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Desolation Island

Desolation Island

Desolation Island is located in the Antarctic region (49 degrees 20 minutes S, 70 degrees 20 minutes E). James Cook ran across the Island in the late 1700s. He noted in his journal that he would have called the island "Desolation Island" if another explorer had not reached it first. Yet, in English minds, the name stuck. The island seemed desolate at the time, even though it teems with arctic animal life, mosses and even an unusual variety of cabbage that is exceptionally high in vitamin C. (It was used by sailors and whalers throughout the 1800s to avoid scurvy.)

The man who reached the island before Cook was a French sea captain, Kerguelen-Tremarec. He made two expeditions to the area while looking for a continent that was supposed to "counter-balance" the great northern continents. He made more of the discovery than was perhaps warranted. Early efforts to exploit the island by the French proved abortive and they left it for nearly 100 years to the Whalers and the occasional lost sea-farer.

While the English called it Desolation Island the French named it after its discoverer and call it Kerguelen Island. It is currently a French colony and has a base for geologic research and also for the French Space program (mostly tracking satellites).

The island is situated in a zone where the warm waters of more temperate oceans meet the cold waters of the south. Thus precipitation is fairly constant with snow or rain for most of the year (300 days on average). High winds are frequent - 68 mph is common. The island is the largest of an archipelago consisting of some 300 islands. It is a geologic formation resulting from volcanic activity in the region. The terrain is fairly rugged. It's most prominent feature is Mount Ross (1850 meters) which is a dormant volcano.

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