Kerguelen, Southern Ocean

          

        Colour: silver                             Mnemonic: MAHNDOO

Original Clue and Location: Kerguelen, Southern Antarctic Ocean.

In 1972, the New York artist and ‘psychic’ Ingo Swann, offered to have his ability to use his mind’s eye to visualize distant places, investigated by two physicists; Russell Targ and Harold E. Puthoff, of the Stanford Research Institute in California (Hitching, 1978). Over three years of study, Targ and Puthoff had repeatedly chronicled the ability of many people, to view actual happenings at distant sites, a feat which was thought to be scientifically impossible. Swann claimed that if they gave him the latitude and longitude of any place on Earth, he could ‘go’ there and describe the scene. The physicists were highly sceptical. They found it difficult enough to accept the existence of telepathy over short distances, and ‘knew that latitude and longitude were completely man-made constructs, adding one impossibility on top of another’. On Swann’s insistence they set up ‘Project Scanate’ (for scanning by co-ordinate), and its uncanny success is still hard for many to credit. To counter the possibility that Swann had memorized the co-ordinates of more well-known places, they deliberately chose remote locations, including: 49˚ 20̕ S, 70˚ 14̕ E – the small remote island of Kerguelen in the southern Indian Ocean. Swann immediately described the island, its features and the few man-made buildings and structures found there correctly; then went on to draw a map showing major bays, cliffs, promontories and mountains (Mount Ross and the Cook Glacier). In general terms, the map had the right shape and description of the varying terrains. Targ and Puthoff later concluded: ‘Remote viewing constitutes a robust phenomenon, whereby subjects are able to describe in words and drawings, to a degree exceeding any reasonable bounds of chance correlation, both the location and actions of experimenters placed at undisclosed sites and at varying distances’.

This story, plus the Robert Coon map (Coon, 1968), which showed Kerguelen on the Male World Dragon line, convinced me to add this location to my growing list of possible energy pumping stations.

Later research and insights:

Five years passed and I’d discovered a few basic facts; and some less than factual, but somewhat intriguing and colourful stories. Kerguelen Island is the largest of three hundred islands, islets and reefs known as the Îles de Kerguelen. When Captain Cook first landed there in December 1776 he wrote in his log:

I could have very properly called the island Desolation Island to signalise its sterility, but in order not to deprive M. de Kerguelen of the glory of discovering it, I have called it Kerguelen Land’.

Desolation is a good description for these seemingly barren rocks, constantly battered by westerly gales and violent winds reaching 150km/hour; and where peaks of 200km/hour are not unknown. In summer months the temperature ranges between +5°C and -5°C although the wind-chill factor makes it feel much colder; and rain, sleet or snow falls on 300 days of the year. If you picture a map of the world and let your eyes wander due south of India towards Antarctica, you’ll come across this volcanic speck around latitude 49° South, 70° East, surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean in every direction. Compared to Tahiti, another island visited by Cook on this same journey, you could forgive the sailors of wooden hulled ships like the Discovery for considering it to be the epitome of desolation.

Since 1950, the island has been one of several remote islands owned by the French; and early internet searches pointed to mainly scientific research projects being carried out there (Kerguelen Islands, 2022). Then a chance encounter with an advertisement for cruises to the islands of Antarctica led me to a French travel company, Mer et Voyages; that organised ‘trips’ to the so called Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (TAAF). Mer et Voyages basically provided a travel service for the French TAAF administration department which governs all activities on these remote islands. I discovered the only way to get to Kerguelen was aboard a scientific research and supply ship called the Marion DuFresne II. During the southern hemisphere summer months, between the end of October and March, this ship makes approximately five round trips from Reunion, calling at the TAAF outpost islands of Les Crozets, Kerguelen, Amsterdam and St. Paul. In addition to the supplies; and one hundred or more scientists that are dropped off and picked up en-route, each trip also takes up to twelve fee paying passengers. This was my chance.

It was only after I’d booked my berth on a sailing which would get me home on Christmas Eve 1999, that my husband reminded me I wasn’t a good sailor and, had been known to suffer from travel sickness on even short ferry crossings. He had a very valid point, but this didn’t deter me. The problem was eventually solved with the use of travel sickness patches, small round plasters that are placed behind the ear. They worked well, although one side-effect, dehydration, meant I constantly felt thirsty for the first few days, until I realized I didn’t need them anymore. That was until the return trip home, when the direction of waves and wind changed and the ship rolled in a different way. Saying that, during the early days of this adventure, I noticed that many of the scientists on board clearly suffered from the same malaise too. So, I wasn’t alone…

‘So why would anyone, other than a scientist, want to go to such a remote, desolate place? What’s the attraction?’ These were questions I was asked several times by friends and colleagues; and before my trip I didn’t really have an answer, except that it was an adventure. I was going to do something I’d never dreamed of doing.

Now that I’ve returned of course there are so many reasons why I would recommend others to go. There is the ‘David Attenborough experience’ of walking amongst colonies of elephant seals, fur seals, giant albatross and half a million king penguins who have no fear of man, but like their personal space to be respected. Although I have to say, that countless wild-life programs can never quite prepare you for the real-life experience, especially the sights and smells that are encountered when you get ‘up close and personal’. For ardent bird watchers, these volcanic specks provide a safe haven and nesting ground for many species of migrant birds including albatross, petrels, prions, cormorants, terns and gulls. If geology is a passion, there are spectacular volcanic landscapes, glaciers and rock formations to explore, both from the sea and on land. Whether it’s stunning scenery or wildlife, the photographic opportunities are endless; and of course, it’s a journey very few people get the opportunity to experience. Sitting on a rock as rockhopper penguins pass by, less than a yard away, on their way up the almost vertical side of a volcano; is one experience I will never forget. But I can’t speak of these wonders yet, because all that is still to come.

                                        

                          Rockhopper Penguins on Amsterdam     King Penguin’s on Kerguelen 

To sum it up, this is one of those trips of a lifetime for anyone wanting to experience something both different and amazing; and you don’t have to be a mad scientist to do it. Although the ability to understand and speak French does help.

Following the clues on the ground: December 1999

The round-trip on the Marion DuFresne II left from the volcanic, Indian Ocean island of Reunion;  headed south towards our first stop at Îles de la Possession, the largest of the Crozet Islands (Îles Crozet); then south-east 1400km to Kerguelen, the main French southern oceans base; before heading 1400km north-east to the southern Indian ocean islands of Amsterdam and St Paul, which are sub-tropical in climate compared to Îles Crozet and Kerguelen; and then finally heading back to home base on Reunion. It’s a round-trip of around 7500km.                                                

In some far corner of my mind, I somehow had the idea that a group of one hundred plus scientists would be multi-cultural and multi-lingual; that is the nature of science after all. Especially around Antarctica where joint scientific projects have to be the norm; and scientific papers destined for a worldwide audience have to be available in languages other than French alone. The reality on board the Marion DuFresne turned out to be rather different. Apart from one female Australian scientist taking part in an Antarctic-wide study on the reproduction and feeding habits of the Antarctic (southern) fur seal, there was no other English-speaking person on the first leg of the outward journey. All the professors, research scientists and research assistants on board were either French or Belgian and, by default, all communications, discussions, presentations and every aspect of daily life was conducted in French. As I discovered, a truly Gallic culture pervaded everything.

Whilst on board, the senior scientists provided daily lectures on their own special research areas, both to set the scene for the young scientific research assistants who would be working with them; and to provide insights for other travellers, into ongoing research work in the southern oceans. We were entertained with videos, discussions and slide presentations on a variety of topics ranging from:

  • Geology, plate tectonics and how the islands formed
  • Mating habits, feeding patterns and migration paths of the Wandering Albatross – and how they are monitored
  • How King Penguins recognize and single out their own youngster, from a nursery of thousands of brown-feathered hungry, young penguins. The answer lies in minute differences in sound, which the penguins understand but humans are unable to hear. The parents develop their own, unique mating call when they pair up and the youngster both learns this and develops his/her own complementary call, which the adults recognize. Experiments were ongoing, but basically, they selected pairs of adults, who were monitored regularly; and recorded their mating calls. They also monitored and regularly weighed the offspring, to check how well they were being fed, etc. Then, whilst the parents were away gathering food, they would play the adults’ unique call through a loudspeaker system into the penguin nursery – an excited youngster would immediately emerge, calling to its parents and expecting a feed, which of course they gave it. The volumes of food consumed at these times, plus other weights and measures helped to provide a more complete picture of the interactions between parents and youngsters
  • Southern Ocean food chains: these volcanic islands rise from the ocean floor, causing upwellings of food and nutrients which support huge food chains. In particular, the giant volcanic plateau beneath Kerguelen (see section on Geology) provides a natural reservoir of larvae and plankton, which is a major food source for many of the mammals, birds and fish in the Southern Antarctic. If you have millions of sea birds, you need multiple millions of plankton, larvae, etc. to support them. If the food chain, or part of it fails, species numbers will drastically fall.
  • The effects of long-term isolation on both permanent island inhabitants and visiting scientists. Living for extended periods on remote volcanic islands with few visitors and no means of ‘escaping’; can cause both physical and mental illnesses. For this reason, there are no boats on the remote island of Amsterdam, not even a small boat for fishing the local waters, which are a rich source of food for the resident population of Antarctic Fur Seals. But they do have a resident doctor, who regularly monitors their health.
  • Meteorology, weather and satellite tracking
  • Island Mapping – our trip included cartographers who were using GPS and satellites to map Kerguelen

Note for budding philatelists: it hadn’t occurred to me beforehand, but the Marion Dufresne was also the post boat for these remote islands; both picking up and delivering post to the small scientific communities working there. Stamps and postcards could be bought and posted in each location; and there were small, selected supplies of rather beautiful stamps to purchase too. After each stop, we would gather in the main ‘lecture room’ to help process and stamp the mail that had been picked up. I came home with a selection of a dozen different stamps for my husband’s collection; as well as those on the postcards sent home to various friends and relatives.  

‘Energy Pumping Station’ location and description:

On the eighth day of our voyage, dawn was around 4am and I couldn’t sleep; so, I headed for the bar/restaurant area and sat gazing out one of the large square windows, watching the sea go by and musing about Kerguelen and the adventures that might be in store. As I sat there, the image of a lovely golden serpent appeared at eye level beside me. The head was very distinctive and I could clearly see individual scales along its body…all with beautiful colours of golds and oranges.

That evening, around 7pm, we stopped in the Baie d’Audierne in the SW corner of the island to drop off the cartographers; and catch our first glimpse of this grey volcanic speck in the vastness of the Southern Oceans. The ship moored early the following morning at Port-aux-Français, in the sheltered Morbihan Bay; and became a hive of noisy activity as tugs and various supplies were offloaded.

It was sometime later that morning, as we waited on the helicopter deck to be transported to Port Jeanne d’Arc, that I became aware of my first connection into the island. The plan was for us to spend the next night in a remote whaling hut, and explore the area on foot. As I stood there, my attention was drawn to the southern side, where there were beautiful snow-capped mountains in the distance. According to the map, this was the Ronarc’h Peninsular and the snow-capped mountain attracting my attention was Mt Pouce (also called Mount Wylie-Thomson). After 15 minutes I had clearly connected in and could feel a strong pull in the area of my heart; and I hadn’t even set foot on the island yet.

Seated in the front of the helicopter, I managed to take pictures all the way to Port Jeanne D’Arc. Words can’t describe the splendour of the sight of distant, little islands with volcanic mountains covered in snow. Desolation it is, but magnificent desolation. Port Jeanne D’Arc, or PJDA as it is affectionally known, was a collection of huts with all the debris associated with an old whaling station – rusted oil drums, broken glass and remnants of the cooking houses used to melt whale blubber into oil; ready for shipping to England, France, USA and Norway. Since my visit in 1999, the site has been cleaned up and a small museum now tells visitors the story of the whaling industry in these southern seas.                                                       Port Jeanne D’Arc in the Kerguelen landscape

Later that morning, as I walked along a small pebble beach, I became aware of a very soft, welcoming energy; and, as I was taking pictures of the stunning scenery, everything started to exude a beautiful butter-golden light; the same colour that I had seen with the golden serpent the previous morning. That’s when I realized this was the colour of Kerguelen; and that it was the energy of the island that had come to meet me the day before, whilst I was still on my way. It was also very clear that everything here was totally in balance, ancient, wise and at peace with itself. The reason for me coming here was simply to connect in….

Our guide and host at PJDA was Peter, a permanent resident of Port-aux-Français. That evening he told of how his mother was French, his father a gypsy and his grandparents were Czechs. He first came to Kerguelen 40 years ago and had spent most of his life here since. He was ageless and probably around 65, but with one of those craggy faces that it’s impossible to date. He was also an excellent cook. Later that afternoon, Peter took us on a walk along a promontory, then up a ridge and into a ravine, high up the cliff behind the hut where we were to sleep that night. Whilst some of the group headed on further up, I decided to sit on a small rock, wedged into the hillside out of the biting wind; and just take in the view. Drinking it in would be a clearer description. There was no desire to be anywhere else, or do anything else, other than just simply be in this place. And slowly, viewing the horizon from side to side, I found myself connected in directly to another group of mountains in front of me; only this time the colours that bounced off them had green hues mixed in with the buttery gold colour I’d become accustomed to. Le Ravine de Charbon was the name of the place up behind me, but the distant mountains in front had no name that I could find. After what must have been a couple of hours just sitting there, I slowly made my way back down to the whaling hut and supper…feeling totally at peace with the world.

From later conversations that evening, it became clear Peter was also the ‘guardian’ of the portal, the land, and the energy of this island, whatever you might call it. And the whole island, this stunningly beautiful volcanic landscape, was in fact the energy pumping station I had hoped to find.

Local geology:

The islands of Kerguelen are the tip of a large igneous province (LIP), or oceanic plateau, located on the Antarctic Plate, in the southern Indian Ocean, about 3,000 km (1,900 miles) to the southwest of Australia. (Kerguelen Plateau, 2022)

The Kerguelen Plateau (also known as the Kerguelen-Heard Plateau) extends for more than 2,200km in a northwest/southeast direction and lies in deep water up to 3,000 metres below sea level. This oceanic plateau is one of the largest igneous provinces in the world, covering 1,250,000 km².  It was produced by volcanic eruptions at an emerging ‘hotspot’ on the ocean floor, that occurred during the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, about 130 Ma (millions of years ago). The plateau breaks above sea level to form the Kerguelen Islands (a French overseas territory) and the Heard and McDonald Islands (an Australian external territory).

Most of the visible volcanic formations on the islands, are characteristic of an effusive type of volcanism, which caused vast layers of volcanic rock to accumulate, with basalt flows, each three to ten metres thick, stacked on top of each other, sometimes up to a depth of 1,200 metres. This form of volcanism creates a monumental relief which looks like the ‘stairs’ seen on pyramids. (Kerguelen Islands, 2022) Whilst intermittent volcanism still continues on the Heard and McDonald Islands, no eruptive activity has been recorded on Kerguelen in historic times, but some fumaroles are still active in the South-West.

The islands, which are part of what is called the Kerguelen sub-continent. emerged substantially above sea level for three periods between 100 million years ago and 20 million years ago. There is also evidence the sub-continent may have had tropical flora and fauna about 50 million years ago, but it finally sank 20 million years ago and is now one to two kilometers below sea level. Kerguelen’s sedimentary rocks are similar to ones found in Australia and India, indicating they were all once connected. Scientists hope that studying the Kerguelen sub-continent will help them discover how Australia, India, and Antarctica broke apart.

                                                             Mount Ross  (Kerguelen Islands 2022)

Mount Ross, the highest point on the main island, is a strombolian type volcano and has a few lignite strata, trapped in basalt flows, which have revealed fossilised araucarian fragments, dated at about 14 million years of age.

Glaciation caused the depression and tipping phenomena which created the gulfs at the north and east of the archipelago. Erosion, caused by the glacial and fluvial activity, carved out the valleys and fjords. Erosion also created conglomerate detrital complexes and, the plain of the Courbet Peninsula, an almost flat plain inhabited by many mammals and birds, including a colony of up to half a million King Penguins.

Works Cited

Coon, R. (1968). The Planetary Gates of the New Jerusalem. Glastonbury, England.

Hitching, F. (1978). The World Atlas of Mysteries. London: Pan Books.

Kerguelen Islands. (2022, April 30). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerguelen_Islands (2022, April 30).

Kerguelen Plateau. (2022, April 30). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerguelen_Plateau

 

 

 

 

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