It appears that the Amirantes were the first of the Seychelles’ islands to have been “discovered » by the Europeans in the 16th century. The Portuguese explorer ,Vasco da Gama, on his second voyage to India named the islands the Amirantes, his title in English--- ‘Admiral’.
It lies on a ‘shoaly’ shallow bank running 150 kilometres north to south and about 50 kilometres east to west. The shelf is separated from the Seychelles’ bank by an 80 kilometre wide ‘trough’ of 3 kilometres deep ocean. ‘Low-lying ,virtually flat, rarely rising more than seven(7) metres above the high water mark.
The Amirantes are the nearest coralline islands to Mahé. The African Banks, and Rémire are on the edge of the broad and shallow Amirantes Bank”. It is in fact the beginning of the “Outer” or “Outlying Islands”.
In his history book on Seychelles(1940),Dr. J.T. Bradley reproduced a description of the Amirantes by Professor J. Gardiner of the University of Cambridge in its ‘Geographical Journal”in 1907:
“The Amirantes or “Almirantes” was given by the early Portuguese navigators to this group. The first reference I find is that of Captain Sharpey, on the 19th January 1609, who made a note in his log book: he counted nine islands. He found none of these islands inhabited: there were innumerable flocks of doves, which were so tame that they were captured by the dozen. He found no water, but reports that he got coconuts and pigeons. He found traces of human beings, and although he searched carefully, no trace of inhabitants could be found. He found stone walls which he looked upon as built over a century ago.”…..
French mariners charted the bank in 1770 and it was partially examined and charted in 1821-22 by Captain Moresby and Lieutenant Hay of H.M.S Menai.The positions of the islands and the limits of the banks were accurately determined by Captain Maclear of H.M.S Alert in 1882.
The African Bank is the closest Amirante island to Mahé. It lies 213 kilometres west-south-west of Victoria. It has different characteristics from the “Seychelles’ Bank”--- low-lying islands consisting of a number of surface reefs rising from a bank of coral and sand. All the islands and islets of the group produced guano—The islands are usually visible from afar identified with the trees on them.
The northern-most landfall in the Amirantes group it consists of two(2) islets, North and South Island within 1.5 km of the edge of the Amirantes Bank. Both islands are flat and low, barely 3 metres above high water mark. They lie about 2,500 metres apart.
Rémire,also known as the Eagle islet is 261 kilometers from Victoria and 21 kilometres south of the African Bank. It was heavily exploited for its guano, more than 100,000 tons of compacted sea birds manure which was mined and heavily excavated particularly by the Seychelles Guano Company after World War 1.
Surrounded by coral, Rémire is barely 7 metres above the high water mark. It was the home of American anthropologist ,Wendy Veevers-Carter daughter of Clarence Day Jr who wrote the best-seller, ‘Life With Father”. She wrote ‘Island Homes’ and her conclusion was that she would not choose the challenges of life in London or New York, or even Mahé, over those of life on Remire Island for anything!
Almost circular with a three-quarter mile diameter ,it takes about 15 minutes to walk from one coast of Remire to the other and one hour to amble? around the island.
Rémire Reef is also known as Brisant Rémire and lies around 2.5 km east of Rémire Island.It is around 5 and 6 kilometres in length and runs in a north-easterly to south-westerly direction. In 1935 the ship ‘Diego” of Mauritius went ashore in a gale off Eagle. It probably struck that reef. Cast on a small island the passengers and crew of 68, which included a lady of some 100 years old and a 6-month old baby were finally rescued.
The islet which is low and flat is 240 km south-west of Victoria and 27 km south of Rémire Island. There is a deep channel between D’Arros and the atoll on which the island of St. Joseph is situated.
It lies 5 km east of D’Arros and consists of sixteen(16) sandcays which include Resource Islet, Fouquet Island, Benjamin Islet, Banc Ferrari(or Carcassaye Islet), Chien Islet, Pelican Islet, Paul(or Poules Island), Banc Coco and Banc Sable. The atoll is separated from D’Arros by a channel.
The 402-hectare island, barely above the high-water mark, lies 298 km from Victoria. It is named after a French governor of Mauritius which ran it jointly with the celebrated Pierre Poivre. The Shark Rocks is 8 km north of Desroches and from there the Amirante Bank drops suddenly to depths of 166 to 200 metres and more.
Desroches was detached along with Farquhar and Aldabra to form the British Indian Ocean Territory(B.I.O.T.) with plans for a military base. It was returned to Seychelles just before Independence.
It lies 264 km from Victoria and 29 km southward of St.Joseph Atoll and 32 km west of Desroches. The atoll of 160 hectares consists of North Poivre Island(350 acres), South Poivre(600 acres) and the tiny West Poivre. In 1931 the population of Poivre was forty(40) with a manager.
The island named in honour of the famous Pierre Poivre was home to Louis Poiret believed to be the Dauphin(Louis XVII) son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, from 1804 to 1822, when he left for Mahé.
Lying 296 km from Victoria and 29 km from Poivre Atoll the cay is a low-lying bank or reef formed by sand, rock and coral on the western edge of the Amirante Bank.
South of Etoile Cay, the long, low-lying sandbank has an elevation of 5 metres. It lies 315 km from Victoria and 26 km from Etoile Cay on the the ‘bordage’ of the Amirante Bank.
MARIE LOUISE ISLAND
Marie-Louise Island lies 11 km north east of Desnoeufs and 293 km from Victoria..
In the past copra was the main commercial activity and export of this low-lying sandy coralline island. It was then Crown Land leased by Harry Savy ,very well known businessman and planter. It was here that in 1905 a steamer caught fire whilst loading guano and sank.
It lies 309 km from Victoria and is the most southerly of the Amirantes Group, coral fringed , barely 5.5 metres above the high water mark.
As its name indicates, it was the source of more sea bird eggs than any island in Seychelles. Producing around 1,200,000 a year. Other islands like Aride, African Banks, Frégate and others together yielded only 700.000 eggs decades ago.. Over 2 million pairs of sooty terns and noddies lived and bred there. The biggest colony of roseate terns was also on Desnoeufs.
Outer Islands of Seychelles(Skerret/Pool/Skerett)(2010)(PHOTOS)
Seychelles-A bird’s eye view(C.Pavard)(2000)
Seychelles-From one Island to Another(C.Pavard)(1983)
Spectrum Guide to Seychelles(Camerapix Productions)(1993)
Coconuts and Creoles(Ozanne)(1935)
The History of Seychelles(Vol11)(J.T.Bradley(1940)
The Story of Seychelles(A.W.T.Webb)(1964)
©Zan Klod (Jean-Claude, P.MAHOUNE)
©Ivans, K. ANDRĒ