Clipperton Island

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Ile de la Passion)
Palm trees on Clipperton Island
Palm trees on Clipperton Island
Waters Pacific Ocean
Geographical location 10 ° 18 ′  N , 109 ° 13 ′  W Coordinates: 10 ° 18 ′  N , 109 ° 13 ′  W
Map of Clipperton (Île de la Passion)
Number of islands 1 ring island
6 inland islands
Main island Clipperton
length 4 km
width 2.9 km
Land area 1.7 km²
Lagoon area 7.2 km²
Highest elevation Rocher Clipperton
29  m
Residents uninhabited
Map of Clipperton Island
Map of Clipperton Island

The Clipperton Island (French: Île Clipperton or Île de la Passion ) is located in the Pacific Ocean about 1080 km southwest of Mexico . It is an uninhabited atoll and French overseas territory .


Clipperton is a typical atoll, which is superimposed on a sinking volcanic complex, whereby the uppermost "tip" of the former volcano - part of the eroded crater wall - has been preserved at Rocher Clipperton ( Clipperton Rock ). With 29 m it is also the highest point on the island, otherwise the island only rises 2-3 m from the Pacific. The land area of ​​the island is only 1.7 km², including the enclosed lagoon , however, it is 8.9 km². The circumference of the atoll is 11.8 km, the width of the ring of land surrounding the lagoon varies between 40 and 360 m. The length of the entire atoll is 4 km, its width 2.9 km.

Inside the lagoon in the north-west are the Îles Egg (also known as Îles aux Œufs ), a group of two roughly round coral islets with a total area of ​​less than 1000 m², which protrude only slightly above the water. Other even smaller islands are Îlot vert , Îlots Ouest and Île aux Sternes , all in the northwest and west of the lagoon. Only on these small islands can seabirds breed undisturbed, as they are inaccessible to land crabs ( species Johngarthia planata ), which dominate the ring island in large numbers (11 million animals, that is more than six specimens per square meter of land area).

White-bellied booby , lagoon and single palm tree in the background

The lagoon has several basins of different depths , including Fosse Orientale (in the east with a depth of up to 44 m) and Trou Sans Fond , a pit in the southeast with a diameter of 240 m. Earlier data on a depth of more than 92 m could not be confirmed in more recent measurements; Bathymetric surveys from 2005 and 2015 showed water depths of a maximum of 37 m in the Trou Sans fund; in other parts of the lagoon a depth of up to 55 m was measured. Jacques-Yves Cousteau , who visited Clipperton several times with the Calypso between 1970 and 1980, made a dive in the Trou Sans Fond in 1976 and found high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide there . The hydrogen sulphide is produced by the rotting of organic material under a lack of oxygen ( putrefaction ).

A coral reef is in front of the atoll . Due to its remoteness, the island is rarely visited. It is possible to anchor in several places outside the reef, but it is not possible to enter the lagoon as the ring of land has been closed for over 150 years. Occasionally, however, due to the weather, high waves go over the lower and narrower parts of the ring and reach the lagoon.

The atoll was first mapped in 1839 by Edward Belcher , who found two openings in the ring of land. In November 1858, Victor Le Coat de Kervéguen determined that the ring was closed, which, as far as is known, is still the case today. It is believed that the ring closure was caused by the effects of a tropical storm. The earlier openings can still be easily identified today, an area of ​​loose sand to the northeast and the strip of land opposite the isthmus to the southeast.


Since February 21, 2007, the Clipperton Island is no longer under the jurisdiction of French Polynesia , but is now administered directly by the French Minister for Overseas Territories. The Clippertoninsel is now state property of the French Republic ("la propriété privée de l'État"). Since January 1st, 2008, Clipperton has the INSEE code 989 01 (previously: 987 99) and the ISO-3166-2 code FR-CP. In addition, Clipperton has an exceptionally reserved code ISO 3166-1: CP . This code only exists due to its use in other standards and should not be used for coding according to ISO 3166-1.

Flora and fauna

Clipperton Crab

Both the flora and the fauna of the atoll are characterized by species poverty due to its isolation and the little varied biotopes . In the very humid tropical climate of the island, mainly coconut palms and a layer of herbs that are formed from bindweed plants , sour grass plants and figwort plants thrive . This vegetation, which almost completely covered the island in 1958, probably largely disappeared in the second half of the 20th century as a result of the extreme increase in land crabs, but seems to be regenerating recently.

The land fauna is dominated by only two species, the above-mentioned land crabs and the masked boobies , which form one of the world's largest colonies with around 110,000 specimens. About a dozen other species are known to be breeding birds , including formerly sizeable colonies of white-bellied gannets , various species of terns , frigate birds, and coots . However, with the exception of the masked booby, the spread of land crabs has displaced most species from their breeding grounds. Only the islands within the lagoon are free of crabs and can therefore be used by the birds as breeding grounds. In addition to birds and crabs, the island is home to some species of insects and a representative of the skinks . Mammals are not native to Clipperton; the feral pigs , which had been left behind on the island as emergency supplies during the times of pirates , explorers and conquerors, were exterminated in 1958. The spread of rats on the island has been observed since 2001 .

The meromictic lagoon is a dying body of water. Separated from the sea for 150 years, it suffers from eutrophication due to the high input of organic material (plant debris, bird droppings) , which leads to a severe lack of oxygen and rot in the depths. In the meantime the lagoon no longer contains any higher life, only bacteria (especially cyanobacteria ) can still survive here. The outer reef is home to numerous fish, including two endemic species.


An occasionally suspected discovery by Ferdinand Magellan on his circumnavigation of the world in 1521 is not documented. The isolated island was verifiably discovered on Good Friday, April 3, 1711 by the two French frigates La Princesse and La Découverte under the captains Mathieu Martin de Chassiron and Michel Dubocage . Because of the date of discovery, it was christened Île de la Passion . The current name of the island goes back to the pirate John Clipperton , who is said to have used the reef as a shelter at the beginning of the 18th century.

$ 1 postage stamp from Clipperton Island 1895

In 1858 the island was annexed to France by the French lieutenant captain ( lieutenant de vaisseau ) Victor Le Coat de Kervéguen . Between 1892 and 1897, American mining companies (such as the Oceanic Phosphate Company ) mined guano . They justified their claim with the Guano Islands Act . Mexico also filed property claims and established a garrison in 1905 to reinforce its sovereignty over the island.

The 11 “Clipperton Survivors”: Tirsa Rendon , Alicia Rovira Arnaud , Altagracia Quiroz , teenager Rosalía , and 7 children

In the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution , the garrison of ten soldiers led by Captain Ramón Arnaud and their families were forgotten. Ramón Arnaud and his men drowned when they launched a small boat because they believed they had seen ships. Only a few women and children survived without supplies from the mainland, and the only man who survived was the lighthouse keeper Victoriano Álvarez, who had abused, raped and tortured the women for two years until a woman had the courage to kill him with a hammer on July 17, 1917. On the same day, the four women and their children were rescued from the American patrol boat USS Yorktown . The material became the subject of several novels, some of which, however, are very far removed from the real events.

The US LST-563 (LST = Landing Ship Tanks) stranded off Clipperton, December 1944

In order to settle the dispute over property claims, France and Mexico agreed, the Italian King Victor Emanuel III. to use as referee He decided in 1931 that the island was French territory. On June 12, 1935, the island was officially taken back into French possession by the ship Jeanne d'Arc . The distance between Clipperton and France is 11,000 km and the nearest French territory, French Polynesia, is approximately 4,000 km. During the Second World War , the USA occupied the island in order to set up a weather station there ("Island X"). After the war ended, however, the Americans left Clipperton again. Plans to develop the island as a stopover for Pacific overflights were soon abandoned, as technical progress now made non-stop direct flights possible. The island has been uninhabited since then. Entry is only permitted for scientific purposes.

There are numerous legacies of previous missions on the island, including Camp Bougainville . An approximately 1.2 km long gravel runway, which is suitable for aircraft of a corresponding range, can still be used.



  • Karl Berger: Clipperton. A novel . Harbor House, Augusta, Ga 2006, ISBN 1-8917-9968-1 .
  • Gabriele Hoffmann: Anna's Atoll . Europa-Verlag, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-203-78046-1 .
  • Claude Labarraque-Reyssac: Les oubliés de Clipperton. Récit . Bonne, Paris 1970.
  • Ivo Mansmann: Clipperton. Fates on a forgotten island . Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle 1990, ISBN 3-354-00709-5 .
  • Gil Pastor: L'homme de Clipperton . Luneau Ascot Édition, Paris 1987.
  • Pablo Raphael: Clipperton. Novela . Random House Mondadori, Barcelona 2015, ISBN 978-84-397-3050-7 .
  • Laura Restrepo: La isla de la pasión .


  • Tom Elliott: Clipperton. The island of lost toys and other treasures . Trafford Publishing, Bloomington, Ind. 2006, ISBN 978-1-4120-7032-4 .
  • Marie-Hélène Sachet: Histoire de l'Île Clipperton . 1958.
  • Jimmy M. Skaggs: Clipperton. A history of the island the world forgot . Walker, New York 1989, ISBN 0-8027-1090-5 .

Web links

Commons : Clipperton Island  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikimedia Atlas: Clipperton Island  geographical and historical maps

Individual evidence

  1. Clipperton - Territoire. In: Bienvenue sur l'île de la Passion ... Clipperton! Christian Jost, accessed on September 26, 2016 (French).
  2. ^ Robert Perger: The land crab Johngarthia planata (Stimpson, 1860) (Crustacea, Brachyura, Gecarcinidae) colonizes human-dominated ecosystems in the continental mainland coast of Mexico . In: Biodiversity Data Journal . tape 2 , August 7, 2014, ISSN  1314-2828 , doi : 10.3897 / bdj.2.e1161 .
  3. Loïc Charpy, M. Rodier, G. Sarazin: Clipperton, a Meromictic Lagoon . In: Hubert-Jean Ceccaldi u. a. (Ed.): Global Change: Mankind-Marine Environment Interactions . Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht 2011, ISBN 978-90-481-8629-7 , pp. 351-356 , doi : 10.1007 / 978-90-481-8630-3_62 (English).
  4. a b Clipperton - Le lagon. In: Bienvenue sur l'île de la Passion ... Clipperton! Christian Jost, accessed on September 26, 2016 (French).
  5. a b Histoire - XIXe siècle. (No longer available online.) In: Clipperton. Clipperton - Projets d'Outre-Mer, archived from the original on June 4, 2016 ; Retrieved September 26, 2016 (French).
  6. ^ Marie-Hélène Sachet: Geography and land ecology of Clipperton Island . In: Pacific Science Board (Ed.): Atoll Research Bulletin . No. 86 , February 28, 1962, ISSN  0077-5630 , Physiographic changes - Historical change due to natural causes, p. 69–70 (English, online , PDF; 10.1 MB).
  7. ^ Minor French Dependencies. Clipperton Island. In: World Retrieved September 26, 2016 .
  8. ^ Codification des collectivités d'outre-mer (COM). Île de Clipperton 98-9. In: Insee - Définitions, méthodes et qualité. INSEE , accessed on September 26, 2016 (French).
  9. ^ Clipperton - Evolution. In: Bienvenue sur l'île de la Passion ... Clipperton! Christian Jost, accessed on September 26, 2016 (French).
  10. Yohann Soubeyran: Espèces exotiques envahissantes dans les collectivités Françaises d'outre-mer. Budget des lieux et recommandations . Comité français de l'UICN, Paris 2008, ISBN 978-2-9517953-9-6 , 2 ème partie: Synthèse par collectivité - Clipperton, p. 155 (French, online , PDF; 2.39 MB).
  11. All fishes reported from Clipperton Island. In: Retrieved September 26, 2016 .
  12. Jimmy M. Skaggs: Clipperton . Walker & Company, New York 1989, ISBN 0-8027-1090-5 .
  13. z. B. Ivo Mansmann: Clipperton . Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle 1990, ISBN 3-354-00709-5 .