After 1500 km at sea, we see the first ilot of the archipelago of Kerguelen. At the beginning of the afternoon, the sky darkens, the thermometer starts flirting with zero degree Celsius and the wind blows in increasingly strong gusts.
The archipelago of Kerguelen (50°S / 70°S) is mainly composed by an island "Grande terre", intermingled with hundreds of smaller islands : the total surface is similar to the one of Corsica, but has as many kilometers of coasts than France, so much the shore is cut out in fjords and bays.
To reach the scientific base,
Port aux Français
, established in the east of the archipelago, we must circumvent the major part of the archipelago by the south.
The Captain does not know if he will be able to start the unloading operations this afternoon. His hesitation will be short! As I had never had the occasion to see it, a storm is taking shape at the horizon, right in front of the base : the Marion Dufresne will have to circle in front of Port-aux Français until the following day, expecting a lull.
The next morning, the weather is a little more favorable : while unloading, a signpost recalls us that we are in one of the most remote place on earth : there are no airport here ! If you get medical trouble, you are either operated on board the ship, or you need at least 5 full days navigation to find the nearest hospital !!
Since 95, a station of follow-up of satellites (CNES) came to supplement more traditional research activities: laboratories of marine biology (oceanology, hydrobiology, ichtyology...) and terrestrial (ornithology, etology...), of geophysics: seismology, magnetism, cosmic radiation..etc.
With the personnel in charge of the intendance (cook, storekeeper...), the radio stations and weather, the postal manager, etc, sixty people all together reside at Port aux Français.
The maritime zone around Kerguelen (as vast as France) is exploited by a trawler from La Réunion and several ukrainian ships which have a licence of fishing. Besides this maritime economic zone enables France to have a common border with Australia (via the islands Heard and MacDonald)!!
Among rare the other vessels to navigate in the area, there is
: this old trawler of 25 meters was transformed into an oceanographical boat. In addition to scientific missions, it can also occasionally be used for transport of goods or personnel, even for assistance or surveillance missions.
The mount "Pouce" recalls us the volcanic origin of the islands, although any activity of this type doesn't occur today.