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French Austral and Antarctic Territories

Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF)

Last modified: 2005-05-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: antarctica | france | terres australes et antarctiques francaises | kerguelen | taaf | new amsterdam | crozet | st. paul | terre adelie | iles eparses | stars: 3 (white) | anchor (white) |
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Tricoloreby Željko Heimer

See also:

Presentation of French Austral and Antarctic Territories

Terres australes et antarctiques françaises are a French oversea territory with administrative and financial autonomy, as prescribed by the law of 6 August 1955.

The territory is composed of four districts, as prescribed by the territorial decree of 20 October 1956:

  • Kerguelen Islands (7,215 sq. km), with a permanent base (Port-aux-Français) with 68 inhabitants;
  • Crozet Archipelago (115 sq. km), with a permanent base (Alfred Faure on Ile de la Possession) with 29 inhabitants;
  • Amsterdam Island (or New Amsterdam, 54 sq. km), with a permanent base (Martin-de-Viviès, 29 inhabitants) and Saint-Paul Island (uninhabited, 7 sq. km);
  • Adelie Land (Terre Adélie, 432,000 sq. km) in Antarctica, which is supposed to have 32 inhabitants in 1994 (most probably to maintain claims on Antarctica despite the treaty on Antarctica, signed by France, which does not recognise any territorial claim beneath th Southern Polar Circle.)

The dependencies called Iles Eparses (Outlying Islands) are placed under the authority of the Ministery of the Overseas (Ministère de l'Outremer) since 1 April 1960. Since the decree of 19 September 1960, the Outlying Islands were administrated by the Prefet of Reunion. A decree signed on 3 January 2005 has transfered the administration of the Outlying Islands to the Prefet, Senior Administrator of the Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises.
The Outlying Islands are made of four islands located in the Mozambique Channel (Bassas da India, Europa, Juan de Nova, Glorieuses), and Tromelin, isolated in the north of Reunion.

Bassas da India is an emerging, circular madreporic atoll, with an area lower than 1 sq. km. At high tide, Bassas de India is nearly completely submerged.

Europa is the biggest of the Outlying Islands (30 sq. km). From 1905 to 1910, two families from Reunion settled there and attempte to grow sisal and collect turtle shells. However, agriculture proved to be impossible on the island because of the huge number of rodents. A meteorological station was set up on Europa in 1949.

On Juan de Nova (5 sq. km), guano is harvested there since the XIXth century. The guano workers maintain a meteorological station.

The Glorieuses archipelago (7 sq. km) is made of Grande Glorieuse and the Ile du Lys, as well as of the islets of Roches Vertes and Ile aux Crabes. A coconut plantation was grown on Grande Glorieuse from 1912 to 1958. A meteorological station was set up on Grande Glorieuse in 1960; the aims of the station are the prediction of cyclones hitting the north of Madagascar and the Comoros and assistance to maritime and aerial navigation.

Tromelin (1 sq. km) is completely isolated and scoured by the trade winds; landing is extremely difficult and agriculture is impossible because of the wind and the lack of water. A meteorological station was set up on Tromelin in 1954 upon request of the World Meteorological Organization; most cyclones threatening Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius scour Tromelin.

The Outlying Islands are nature reserves and their access is strictly restricted. Since 1973, detachments from the Armed Forces in the South Zone of Indian Ocean are stationed on Grande Glorieuse, Juan de Nova and Europa. All the islands but Bassas da India are inhabited by meteorologists, a gendarme (except Tromelin) and scientists doing short-time missions.
Tromelin was recently claimed by Mauritius. Following the convention on maritime rights adopted in 1982, with effect in 1994, the Mauritian Parliament recently extended Mauritius' territorial waters to 350 nautic miles, encompassing Diego Garcia (Britain), Coetivy (Seychelles), Saya Malha (Maldives) and Tromelin (France). In late February, Brigitte Girardin, the French Minister of Overseas, "visited" Tromelin, Europa and Juan de Nova; her visit was of course more political than touristic. Madagascar and the Comoros also claim the Outlying Islands of the Mozambique Channel.

Ivan Sache, 7 May 2005

Flag of the Senior Administrator

[Senior Administrator]by Pierre Gay

The only flag specific to the territory is the flag of the Senior Administrator, which is often presented erroneously as the flag of the territory.

Shortly after he took office, the first Senior Administrator, M. Richert, who was Administrator of Overseas France, and wore three stars on his uniform, like a Vice-Admiral), adopted a personal flag. It was similar to the flags used by the former colonial Governors and High Commissioners of Overseas Territories, i.e., a blue flag with a Tricolour flag in canton. The letters TAAF, arranged in the shape of an anchor, in white, and accompanied by three white stars, are placed in lower fly. This flag was retained by the Senior Administrators who succeeded Richert.

The flag can be partially seen in a photo shown by Paris-Match (# 787, 9 May 1964), taken during the visit of M. Louis Jacquinot to the Kerguelen Islands. It was hoisted on any building or vessel when the Senior Administrator was on board. The flag confered to the TAAF headquarters is 70 x 84 cm, the emblem is 22 cm high, and the width of the letter T is 18 cm. The Secretary General, assistant to the Senior Administrator, does not have any special emblem.

Mario Fabretto, 25 September 1998

Coat of arms

[Coat of arms]by Pascal Vagnat

The arms of the territory were created by Miss Suzanne Gauthier, who sent the original drawing to SPADEM on 4 September 1958 in order to have it registered. The quartered shield symbolizes the four districts of the territory.

Source: A letter dated 28 October 1981 from Miss Gauthier to Lucien Philippe published in Flagmaster [flm] # 38 (1/11/1982). In the same letter Miss Gauthier informed Philippe that it was Mr Richert who had asked for a draft of the arms of the Territory, setting out the elements which ought to be included, particularly the three white stars which appear on his personal flag.

Mario Fabretto, 25 September 1998

According to Roman Klimes [klm87], the shield is quartered azure and argent. However, Klimes shows it azure and or in his image. The shield is also azure and or on a post stamp of the territory.

The four quarters of the coat of arms stand for the four districts of the territory:

  1. a silver Kerguelen cabbage - for Kerguelen The Kerguelen cabbage is endemic to these islands, i.e., it does not grow anywhere else in the world;
  2. a black lobster - for New Amsterdam and St. Paul;
  3. the head and neck of a royal penguin sable and argent crowned or - for Crozet Island;
  4. a silver iceberg - for Adelie Land.

The coronet above the shield is inscribed with the name of the territory in sable (black), this detail being not shown on the above image. The coronet and stars are or, the anchors argent.

On the post stamps, there is no writing in the 1959-63 and 1970 versions, but writing is present on the 1992 and later versions. Klimes' image is probably more up-to-date than the one shown above.

Ivan Sache, 1 May 2001

Ships registered in the Kerguelen Islands

The registration of ships in the Kerguelen Islands allows the ship owner to employ some foreign workers. It was created to fight against the so-called flags of convenience flags which escape the sea labour rules.

There is no other flag for ships registered in the Kerguelen Islands but the French tricolour flag.

Pascal Vagnat, Željko Heimer & Armand du Payrat, 22 January 2003