Amsterdam island

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Amsterdam island
Satellite image of the island of Amsterdam
Satellite image of the island of Amsterdam
Waters Indian Ocean
Archipelago Saint Paul and Amsterdam
Geographical location 37 ° 49 ′ 40 ″  S , 77 ° 33 ′ 40 ″  E Coordinates: 37 ° 49 ′ 40 ″  S , 77 ° 33 ′ 40 ″  E
Amsterdam Island (Indian Ocean)
Amsterdam island
length 10 km
width 7 km
surface 57.5 km²
Highest elevation Mont de la Dives
881  m
Residents 25 (ward staff)
<1 inh / km²
main place Martin de Viviès research station

The Amsterdam Island ( French Île Amsterdam , also Nouvelle Amsterdam , Dutch Nieuw Amsterdam ) is an island in the southern Indian Ocean . Politically, it belongs to the French overseas territory Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF for short). The island is uninhabited except for one research station .

In 2019, the island was, as part of the -meere French Southern Territories and , for UNESCO World Heritage declared.


The island formed near the fault lines between three continental plates drifting apart is of volcanic origin and only around 300,000 years old. The currently inactive stratovolcano , whose western flank collapsed along a fault , was formed in two eruption phases. The eruption center of the Fernand Paleovolcano, which was formed in the first phase, was at the Pointe d'Entrecasteaux in the southwest of today's island. About two kilometers to the east, the younger Dives neovolcano formed, which covers about 95% of today's island area. Its age, which has not yet been precisely determined, is estimated at some 10,000 years. There are around 20 young cinder cones , some of which may have erupted in the last few centuries, although observations have been lacking.

The island is about 10 km long, 7 km wide and has an area of ​​57.5 km². The highest point is the Mont de la Dives with 881 m. The coasts are very steep and rugged, with the exception of a section of about one kilometer in the north of the island, they consist of an average 80 m high cliff. The lowlands, which are very dry in summer, extend above the cliffs up to a height of about 300 m. The highlands, from 300 m to 600 m, are characterized by an untouched peat bog . A peat bog plateau and the 881 m high summit of Mont de la Dives are even higher. In the west, the plateau plunges down to the ocean with a cliff coast up to 700 m high . The distance to the smaller, southern neighboring island of Sankt-Paul-Insel is 92 km.


On the Amsterdam Island, which is located at approximately the same geographical latitude as the Australian metropolis Melbourne , the North Island of New Zealand or the Argentine seaside resort of Mar del Plata , there is a mild maritime climate at sea level with an average annual temperature of 14 ° C higher areas it corresponds more to that of a sub-Antarctic island. The annual rainfall is 1100 mm. The climate is characterized by steady westerly winds and high humidity.

Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Martin de Viviès, Amsterdam Island
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature ( ° C ) 19.5 19.8 18.7 17.3 15.4 14.0 13.3 13.3 13.8 14.7 15.9 18.0 O 16.1
Min. Temperature (° C) 14.3 14.5 13.7 12.9 11.2 9.8 9.3 9.0 9.5 10.1 11.3 13.2 O 11.6
Temperature (° C) 16.6 17.0 16.1 15.0 13.3 12.0 11.3 11.1 11.6 12.3 13.5 15.5 O 13.8
Precipitation ( mm ) 96 78 82 102 110 113 104 95 83 85 90 81 Σ 1,119
Humidity ( % ) 81 79 79 81 81 81 81 80 80 80 81 82 O 80.5
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Discovery and settlement

The island was discovered on March 18, 1522 by Juan Sebastián Elcano on board the last remaining ship of Magellan's circumnavigation fleet . A landing was not successful because of strong surf and unfavorable winds. However, Elcano did not give the island a name. It was not until June 1633 that the Dutch captain Antonio van Diemen , en route to Java as governor, named the island after one of his ships, Nieuw Amsterdam . British people passing by later confused the names of the islands of Amsterdam and Saint Paul on their nautical charts. Probably the first to enter Amsterdam was the Dutch Willem de Vlamingh in 1696 . On 28/29 March 1792, the French explorer Joseph Bruny d'Entrecasteaux visited the island in search of the missing Jean-François de La Pérouse .

On July 1, 1843, the French three- master L'Olympe anchored on the coast under Captain Martin Dupeyrat. A rowing boat landed with difficulty, and when the tricolor was hoisted , Amsterdam was officially taken over by France. In order not to jeopardize the political rapprochement at the time with Great Britain, the king refused to ratify the occupation and withdrew the small garrison stationed on St. Paul Island.

The Amsterdam Island, drawn by
Ladislaus Weinek in 1875

The island was briefly explored scientifically at the end of 1857 as part of the Novara expedition . The final French occupation was only carried out in October 1892 by the scout La Bourdonnais and confirmed in January 1893 by the warship L'Eure .

An attempt to colonize the island failed. From January 18 to August 19, 1871, the French Heurtin settled on the island with his wife, three children and four farmhands. But the inhospitable island hardly allowed agricultural use. After the death of two farmhands and increasing loneliness on the isolated island, the heurtins soon gave up. Only the cattle they had brought with them remained, they reproduced, and their descendants lived on the island until 2010.

Research station

Permanent settlement only began at the end of 1949 with the construction of a small meteorological station. Under the direction of the meteorologist Paul de Martin de Viviès, 23 people set up the Camp Heurtin research station in eight months . 1961 to 1972 the name of the station was La Roche Godon , in 1972 it was named after Martin de Viviès. The base Martin de Viviès covers 4800 m² and was initially occupied by 34, now 25 people, including 4 meteorologists. The replacement takes place only once a year by means of the supply ship Marion Dufresne , which comes from Réunion , about 2,800 km away . The station has diesel generators and rainwater cisterns for the drinking water supply; There are canned and frozen foods as well as lobster and beef.

Agriculture and the environment

Once devastated by whalers , fur hunters and released domestic animals, the island has recovered somewhat thanks to protective measures since the 1990s. Feral domestic pigs and dogs died out of their own accord , domestic goats were exterminated. The domestic cattle that Heurtin left behind on the island in 1871 had increased so much that in 1985 more than 2,000 individuals were counted. The pasture area of ​​the meanwhile completely feral cattle was limited by a fence to the northwest of the island in 1992; in addition, a large part of the herd was killed. In the areas outside the fence, the reforestation of Phylica arborea has started. The complete extermination of cattle was decided in 2007 and carried out between 2008 and 2010.


Stocks of Phylica arborea on the Amsterdam Island

The flora is relatively rich and divided into different levels of vegetation depending on the altitude . A special feature is the rare tree species Phylica arborea , otherwise only on to Tristan da Cunha belonging Gough Island can be found.


Living on the island, among other Albatros TYPES ( light-mantled albatross , Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross , sooty albatross ) of breeding only here Amsterdam Albatross ( Diomedea amsterdamensis ) Great Skua ( Stercorarius skua ) Antipodenseeschwalben ( Sterna vittata ), gentoo penguins ( Pygoscelis papua ) and Northern Rockhopper penguins ( Eudyptes moseleyi ). Sub-Antarctic fur seals ( Arctocephalus tropicalis ) and southern elephant seals ( Mirounga leonina ) can be found on the coasts, and in the interior of the island, until recently, a herd of completely feral domestic cattle . In addition, were mice , Norway rats and cats introduced. Only on the Amsterdam island lived the endemic Amsterdam lady ( Anas marecula ), which probably became extinct in the 18th century and was scientifically described in 1996 on the basis of fossil finds . Killer whales are sighted regularly in the waters near the islands .

The bird protection organization BirdLife International identifies the central highlands and the cliffs of the west coast as Important Bird Areas TF006 and TF007.

Literary effect

The island, together with the neighboring Saint Paul Island, is one of the settings in the novel The Children of Captain Grant by Jules Verne . In addition, in the novel Island of Temptation by Henri Crouzat, four castaways end up on the island. The novel Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon also touches on the history of the two islands and the frigate HMS Megaera , which was shipwrecked on the island of Saint Paul in 1871. In Alfred van Cleef's autobiographical novel The Lost Island or the Long Journey of an Unhappy Man , the author tries to overcome his lovesickness by staying on the island. The atlas of the remote islands also devotes a double page to the island.


  • Yves Frenot: Amsterdam Island . In: Beau Riffenburgh (Ed.): Encyclopedia of the Antarctic. Routledge, New York / London 2007, ISBN 0-415-97024-5 , p. 29 f. (English).
  • Alfred van Cleef: The lost island or the long journey of an unhappy man . Novel. marebuchverlag, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-936384-74-6 ( limited preview in the Google book search; - Dutch: Het verdwaalde eiland. Amsterdam op 37 ° 50 ′ zuiderbreedte . Amsterdam 1999. Translated by Marlene Müller-Haas ).

Web links

Commons : Amsterdam island  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ French Austral Lands and Seas. UNESCO World Heritage Center, accessed July 8, 2019 .
  2. Myriam Janin, Christophe Hémond, Hervé Guillou and others. a .: Hot spot activity and tectonic settings near Amsterdam – St. Paul Plateau (Indian Ocean) . In: Journal of Geophysical Research . tape 116 , B5, May 20, 2011, doi : 10.1029 / 2010JB007800 (English).
  3. L'île d'Amsterdam. In: Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF). Administration of the TAAF, accessed on October 15, 2016 (French).
  4. ^ Jean-Yves Georges: L'Île Amsterdam - Topography. In: Amsterdam Island, Île Amsterdam. December 10, 1998, accessed October 15, 2016 (French).
  5. a b Patrick G. Quilty: Origin and evolution of the sub-Antarctic islands: the foundation . In: Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania . tape 141 , no. 1 . Royal Society of Tasmania, 2007, ISSN  0080-4703 , Amsterdam and St Paul islands, p. 51–52 (English, online as eprint from the University of Tasmania [PDF; 1,3 MB ; accessed on October 15, 2016]).
  6. ^ Jean-Yves Georges: L'Île Amsterdam - Géology. In: Amsterdam Island, Île Amsterdam. December 10, 1998, accessed October 15, 2016 (French).
  7. ^ Bernhard Krauth: General and navigational facts about the islands (Nouvelle) Amsterdam and Saint Paul in the South Indian Ocean. 1.1 Nouvelle Amsterdam - Geography. Retrieved October 15, 2016 .
  8. Martin de Viviès: Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data on The largest accessible collection of climate data on the web. , accessed on October 31, 2012
  9. Martin de Vivies. Climate data for the Amsterdam Island. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), accessed October 15, 2016 .
  10. ^ Bernhard Krauth: General and navigational facts about the islands (Nouvelle) Amsterdam and Saint Paul in the South Indian Ocean. 2.4 Saint Paul - history of the first fishing settlement and the following period (period 1840 to 1925). Retrieved October 15, 2016 .
  11. ^ Alfred van Cleef: The lost island. 2002, p. 93 ff.
  12. a b c Bernhard Krauth: General and navigational facts about the islands (Nouvelle) Amsterdam and Saint Paul in the South Indian Ocean. 1.3 Nouvelle Amsterdam - history. Retrieved October 15, 2016 .
  13. ^ Alfred van Cleef: The lost island. 2002, p. 139 f.
  14. ^ Jean-Yves Georges: L'Île Amsterdam - Historique. In: Amsterdam Island, Île Amsterdam. December 10, 1998, accessed October 15, 2016 (French).
  15. ^ Sophie Lautier: Sur l'île Amsterdam, chlorophylle et miaulements. In: Making of: les coulisses de l'info. Agence France-Presse (AFP), September 19, 2012, archived from the original ; Retrieved October 15, 2016 (French).
  16. ^ Jean-Yves Georges: L'Île Amsterdam - La flore actuelle. In: Amsterdam Island, Île Amsterdam. December 10, 1998, accessed October 15, 2016 (French).
  17. ^ Jean-Yves Georges: L'Île Amsterdam - La faune autochtone. In: Amsterdam Island, Île Amsterdam. December 10, 1998, accessed October 15, 2016 (French).
  18. ^ Jean-Yves Georges: L'Île Amsterdam - La faune introduite. In: Amsterdam Island, Île Amsterdam. December 10, 1998, accessed October 15, 2016 (French).
  19. Important Bird Areas factsheet: Plateau des Tourbières. In: BirdLife Data Zone. BirdLife International , accessed November 9, 2016 .
  20. Important Bird Areas factsheet: Falaises d'Entrecasteaux. In: BirdLife Data Zone. BirdLife International , accessed November 9, 2016 .