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Île Amsterdam

Île Amsterdam

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New Amsterdam, Amsterdam Island, or Île Amsterdam (ilamstəʁˈdam; named after Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, the Dutch capital; also called Nouvelle Amsterdam) is a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

 in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 located at 37°49′33"S 77°33′17"E. It is part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.


This island was discovered by the Basque
Basque people
The Basques as an ethnic group, primarily inhabit an area traditionally known as the Basque Country , a region that is located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France.The Basques are known in the...

 explorer Juan Sebastián Elcano on March 18, 1522, along his first world circumnavigation
Circumnavigation – literally, "navigation of a circumference" – refers to travelling all the way around an island, a continent, or the entire planet Earth.- Global circumnavigation :...

. Elcano did not name the island, however.

Having found the island unnamed, the Dutch captain Anthonie van Diemen named it Nieuw Amsterdam (Dutch for New Amsterdam) after his ship in 1633.

French Captain Pierre François Péron
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...

 (not to be confused with François Péron
François Péron
François Auguste Péron was a French naturalist and explorer. He is credited with the first use of the term anthropology.-Explorations:...

) was marooned three years on this island (from 1792 to 1795). Peron's Memoires, in which he describes his survival alone on New Amsterdam, were published in a limited edition and are now an expensive collectors' item.

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

The islands of Île Amsterdam and Île Saint-Paul were attached to Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

 in 1924 and hence became a French colony.

However, Amsterdam island, along with Saint-Paul island, is considered by some Mauritian parties as a national territory. The question of Mauritian sovereignty over these 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
Tromelin Island
Tromelin Island is a low, flat 0.8-square-kilometre island in the Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar . There are no harbours or anchorages and access by sea is difficult. The island has a 1,200-metre airstrip. It is a French territory...

 which has been officially maintained for a long time.

The first French base in New Amsterdam was erected in 1949, and was originally called Camp Heurtin. The Global Atmosphere Watch
Global Atmosphere Watch
The Global Atmosphere Watch is a worldwide system established by the World Meteorological Organization a United Nations agency to monitor trends in the Earth's atmosphere...

 still has a research station on Île Amsterdam.


The volcanic island is a potentially active volcano which last erupted in 1792. It has an area of 55 square kilometre, 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 altude of over 500 m, containing its peaks and caldera, is known as the Plateau des Tourbières
Plateau des Tourbières
The Plateau des Tourbières 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 , Grande Marmite and Mont Fernand...

 (in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 the Plateau of Bogs).

The island is a part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (Terres australes et antarctiques françaises; TAAF), and together with neighboring Île Saint-Paul
Île Saint-Paul
Île Saint-Paul is an island forming part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands in the Indian Ocean, with an area of . It is located about southwest of the larger Île Amsterdam, and south of Réunion...

 (85 km (52.8 mi) to the South) forms one of the five districts of the territory. Its base, Martin-de-Viviès
Martin-de-Viviès, is the only settlement of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands territory of Amsterdam and St Paul Islands in the southern Indian Ocean. It lies on the north coast of Amsterdam Island and houses about 20 scientists and staff....

, formerly called La Roche Godon, is the capital of the territory.

Île Amsterdam is one of only three land antipodes
In geography, the antipodes of any place on Earth is the point on the Earth's surface which is diametrically opposite to it. Two points that are antipodal to one another are connected by a straight line running through the centre of the Earth....

 of the continental United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. It corresponds to an area about 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Lamar, Colorado
Lamar, Colorado
The City of Lamar is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous city of Prowers County, Colorado, United States. The city population was 8,869 at the U.S...

. (The other two land antipodes of the U.S. are île Saint-Paul
Île Saint-Paul
Île Saint-Paul is an island forming part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands in the Indian Ocean, with an area of . It is located about southwest of the larger Île Amsterdam, and south of Réunion...

 and Kerguelen Island.)

The only human habitation is at the Martin-de-Viviès base with about 30 inhabitants related to the study of fauna, weather, the atmosphere and geomagnetism.


Île Amsterdam has a mild, oceanic climate
Oceanic climate
An oceanic climate, also called marine west coast climate, maritime climate, Cascadian climate and British climate for Köppen climate classification Cfb and subtropical highland for Köppen Cfb or Cwb, is a type of climate typically found along the west coasts at the middle latitudes of some of the...

, with a mean annual temperature of 13 °C (55.4 °F), rainfall of 1100 mm (43.3 in), persistent westerly winds and high levels of humidity.

Fauna and flora

The island has Phylica arborea
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...

trees, which are also found on Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha is a remote volcanic group of islands in the south Atlantic Ocean and the main island of that group. It is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying from the nearest land, South Africa, and from South America...

 and Gough Island
Gough Island
Gough Island , also known historically as Gonçalo Álvares or Diego Alvarez, is a volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a dependency of Tristan da Cunha and part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha...



The island is home to the endemic Amsterdam Albatross
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, exulans...

, which breeds only on the Plateau des Tourbières
Plateau des Tourbières
The Plateau des Tourbières 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 , Grande Marmite and Mont Fernand...

. Other rare species are the Great Skua
Great Skua
The Great Skua, Stercorarius skua, is a large seabird in the skua family Stercorariidae. In Britain, it is sometimes known by the name Bonxie, a Shetland name of unknown origin.-Description:...

, Antarctic Tern
Antarctic Tern
The Antarctic Tern is a typical tern. It ranges throughout the southern oceans. It is very similar in appearance to the closely related Arctic Tern, but is stockier, and the wing tips are grey instead of blackish in flight...

 and Western Rockhopper Penguin. The Amsterdam Duck is now extinct
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

, as are the local breeding populations of several petrel
Petrels are tube-nosed seabirds in the bird order Procellariiformes. The common name does not indicate relationship beyond that point, as "petrels" occur in three of the four families within that group...

s. The Common Waxbill
Common Waxbill
The Common Waxbill , also known as the St Helena Waxbill, is a small passerine bird belonging to the estrildid finch family. It is native to sub-Saharan Africa but has been introduced to many other regions of the world and now has an estimated global extent of occurrence of 10,000,000 km²...

 has been introduced.


There are no native land mammals. Subantarctic fur seal
Subantarctic Fur Seal
The subantarctic fur seal is a fur seal found in the southern parts of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. It was first described by Gray in 1872 from a specimen recovered in northern Australia—hence the inappropriate tropicalis specific name.- Description :The subantarctic fur seal is...

s and southern elephant seal
Southern Elephant Seal
The Southern Elephant Seal is one of the two extant species of elephant seal. It is both the most massive pinniped and member of the order Carnivora living today...

s breed on the island. Introduced mammals include the house mouse
House mouse
The house mouse is a small rodent, a mouse, one of the most numerous species of the genus Mus.As a wild animal the house mouse mainly lives associated with humans, causing damage to crops and stored food....

 and brown rat
Brown Rat
The brown rat, common rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat, Norway rat, Brown Norway rat, Norwegian rat, or wharf rat is one of the best known and most common rats....

. Feral cat
Feral cat
A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats are born in the wild; the offspring of a stray cat can be considered feral if born in the wild.In many parts of...

s are present.

A distinct breed of wild cattle
Amsterdam Island Cattle
Amsterdam Island Cattle are a feral breed of wild cattle that has existed in isolation on Amsterdam Island, a small French territory in the southern Indian Ocean, since 1871.-History:...

 also inhabits the island. They originate from the introduction of five animals by Heurtin after his brief attempt at settlement of the island in 1871, 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 only part of the island.

See also

  • List of volcanoes in French Southern and Antarctic Lands
  • French overseas departments and territories
  • Administrative divisions of France
    Administrative divisions of France
    The administrative divisions of France are concerned with the institutional and territorial organization of French territory. There are many administrative divisions, which may have political , electoral , or administrative objectives.- Metropolitan France :As of January 1, 2008, metropolitan...

  • Islands controlled by France in the Indian and Pacific oceans
    Islands controlled by France in the Indian and Pacific oceans
    -Indian Ocean Islands:The following islands are in the Indian Ocean*Réunion - *Mayotte - *French Southern and Antarctic Lands **Amsterdam Island **Crozet Islands **Kerguelen Islands...

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