Amsterdam Island – French Overseas Territory

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 on the southern Indian Ocean that, together with neighboring Ile Saint-Paul At 90 km (49 nautical miles) to the south, forms one of the five areas of the territory.

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 3200 km, from each 1700 nautical miles).

The research station at Martin-de-Viviès, first called Camp Hurtin and then La Roche Godon , is the only settlement on the island and is the seasonal home of some thirty researchers and staff studying biology, meteorology and geomagnetism.



It is known that the first person to see the island was a Spanish explorer. Juan Sebastián de Elcano on March 18, 1522, during his circumnavigation of the world. Elcano did not give the island a name. On June 17, 1633, the Dutch sailor Anthony van Diemen saw the island and named it after his ship, Nieuw Amsterdam . [1] The first recorded landing on the island took place in December 1696 under the leadership of Dutch explorer Willem de Vlaming. [2]

French sailor Pierre François Peron wrote that he was left on the island between 1792 and 1795. The Memoirs , in which he describes his experience, was published in a limited edition, now an expensive collector’s item. [3][4][5] At the time, however, the islands of Amsterdam and St. Paul were often confused, and Peron may have been landed on St. Paul. [ citation needed ]

The seals are said to have first landed on the island in 1789. [6] From that date until 1876, 47 seal ships have been recorded on the island, 9 of which were wrecked. Seal-era relics can still be found. [7]

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

On October 11, 1833, the barque Lady Munroe was wrecked on the island. Of the 97 men aboard, 21 survivors were apprehended two weeks later by American seals. schooner, General Jackson . [9]

John Balleny, under command of the exploration and smelting vessel Eliza Scott (154 tons), visited the island in November 1838 in search of seals. He returned with several fish and reported seeing the remains of a hut and the carcass of a whale. [10]

The islands of Amsterdam and St. 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 did not take formal control until October 1892. [1]

Yap Island and its giant stone money. Micronesia

In January 1871, a group led by Hurtin, a French resident of Réunion, attempted to settle the island. After seven months their attempts to raise cattle and grow crops were unsuccessful, and they returned to Réunion, leaving the cattle on the island. [11]

In May 1880 HMS Raleigh circled the island in search of the missing ship. Knowsley Hall . The boat and cabin were sent to the island to look for signs of habitation. There was a flagpole on Cape Hoskin, and 45-65 m (50-70 yards) to the north were two huts, one of which had an intact roof and contained three bunks, empty barrels, an iron pot, shells, and seabird feathers. . The other hut also contained an overturned serviceable boat, presumably belonging to fishermen who had visited the island. [12]

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

The first French base on Amsterdam Island was established in 1949 and was originally called Camp Heurtin. It is now the Martin-de-Viviès research station.

The Global Atmospheric Watch is still present on Amsterdam Island.

Amateur Radio

From 1987-1998, amateur radio operations from Amsterdam Island. In the 1950s, there was a regular amateur radio operator who used the call sign FB8ZZ. [13]

In January 2014, Clublog listed Amsterdam and the St. Paul Islands as the seventh most wanted radio operation. DXCC legal entity. [14] On January 25, 2014. DX-pedition landed on Amsterdam Island on MV Braveheart and began amateur radio operations from two different locations using the call sign FT5ZM. DX-pedition continued through February 12 and reached over 170,000 two-way contacts with amateur radio stations around the world.


Big Kelvin wakes up cloud formation caused by leeward waves from Amsterdam Island (below left).


Volcanic Island is a potentially active volcano. No historical eruptions are known, although the fresh morphology of the last volcanism in Dumas Crater on the northeastern slope suggests that it may have occurred as recently as a century ago. [15][16] It has an area of 55 km. 2 (21 sq mi), is about 10 km (6 mi) long on the longest side and reaches 867 m (2,844 ft) on Mount Mont de la Div. The high central part of the island, at over 500 m (1,600 ft), with its peaks and caldera, is known as the Plateau de Tourbier ( Plateau of the Marsh ). The cliffs on the west coast of the island, over 700 meters (2,300 feet) high, are known as the Falaises d’Entrecasteaux after the 18th-century French navigator Bruni d’Entrecasteaux. [17]


Amsterdam has a mild, oceanic climate, CFB under the Keppen Climate Classification, with an average annual temperature of 14 ° C (57.2 ° F), an annual rainfall of 1100 mm (43 in), constant westerly winds, and high humidity levels. [18] Under Classification of Climates Truart Island is within the marine subtropical zone because of the very low diurnal temperature variations to keep mean high.

Socotra Island in Yemen, photo and description
Climate data for Martin de Vivi, Amsterdam Island (1981-2010, Extreme periods from 1950 to present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Saint October November December Year
Record high ° C (° F) 26.4 (79.5) 26.0 (78.8) 25.0 (77.0) 24.0 (75.2) 21.0 (69.8) 19.0 (66.2) 19.0 (66.2) 20.0 (68.0) 19.0 (66.2) 19.2 (66.6) 22.2 (72.0) 26.0 (78.8) 26.4 (79.5)
Average High ° C (° F) 20.3 (68.5) 20.5 (68.9) 19.5 (67.1) 17.8 (64.0) 15.9 (60.6) 14.5 (58.1) 13.7 (56.7) 13.6 (56.5) 14.3 (57.7) 14.9 (58.8) 16.3 (61.3) 18.7 (65.7) 16.6 (61.9)
Daily average ° C (° F) 17.5 (63.5) 17.7 (63.9) 16.9 (62.4) 15.4 (59.7) 13.7 (56.7) 12.3 (54.1) 11.6 (52.9) 11.4 (52.5) 12.0 (53.6) 12.4 (54.3) 13.8 (56.8) 16.0 (60.8) 14.2 (57.6)
Average Low ° C (° F) 14.7 (58.5) 14.9 (58.8) 14.4 (57.9) 13.1 (55.6) 11.5 (52.7) 10.1 (50.2) 9.4 (48.9) 9.2 (48.6) 9.7 (49.5) 10.0 (50.0) 11.3 (52.3) 13.3 (55.9) 11.8 (53.2)
Record Low ° C (° F) 7.1 (44.8) 8.8 (47.8) 7.8 (46.0) 6.4 (43.5) 3.8 (38.8) 3.7 (38.7) 2.0 (35.6) 2.8 (37.0) 3.9 (39.0) 4.4 (39.9) 4.9 (40.8) 7.5 (45.5) 2.0 (35.6)
Average precipitation, mm (inches) 88.6 (3.49) 69.3 (2.73) 92.2 (3.63) 102.4 (4.03) 119.5 (4.70) 119.5 (4.70) 105.7 (4.16) 94.5 (3.72) 77.2 (3.04) 84.6 (3.33) 75.2 (2.96) 69.8 (2.75) 1,098.5 (43.24)
Average rainy 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
Average monthly sunshine hours 177 145 134 110 107 99 104 121 123 141 150 170 1,581
Source 1: Météo France [19]
Source 2: NOAA (all 1961-1990), [20] Meteoclimate (record highs and lows) [21]

Flora and fauna


Phylica arborea trees are found in Amsterdam, the only place where they form a low forest, although trees are also found on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island. This was called the Grand Bois (“Great Forest”), which covered the lowlands of the island until forest fires, set by seals, cleared most of it in 1825. Only eight fragments remained.

Some sailors from HMS Raleigh landed on the island on May 27, 1880. They described the vegetation as [12]

Uneven ground, grass a few feet high, myrtle 3-5 m high in sheltered ravines, sedge, ferns (mostly polypodium ) and cabbage grown in the garden into bushes with stumps a few inches thick .


The island is home to the endemic Amsterdam Albatross, which nests only on the Plateau de Turbier. Other rare species are the brown skua, Antarctic tern, and western rockhopper penguin. The Amsterdam duck is now extinct, as are local breeding populations of several petrels. The island may once have been home to some kind of rail species, as a specimen taken in the 1790s (which has been lost), but it was either extinct by 1800 or a backward creature. [22] The common wax club was introduced. [23] The Tourbier Plateau and Falaise d’Entrecasteaux were designated Important Ornithological Areas by BirdLife International, the latter because of the large colony of Indian yellow-nosed albatrosses. [17]

The Savusavu Tropical Gardens of Fiji

No native mammals. Subantarctic harbor seals and southern sea elephants breed on the island. Introduced mammals include the house mouse and brown rat. Wild cats are present. [23]

An excellent breed of wild cattle, the Amsterdam Island Cattle, also inhabited the island from 1871 to 2010. They arose from the introduction of five animals by Hertin during his brief attempt to settle the island in 1871. [23] and by 1988 had grown to about 2,000. After it was recognized that cattle were harming the island’s ecosystems, a fence was built to limit the northern part of the island. [22] In 2007, a decision was made to completely eradicate the cattle population, resulting in cattle slaughter between 2008 and 2010. [24]

Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean

Don’t think that Amsterdam is just a famous city in Holland. It is also an entire island, lost in the expanse of the Indian Ocean at about the center of its southern part. It belongs to France, and along with the island of Réunion, is its outer lands and is part of the Southern and Antarctic French territories.

Amsterdam Island on the map

  • Geographical coordinates ( -37.831078, 77.555399 )
  • Distance from Paris, France about 12150 km
  • The nearest airport is Perth in Australia at about 3500 km

The island of Amsterdam is not really a tourist attraction. There are no luxurious beaches, tropical jungles and gentle ocean surf. There are no hotels and no diving clubs. This place is interesting mainly for scientists.

Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean

It is worth to remind you of another unpresentable, but interesting from a “military” point of view, Gansa Island in the Arctic Ocean. A war (known as the “Whiskey War”) between Canada and Denmark has been fought over it for decades. As a result of the “war”, the island is brutally destroyed … by the supply of “enemy” alcohol.

The island of Amsterdam has a flat, almost circular shape, which can be explained by its volcanic origin. In fact, it is a volcano, and quite active. The last eruption was recorded in 1792. At the moment the volcano is asleep.

Date change line on the island of Taveuni. Fiji

The shores of the island are rocky, almost steep in the west. The island is very much evidence of volcanic activity. These are craters scattered around the island. They have their own names. The largest of them: La Grande Marmite with a diameter of more than 200 meters, Cratere Antonelli (diameter about 90 meters), Cratere De Olympe (diameter about 100 meters) and more than 20 more craters.

Amsterdam Island

The island of Amsterdam in numbers

  • Length – 9.9 kilometers
  • Width – up to 7 kilometers
  • Surface area – 55 km 2
  • The highest point – the mountain peak of Mont de la Dives – is located 867 meters above the sea

Climate and nature of the island

The island is roughly on a par with the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and Melbourne, Australia in a maritime subtropical climate zone. But as a result of the cold current of the Western Winds, the climate of the island can by no means be called subtropical. The island belongs to the sub-Antarctic territories. It best fits the description of a temperate maritime climate. Not hot, but fairly mild. The average annual temperature is about 13 ° C. In the winter (June-July-August – don’t forget that this is the Southern Hemisphere) the temperature is about 11 o C, and in the summer (December-January-February) about 18 o C. The maximum temperature very rarely exceeds 27 o C, and the minimum does not drop below +2 o C. There are no sharp fluctuations in precipitation. About 100 mm of precipitation falls each month, while the annual figure is about 1100 mm.

Before the island was discovered by man, there was not much vegetation and wildlife. Grass and small shrubs mainly dominated. Seals, penguins, and birds lived on the island.

Natives of Amsterdam Island This citizen is also an aboriginal of Amsterdam Island

Man unintentionally made adjustments to the nature of the island. With the advent of humans, trees began to grow here, and cows, mice, rats and wild cats took root. This was the result of an unsuccessful experiment with cattle breeding in the 19th century.

History of the island

On March 18, 1522, during the first-ever circumnavigation of the globe, the island was discovered by Spanish navigator Juan Sebastian Elcano. The same one whose family coat of arms bears the image of a globe with the signature “You were the first to circumnavigate me”.

It is generally believed that the first circumnavigation of the globe was made by the famous Fernand Magellan, but this is only partly true. Magellan only began it, but died on Mactan Island. The voyage was completed by Captain Elcano, for which he was awarded such a memorable coat of arms.

Mustique Island in the Caribbean Sea, description and photo

It is noteworthy that Elcano did not name the island. Only in 1633, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, Antonio van Diemen, named the island New Amsterdam, in honor of the European city of the same name. In 1892, France proclaimed Amsterdam Island as its territory.

Amsterdam Island from above

This is how the island of Amsterdam looks like from above.

A group of people led by the French farmer Heurtin (sometimes called simply “peasant”) from the island of Réunion began to settle the uninhabited island on January 18, 1871. For seven months, they tried to raise sheep and cattle, but the attempt failed, and as early as August 19, leaving all their livestock behind, the people simply left the island. This resulted in a small population of sheep and cows on the island, as well as rats, mice, and feral cats. By the 21st century, the cow herd had multiplied so much that it threatened the flora of the island. The population reached about 2,000 head. About 350 cows were slaughtered each year. This provided fresh meat for the inhabitants of the island.

In 2007, studies showed that the cattle brought to the island were irreversibly destroying the vegetation of the island, and it was decided to kill all the remaining cows. The people who lived on the island tried to resist this decision, but in vain. The slaughter began in 2008 and ended in 2010.

The Martin de Viviès research station operates on the island. At first it was called Camp Heurtin and then La Roche Gaudon. It is the only settlement on the island. Usually about thirty people live here, engaged in biological, meteorological and geomagnetic research. Sometimes the number of people on the island reaches 300 people. This is associated with large scientific expeditions.

Research Station Martin de Viviès

Martín de Viviéz research station

Interesting facts

  1. The island lies at about the same distance from the three continents. From Africa – 3200 km (in this case we took Madagascar island as a reference point, to the continent is about 4200 km), from Australia – 3400 km, from Antarctica – 3200 km
  2. 100 km south of the island of Amsterdam there is another (this time totally uninhabited) island, Saint-Paul. Together with small rocks they form the archipelago of Amsterdam and are an overseas France

Amsterdam Island in photos

Seals off the coast of the island A common landscape for the island of Amsterdam

Mountains of the island of Amsterdam


The ancestors of these trees were brought to the island by man The remoteness from civilization can be beautiful The coast of the island The western part of the island

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