Chronologie des îles Crozet
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THE CROZET ISLANDS

On the 31st December, at 1.30 A.M., the vessel tacked and stood off Hog Island under easy sail until daylight. At 3.30 A.M. she tacked again and stood towards the land, but the weather becoming thick, at 6 A.M. again stood off under topsails and jib. Shortly after noon the fog lifted a little and sail was made, and the island was sighted again at 3 P.M., but only the coast and breakers were visible. The ship ran along the western shore to the southward, and obtained a sounding of 105 fathoms 5 miles from the land. At 5 P.M. Penguin Island was seen through the mist, and at 6 P.M. sail was shortened to double-reefed topsails, and the vessel hauled to the wind on the starboard tack for the night. At 7 P.M. a dense fog surrounded the ship so that one could see only a few yards.

On the 1st January 1874 the fog still continued over the water, although overhead the sky was clear. Observations were obtained, but the horizon was badly defined, so that they could not be implicitly relied on. At 3 P.M. a sounding was obtained in 600 fathoms, and shortly afterwards the fog lifted and Penguin Island was observed bearing N. by E., but only for a few minutes. At this time the wind, which during the day had been light and variable, shifted to E.S.E. and gradually freshened to a royal breeze accompanied by rain. At 5 P.M. the ship tacked and stood to the southward, off the land, under single-reefed topsails, the weather being thick and rainy (see Sheet 20). The observations this day placed Penguin Island 5 miles N.W. by N. of the position assigned it by Captain Cecille; these observations have been subsequently confirmed by H.M.S. “Wolverene.”

On the 2nd January at 2 A.M. the wind shifted to W.S.W. through south, and freshened to a moderate gale, the weather still continuing foggy. At 7 A.M. the wind began to moderate, and the vessel bore up for Possession Island. At noon the weather though misty was fine and the wind light. At this time a sight was caught of the high peaks of Possession Island, for a few minutes, over the mist which completely enshrouded the lower parts of the island; at 3.30 P.M. they were seen again, and more clearly; they were sharp, and contrary to expectation, were found to be quite free from snow. Their height was estimated to be about 5000 feet, but it was impossible to obtain angular measurements owing to the fog*. At 4 P.M. the breakers were seen against the weather shore of Possession Island, and a few minutes afterwards the coast of the island itself became visible through the mist. The ship was steered to pass round its south side, and it was noticed as the island was rounded that the sun was shining on the lee side of the land, the weather side only being covered with fog. At 6 P.M. three points on the S.W. side of the island were in line N. 9° W., and the southwest point bore N. 70° E. From this position 3 miles from the shore the details of the coast could be clearly distinguished through the mist, especially the waterfalls, which were very numerous. After rounding the southwest point the vessel passed completely out of the fog, which formed a dense bank behind, whilst ahead was another dense coming round the northeast side of the island. To the eastward the peaks of East Island were visible over the mist, which completely obscured its lower parts (fig. 128); some snow was observed in the crevices of theses rugged eminences. At 7 P.M. the ship stopped off the cove on the southeast coast of Possession Island, and a hut and some boats being observed on the beach at its head, a gun was fired to attract attention; the hut appeared, however, to be deserted. The slopes appeared from the ship to be covered with a vegetation similar to that of Marion Island, which did not, however, extend so high up the mountains. They were covered with Albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) nesting as at Marion Island, and the birds seen about the ship were the same as at that island. There occurs here, in addition, the Kerguelen Teal (Querquedula eatoni), which is not known to extend its range to the Prince Edward group of islands.

*This estimate may be considerably in error; for when the lower parts of the land are shrouded in mist it is extremely difficult to estimate heights.

The cross swell prevented the Challenger anchoring outside Navire Cove, so the vessel steamed along the land hoping to find anchorage in America Bay, but on rounding the east point the long swell indicated too clearly the hopelessness of the search under the present circumstances, and it was decided to proceed to the southwestward. At 8.40 P.M. the extremities of Possession Island bore N.W. and N. by E. 4° E.: from which position the vessel stood to W.S.W. under double-reefed topsails.

Challenger (1873)

FIG 128.- East Island, Crozet Group, seen from H.M.S. Challenger, January 2nd, 1874.

On the 3rd January another short, sharp gale was experienced, similar to that of the 2nd, which lasted three hours. It had passed over by 9 A.M., when the ship sounded and dredged in 210 and 550 fathoms southwards of Possession Island (see Sheet 20). The weather during the day, although not foggy, was still too thick to allow anything of either Possession or East Islands to be seen at a distance of from 15 to 20 miles. At 4 P.M. the vessel left the neighbourhood of the Crozet for Kerguelen Island.

The Crozets (see Sheet 20), a group of six islands with some outlying rocks, were discovered by M. Marion du Fresne on the 23rd January 1772. He first saw the north-western islands of the group now designated “Hog Island” and “Apostles Island”, which were named by him “Les îles froides”, and afterwards the southeastern islands, which he called “Possession” and “Aride” islands, the latter now designated “East Island”. M. Marion sent an officer on shore at Possession Island and left a bottle there with a paper in it claiming the group as an appanage of the King of France. From 1772 until 1802 the Crozets do not appear to have been visited, but in that year an American whaling vessel, the “Catherine”, Captain Henry Fanning, landed a gang of sealers on Possession Island, since which time the group has been constantly visited at intervals by these adventurous navigators. In 1820 a cutter called the "Princess of Wales" was wrecked on Possession Island whilst engaged in the seal fishing, and from one of her crew named Charles Goodridge an interesting account of their two years' residence was obtained and published in 1833*. Previously to 1820, hogs were landed on the island which now bears that name, but by whom or how is doubtful, and Goodridge relates that large numbers of them were seen in that year. In 1838 the islands were visited by Captain Cecille of the French sloop "Heroine", which vessel had been despatched to assist and report on the French deep-sea fisheries. Captain Cecille anchored in Navire Cove, which he surveyed, and he also fixed the position and made a running survey of all the islands. Captain Cecille found on Possession Island the crews of two American vessels, which had been lost, and a French ship, the "Bordelais", in Navire Bay.

*Narrative of a Voyage to the South Seas, &c., by C. M. Goodridge. London, Hamilton & Adams, 1833.

In 1840 the group was visited by Sir James Ross in the "Erebus", who found a sealing party of eleven men on Possession Island, one of whom had been there three years. Since the visit of the Challenger the Apostles Islands have been the scene of a terrible calamity, the wreck of the "Strathmore", in July 1875, which has resulted in the group being visited by H.M.S. "Wolverene" on her passage to Australia. From the several descriptions published from time to time, and from information received from the whalers and sealers at Kerguelen, the following account of the islands has been drawn up:-

The Crozet Islands are situated between the parallels of 46° 0' and 46° 35' S. latitude, and the meridians of 50° 20' and 52° 20' E. longitude, and they may be said to consist of two groups, an eastern and western. The western group consists of four islands, lying in a north and south direction from each other-the two Apostles, Hog, and Penguin or Inaccessible Island, and the Heroine Breakers; the eastern group consists of Possession and East or Aride Islands, with a few outlying rocks in no case exceeding a distance of 3 miles from the shore. Hog Island is round-backed, the summit rising to an elevation of certainly 2000 feet above the level of the sea; the north point is a perpendicular cliff some 200 feet in height, the south point being low, with several detached rocks close off it. Against its western shore the constant westerly swell breaks violently, rendering landing impossible on that side; on the leeward or eastern side it is occasionally accessible, but even here it is frequently very dangerous, as the rollers often come round both ends, and even the experienced crews of whaling boats are sometimes swamped and drowned. There were no pigs in 1873, but the whole place was overrun with rabbits. The Apostles Islands do not exceed 500 feet in height; they are only separated by a narrow chasm, and have the appearance of being a number of islands from seaward owing to their rising in detached boulder-like peaks, twelve in number, hence their name. Penguin Island (sometimes called Inaccessible) is a solitary basaltic islet, which rises in castellated pinnacles 900 or 1000 feet above the level of the sea. On it may usually be seen numerous Penguins and other birds. Owing to its small extent and the constant swell, landing is almost impossible; off its southern end is a rock under water, over which the sea was seen to break by the officers of the "Wolverene." Between Hog and Penguin Islands are the Heroine Breakers, first seen by Captain Cecille, a dangerous group of rocks, the precise position of which has not yet been ascertained.

The two eastern islands are high and rugged, their sharp, well-defined peaks rising to heights of 4000 and 5000 feet above the sea level. Their coasts are in most cases rocky and precipitous, especially that of East Island, and off the north end of Possession Island is a remarkable perforated rock, through which it is said a vessel might sail. Landing may generally be effected on Possession Island either in the cove on its southeast end or in some of the bays on its northeast side, but sometimes days have passed without the sealers being able to launch a boat. It is usually difficult to land on East Island. In the passage between Possession and East Islands a depth of 85 fathoms was found by Sir James Ross. Navire Cove has sufficient depth of water for a vessel to anchor, but it is so small and exposed that even schooners should be cautious in running the risk of entering it; in fact, some vessels have been wrecked there when trying to ride out an easterly wind. The "Heroine" in 1838 and recently the "Wolverene" anchored just outside the cove for a short time. The eastern, like the western, group is of igneous origin, and columns of basalt are common to all the islands. Their upper portions are barren, but their lower parts are covered with a thick herbaceous vegetation resembling in appearance that of Marion Island, with here and there Tussock Grass and the Kerguelen Cabbage; Penguin Island, however, appeared very bare.

From all sides of the precipitous black cliffs, cataracts fall over into the sea, and water is found in numerous ponds all over the group. The islands are frequented by Elephant and Fur Seals, although these are not so plentiful as formerly, and as there is no lack of water there is no danger of shipwrecked mariners dying of starvation. The blubber of the Elephant Seal and the skins of Penguins with the adherent fat furnish the material for fire, and the flesh of the Seals and birds, the eggs of the latter, together with the Kerguelen Cabbage, form a nourishing diet on which the sealers residing at times on one or other of the islands have usually lived, and with which they appear to have been contented.

As before mentioned, pigs have been landed on Hog Island, but they are now exterminated, for the sealers found them unpalatable in consequence of their habit of eating Penguins. In Goodridge's time the wild hogs were very fierce and dangerous to approach single-handed, having very large tusks. The sealers are against the introduction of pigs into the Southern Islands, as they destroy the birds, which are the main chance of support of castaway mariners. Rabbits, however, flourish, though they are said to be strong in flavour and unpalatable, goats also thrive well on the Tussock Grass. There are at present no goats on any islands of the group. It certainly would be an advantage if some were landed on each island, for although it is decidedly dangerous to navigate in their neighbourhood, and vessels running down their easting would do well to avoid them, it appears highly probable that so long as seal-skins fetch a high price in the market, and vessels bound to Australia go south at all risks in order to shorten the time in making the passage, so long will this group be the occasional scene of dire shipwrecks, which may be even more disastrous than that of the "Strathmore", more especially now that fast steamers run to Australia via the Cape of Good Hope. Charles Goodridge, in his account already referred to, describes the discovery by his party, at the distance of more than a mile above the reach of the tides, of several trunks of trees about 14 feet long, and from 14 to 18 inches in diameter, lying on the ground as if thrown up by the sea. The wood was close, heavy, and hard, but being split up with wedges made very good clubs; hence it was not fossil wood. Goodridge concluded that it was drift wood thrown up so far during some volcanic convulsion.

The weather in the vicinity of the Crozet Islands may be described generally as bleak, boisterous, and foggy. No regular meteorological observations have been kept by the parties who have temporarily resided on these islands whilst collecting seal-skins; in fact, the subject of meteorology has been hitherto much neglected by whaling vessels generally, although there are some notable instances to the contrary. The prevalent wind is westerly, but easterly winds occasionally blow for a short time, and although, generally, they do not last long or acquire much force, they have been known, as before mentioned, to be strong enough to wreck vessels that have taken shelter in Navire Cove. The great obstacle to navigation in the vicinity of this group is, however, the almost constant state of fog and overcast sky which, besides concealing the islands from view, prevents the position of the vessel being ascertained, and as icebergs have been seen near these islands by M. Marion du Fresne in January, by Ross in May, and by H.M.S. "Wolverene" in November, this is another feature of danger to be considered by the seamen who take the route to Australia recommended by Maury.

The climate of the islands, though rigorous, appears to be equable, owing probably to the temperature of the sea, which has been found here to be pretty constant at 40° to 42°. When first seen by Marion in January the mountains were covered with snow, and Captain Cecille also speaks of them as snow clad. Sir James Ross does not mention whether they were clear or not when he saw them, but when the Challenger was in their vicinity little or no snow could be seen during the short time the higher parts of the islands were visible. This would seem to indicate that the show can never attain any considerable thickness at this group; at any rate, the icebergs seen in their vicinity cannot be formed by glaciers descending from their summits.

Extrait de Report on the scientific results of the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76.

Expéditions scientifiques aux îles Crozet
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