Port Couvreux – French Southern and Antarctic Lands - Atlas Obscura

Port Couvreux

Scattered ruins and a tiny cemetery are all that remain of a failed attempt to colonize the inhospitable Desolate Islands. 


In the late 19th century, two French brothers, Henry and René-Émile Bossière, made the not-so-wise decision to try to colonize the Kerguelen Islands (aptly nicknamed the Desolation Islands). The isles are inhospitable; the rocky lands constantly battered by some of the harshest winds on Earth.

Despite the unforgiving climate, the Bossière brothers sent a couple shepherds and their families to an isolated peninsula within the archipelago, where they were meant to experiment with keeping sheep on such unwelcoming lands. The shepherds settled within Port Couvreux, but their tenure on the island was short-lived.

Many of the sheep died during transport, and the rabbits brought over as a food source ran wild and wreaked havoc on the environment. As the dawn of World War I approached, the settlers left their isolated outpost to return to France.

This failed endeavor didn’t put an to the Bossière brothers’ plans to populate the islands. In 1920, they once again shipped more shepherds and sheep off to the faraway archipelago. The settlers built houses and a small farm, attempting to turn Port Couvreux into a successful colony.

But again, the livestock couldn’t survive in such a cold, barren climate. Even the people began to perish, some dying in the cold while foraging for food while others succumbed to illness. The last survivors were evacuated in 1931. Scattered ruins and a little cemetery are all that remain of their time in Port Couvreux.

Know Before You Go

There is also another tomb near Port Couvreux, at Bassin de la Gazelle, of a German marine soldier who died accidentally in 1940.

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March 28, 2018

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