The Atlas of Remote Islands revisited, post 2 of 4

Part two of our virtual voyage around the world (part 1, the source material: Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands, ‘Fifty Islands I have not visited and never will’ – oddly the US edition is subtitled ‘Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will‘, with capitalisation)). Starting off with Clipperton Island, a French territory in the eastern Pacific. Île de Clipperton is uninhabited, a seven and half mile atoll encircling a lagoon of stagnant, eutrophic water. Schalansky focuses on the sordid life and death of Victoriano Álvarez, ‘king of Clipperton’ in the early C20, but we liked this tale from Wikipedia of re-balancing the atoll’s natural ecology: ‘It was visited by ornithologist Ken Stager of the Los Angeles County Museum in 1958. Appalled at the depredations visited by feral pigs upon the island’s brown booby and masked booby colonies (reduced to 500 and 150 birds, respectively), Stager procured a shotgun and killed all 58 pigs. By 2003, the booby colonies had 25,000 brown boobies and 112,000 masked boobies, the world’s second-largest brown booby colony and its largest masked booby colony’. See also The Clipperton Project and the book Clipperton: The Island of Lost Toys and Other Treasures // South Keeling Islands, once presided over by the Clunies-Ross family (one of whom died at Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, in 1910).

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Cocos Island, a Costa Rican territory. Schalansky tells the story of frustrated treasure hunter August Gissler, who spent 16 (or 20, accounts vary) years on the island hunting for the Treasure of Lima, explicitly referenced in 2014 by the project Treasure of Lima: A Buried Exhibition, which saw contemporary artworks buried on the island with a convoluted trail indicating their location. The project was developed by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation. A Guardian article and more details. In 1938, the American mobster Bugsy Siegel allegedly led a treasure hunt expedition to Cocos, bankrolled by his then partner, Countess Dorothy Dendice Taylor DiFrasso. The island also served as the model for Michael Crichton’s ‘Isla Nublar’, better known as Jurassic Park // Deception Island, Antarctica, a place of refuge for whalers in a desolate environment, home to the largest cemetery in Antarctica and site of the area’s first aircraft flight, in 1928. From Macaroni Point to Bailey Head the coast runs in an almost dead straight line. The Russian vessel MV Lyubov Orlova once ran aground here, before eventually becoming a ghost ship. Deception is still seismically active and rich in wildlife. The National Geographic has a gallery of old and new images of the island.

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Diego Garcia, from where the Chagossians were evicted and never allowed to return. Fifty years in forced exile, and still fighting. Life is no better for those working at what is the US’s largest overseas airbase // everyone knows about Easter Island. The wiki page is comprehensive, with much more information available at the Easter Island Statue Project. Building the statues decimated the island’s vegetation. The 3,318m runway at Mataveri International Airport was lengthened by NASA to serve as an abort site for Space Shuttles, only this particular launch configuration was never used, and the Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites ended up in Europe: Moron, Zaragoza, Istres. A full list of Shuttle emergency landings sites // on 24 August 1968, the French military detonated an H-bomb on Fangataufa. The test was Canopus, one of 193 undertaken in French Polynesia in the 60s and 70s. Another film, with no sound. In pop culture, this was the ‘test’ that inadvertently created Godzilla. Back in real life, How the Miracle Mollusks of Fangataufa Came Back After a Nuclear Blast // Floreana Island, one of the Galápagos Islands. Visited by Darwin during the second voyage of the HMS Beagle. In the 1930s, as Schalansky relates, it was the site of the Galapagos Affair. It became the basis of a documentary, sub-titled Satan Came to Eden: ‘Not even a screenwriter with a wild, even kitschy, imagination could come up with a storyline including a desert island, adultery, disappearance, murder, and well-documented social Darwinism right where the theory of natural selection evolved and that just happened to take place right when the movies were converting from silent to sound.’

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Franklin Island in Antarctica is ruled over only by penguins. One gallery, and another from guests aboard The World – Residences at Sea, a bizarre concept which has a fascinating journey blog. HMS Terror and HMS Erebus visited the island, and it was named for Sir John Franklin. Four years later, the seaman commanded the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. Franklin and his fellow captain, Francis Crozier and both their crews were lost. Or not: The Terror // Howland Island was where Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were due to stopover in 1937: they never arrived. Historians speculate they crashed on Nikumaroro Island instead. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery has taken up the case. The island is a case study for invasive species management: ‘Black rats were introduced in 1854 and eradicated in 1938 by feral cats introduced the year before. The cats proved to be destructive to bird species, and the cats were eliminated by 1985’ // Iwo Jima, once known as Sulphur Island and forever known as the site of the world’s most famous war photographer, taken by Joe Rosenthal on 23 February 1945. Images from the Battle of Iwo Jima // Laurie Island in the South Orkneys: see images from the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition of 1902-04. See also the grave of Allan George Ramsay. Browse the The history of place-names in the British Antarctic Territory. And that concludes part 2.

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