ISLANDS OF SEYCHELLES’ ARCHIPELAGO (Part 4)
Jean-Claude, P.MAHOUNE (Anthropologist/Political Scientist)
The seven(7) islands: Ile aux Vaches, Ile Denis are sand cays—but with their close proximity to Mahé, they are grouped in the granitic group. The two(2) sand cays, Ile aux Vaches (Bird) and Denis, share the shallow Seychelles bank with the other ‘true’ granitic islands.
ILE AUX VACHES (BIRD ISLAND)
Its name is derived from the sea-lions (vaches marines) which once bred there. It is now the breeding ground of millions of sea (sooty terns) forming one of the largest concentration of sea-birds in the world supplying eggs to Mahé.
A low, flat sand-cay, barely 2 metres above the high-water mark. The 69-hectare island is the most northerly of the islands in the Seychelles’ archipelago. It is on the very edge of the shallow Seychelles’ bank (‘sek’)—a kilometer or two beyond as the sea-bottom plunges abruptly to 3500 metres or more. All around or ‘bordage’ of the island the bottom is very shallow. It was once described as “a wooded expanse of dead coral overlaid with sand…thickly covered with palms, filaos and scrub”(D. Alexander).
It has been named after Denis de Trobriant whose ship L’Etoile was there in 1773. Like Ile aux Vaches, Ile Denis is of coral formation
Situated 85 kilometres from Victoria it lies close to the northern edge of the wide Seychelles’ Bank. A low, flat sand-cay it covers around 131 hectares. The sea around Denis Island is shallow-not more than 30 metres or less.
At the northern extremity of the island is a white iron tower—a lighthouse which in ‘moutya’ songs is described as ‘far ki roule’, 90 feet high.
The island which was bought by Harry Savy after World War II is the home of the Seychelles magpie robin or ‘pie chanteuse’. The 280-hectare granitic island which has an elevation of 135 metres is said to be the “easternmost landfall of the…Seychelles Group”, 48 kilometres from Mahé.
Frégate was frequented by pirates and a treasure is said to lie hidden in one of the caves.
Silhouette lies 22 kilometres from Port Victoria and 19 kilometres from Beau Vallon.. Described as “majestically beautiful and mountainous…almost as high as Mahé…”(D.Alexander), it is the third largest island in Seychelles with its highest peak, Mont Plaisir at 751 metres high.
The mountainous island is named after the French Controller-General of Finance in 1767, Etienne de Silhouette. Some historians believe that the ‘Arabs’(rather ‘lascars’)used the island as the base for their dhows as evidenced by the ruins of the tombs at Anse- Lascars.
For generations it was associated with the Dauban family who is said to have got it in exchange for a violin from the African owner !
ILE DU NORD
The island which has three(3) distinct ridges is 214 metres with a total area of 240 hectares and six(6) kilometers north of Silhouette and twenty three(23) north of Mahé.
With Mahé, Ile du Nord were the first islands of the Seychelles to be explored by the first European explorers. The English sailors under Captain Alexander Sharpeigh found ‘good quality coker nutts’(coconuts) and giant land tortoises which Captain John Jordan in his journal described as… “ good meate, as good as fresh beef”….
The steep 42-metre island is uninhabited except by wild rabbits and seabirds, particularly terns. The island has two(2) distinct summits with a low dip in between them, thus the name ‘mamelles’ (breasts). The lass is a bit deformed as the southern summit is the slightly higher of the two. The lighthouse is on the southern summit.
The island was given this name by Commandant Lampierre who came on La Curieuse in 1771..It is the most southerly of the granitic group and lies exactly 102 kilometres south of Capucin Point on Mahé and 124 kilometres from Victoria.
Platte rests on its own small underwater bank separated from the Seychelles Bank by forty(40) kilometers of deep water.
The island is encircled by coral---the sea around the island as shallow as 5 to 10 fathoms in places. There are (2) tricky passages and only small craft can navigate them to reach the placid sea lagoon inside the reef.
©Jean-Claude, P.MAHOUNE (“Zan Klod-Paskal’)
©Ivans K. ANDRE