is a small seabird in the shearwater and petrel family, Procellariidae. This small petrel is the only member of the genus Halobaena, but is closely allied to the prions. It is distributed across the Southern Ocean but breeds at only six known sites, all close to the Antarctic Convergence zone.

Crozet shag

The Crozet shag (Leucocarbo melanogenis), also known as the South Georgia cormorant, is a marine cormorant native to the Crozet, Prince Edward and Marion in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Eaton's pintail

The Eaton's pintail (Anas eatoni) is a dabbling duck of the genus Anas. It is also known as the southern pintail. The species is restricted to the island groups of Kerguelen and Crozet in the southern Indian Ocean. It resembles a small female northern pintail. It was named after the English explorer and naturalist Alfred Edmund Eaton. It is threatened by introduced species, particularly feral cats, which prey on it.

There are two subspecies: A. eatoni eatoni (Kerguelen pintail) and A. eatoni drygalskii (Crozet pintail).

Fairy prion

The fairy prion (Pachyptila turtur) is a small seabird with the standard prion plumage of black upperparts and white underneath with an "M" wing marking.

Great-winged petrel

The great-winged petrel (Pterodroma macroptera) is a petrel.

Grey-backed storm petrel

The grey-backed storm petrel (Garrodia nereis) is a species of seabird in the austral storm petrel family Oceanitidae. It is monotypic within the genus Garrodia. It is found in Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Falkland Islands, French Southern Territories, New Zealand, Saint Helena, South Africa, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Its natural habitat is open seas.The genus Garrodia was created by William Alexander Forbes in 1881 and named after English zoologist Alfred Henry Garrod, while the specific descriptor is an allusion to the Nereids, the sea nymphs of Greek mythology.

Kerguelen petrel

The Kerguelen petrel (Aphrodroma brevirostris) is a small (36 cm long) slate-grey seabird in the family Procellariidae. The species has been described as a "taxonomic oddball", being placed for a long time in Pterodroma (the gadfly petrels) before being split out in 1942 into its own genus Aphrodroma. The position within the procellariids is still a matter of debate; when it was split away from the Pterodroma petrels it was suggested that it may be a fulmarine petrel, whereas a 1998 study placed the species close to the shearwaters and the genus Bulweria.Kerguelen petrels breed colonially on remote islands; colonies are present on Gough Island in the Atlantic Ocean, and Marion Island, Prince Edward Island, Crozet Islands and Kerguelen Island in the Indian Ocean. The species attends its colonies nocturnally, breeding in burrows in wet soil. The burrows usually face away from the prevailing wind. A single egg is laid per breeding season; the egg is unusually round for the family. The egg is incubated by both parents for 49 days. After hatching the chick fledges after 60 days.

Kerguelen tern

The Kerguelen tern (Sterna virgata) is a tern of the southern hemisphere.

This seabird mainly breeds colonially in the Kerguelen Islands, as its common name implies. However, smaller colonies are also found in the Prince Edward Islands (i.e. Prince Edward and Marion) and Crozet Islands. The total number of individuals is from 3,500–6,500 birds, although there is no recent data from the main colony at Kerguelen. These birds do not inhabit Kerguelen proper, instead nesting on islets free of feral cats. During bad weather, they are known to abandon their colonies.

Kerguelen terns are among the least-ranging of all typical terns. They generally do not reach far into the seas near their breeding grounds.

These birds eat fish and marine invertebrates, especially those found in beds of the seaweed Macrocystis spp. They sometimes also hunt insects on land and catch fish from rivers on Kerguelen.

There are two subspecies:

S. v. mercuri (Voisin, 1971) – Crozet and Prince Edward Islands

S. v. virgata (Cabanis, 1875) – Kerguelen Island

King penguin

The king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) is the second largest species of penguin, smaller, but somewhat similar in appearance to the emperor penguin. There are two subspecies: A. p. patagonicus and A. p. halli; patagonicus is found in the South Atlantic and halli in the South Indian Ocean (at the Kerguelen Islands, Crozet Island, Prince Edward Islands and Heard Island and McDonald Islands) and at Macquarie Island.King penguins mainly eat lanternfish, squid and krill. On foraging trips king penguins repeatedly dive to over 100 metres (300 ft), and have been recorded at depths greater than 300 metres (1,000 ft).King penguins breed on the subantarctic islands at the northern reaches of Antarctica, South Georgia, and other temperate islands of the region.

Salvin's albatross

Salvin's albatross, or Salvin's mollymawk, Thalassarche salvini, is a large seabird that breeds only in islands in New Zealand's realm. A medium-sized mollymawk in the albatross family, it was long considered to be a subspecies of the shy albatross. It is a medium-sized black and white albatross.

Salvin's prion

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

Soft-plumaged petrel

The soft-plumaged petrel (Pterodroma mollis) is a species of seabird in the family Procellariidae.

Sooty albatross

The sooty albatross, dark-mantled sooty albatross or dark-mantled albatross, (Phoebetria fusca), is a species of bird in the albatross family. They breed on sub-Antarctic islands and range at sea across the Southern Ocean from South America to Australia.

Wandering albatross

The wandering albatross, snowy albatross, white-winged albatross or goonie (Diomedea exulans) is a large seabird from the family Diomedeidae, which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean. It was the last species of albatross to be described, and was long considered the same species as the Tristan albatross and the Antipodean albatross. A few authors still consider them all subspecies of the same species. The SACC has a proposal on the table to split this species, and BirdLife International has already split it. Together with the Amsterdam albatross, it forms the wandering albatross species complex. The wandering albatross is one of the two largest members of the genus Diomedea (the great albatrosses), being similar in size to the southern royal albatross. It is one of the largest birds in the world and has the greatest known wingspan of any living bird, and one of the best known and studied species of bird in the world. This is also one of the most far ranging birds. Some individual wandering albatrosses are known to circumnavigate the Southern Ocean three times, covering more than 120,000 km (75,000 mi), in one year.

White-chinned petrel

The white-chinned petrel or Cape hen, Procellaria aequinoctialis, is a large shearwater in the family Procellariidae. It ranges around the Southern Ocean as far north as southern Australia, Peru and Namibia, and breeds colonially on scattered islands.

Île de l'Est

Île de l'Est, or East Island, is a part of the subantarctic archipelago of the Crozet Islands. With an area of 130 km2 (50 sq mi) it is the second largest island of the group. It is part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

Île de la Possession

Île de la Possession, or Possession Island, formerly Île de la Prise de Possession, is part of the subantarctic Crozet Archipelago.

With an area of 150 km2 (58 sq mi) it is the largest island of the group and the only inhabited one. Administratively, it is part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. It is an important nesting site for seabirds.

Climate data for Alfred Faure (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 22.4
Average high °C (°F) 10.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 7.5
Average low °C (°F) 4.5
Record low °C (°F) 0.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 127.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 12.97 11.64 13.37 15.89 16.54 14.85 15.81 16.04 14.75 13.86 12.92 14.88 172.91
Mean monthly sunshine hours 96.6 74.7 65.4 10.9 17.1 14.8 30.8 41.9 46.1 62.1 80.1 63.2 600.4
Source: Meteo climat[11][12]
Outlying territories of European countries
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