Where are the Desolation Islands?

Kerguelen Islands, captured on October 28, 2016 by the the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite.

Kerguelen Islands, captured on October 28, 2016 by the the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite.

When you hear the term Desolation Islands, you might rightly think of a group if islands located in a remote area of the world. Located in the southern Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa and just north of Antarctica, the Kerguelen Islands have earned the nickname “Desolation Islands” due to their remote location (related: What is a Pole of Inaccessibility?).  A French territory, this island group (known as (Îles de la Desolation in French) is considered one of the most isolated places on Earth, being 3,300 km (2,051 mi) from the closest populated area in Madagascar.  The islands group, along with Adélie Land, the Crozet Islands and the Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands, are part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

The islands themselves are uninhabited but the main island houses around 45 to 100 scientists, engineers and researchers as part of a French research effort.  Port-aux-Français, a scientific base, is located on the eastern side of Grand Terre.  These scientists study a wide range of areas from geology and biology to weather and climate.  The island group gets its named from the French explorer Yves Joseph de Kerguelen de Trémarec who discovered the archipelago on February 12, 1772.

The largest island in this group is named Grande Terre (French for “large land”) and is 6,675 km2 (2,577 sq mi) in area.  Surrounding this large islands are around 300 smaller islands that collectively take the total area of the archipelago to 7,215 square kilometers (2,786 square miles).

The Kerguelen Islands in relationship to Antarctica and Africa. Map created using Natural Earth data by Caitlin Dempsey.

The Kerguelen Islands in relationship to Antarctica and Africa. Map created using Natural Earth data by Caitlin Dempsey.

Documentary about the Kerguelen Islands

This documentary created back in 2000 by Channel 4 (a British broadcaster) is one of the only documentaries about the Kerguelen Islands.

Other Desolation Islands

While this is the only island group that is referred to as the Desolation Islands, there are two other distinct islands that bear the name of Desolation.

Desolación Island (Spanish: Isla Desolación) (Spanish for Desolation) is an island at the western end of the Strait of Magellan in the Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region, Chile.

Desolation Island is one of the minor islands in the South Shetlands archipelago, Antarctica situated at the entrance to Hero Bay, Livingston Island.

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