St. Brandon

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Cargados Carajos
Native name: Saint Brandon
Cargados carajos 76.jpg
Location Indian Ocean
Coordinates 16°35′S 59°37′E / 16.583°S 59.617°E / -16.583; 59.617Coordinates: 16°35′S 59°37′E / 16.583°S 59.617°E / -16.583; 59.617
Total islands 16
Major islands Albatross Island, Raphael, Avocaré, Cocos Island and Île du Sud
Area 1.3 km2 (0.50 sq mi)
Largest settlement Île Raphael (pop. 35)
Population 63 (transient) (2009)
Pop. density 48 /km2 (124 /sq mi)

Saint Brandon, also known as the Cargados Carajos shoals, is an archipelago comprising a number of sand banks, shoals and islets. It is a group of outer islands belonging to Mauritius and is administered by the Outer Island Development Corporation (OIDC). Saint Brandon is located in the Indian Ocean about 430 km to the northeast of Mauritius. The islands have a total land area of 1.3 km². The reef measures more than 50 km from north to south, and is 5 km wide, cut by three passes. The reef area is 190 km². The islands have a small transient population, mostly fishermen, 63 in number on census night (Census of 2001).[1] The majority of the population (~40) lives on Île Raphael, with smaller settlements existing on Avocaré, Coco, and Île du Sud. A former settlement existed on Albatross Island, but was abandoned in 1988.[2] The islands are rich in flora and fauna. They are classified as a dependency of Mauritius, which is more than 300 km to the south, and are administered from Port Louis.[3] Cargados Carajos is part of the Mascarene Islands.


In the past, Cargados Carajos was a large, volcanic island (part of the Mascarenes, caused by the Réunion hotspot). Over time however, the island eroded until it became submerged and a coral atoll was left behind.

Individual islets on the reef include, roughly north to south, the following:

Satellite image of Cargados Carajos

A number of unnamed islands and sand cays complete the Cargados. The total number of islands on the reef is close to 40.

Siren Island, Île du Sud, Pearl Island (Île Perle), and Frigate Island (Île Frégate) are west of the reef, while North Island (Île du Nord) is about 4 km northeast of the northern tip of the reef.

Albatross Island, about 18 km north, is geographically a separate single coral island at location 16°15'S, 59°35'E.

Albatross Island is the highest (its highest point is 6 m above sea level) and the largest of the islands in the group, with an area of 1.01 km², followed by Raphael, Tortue, Avocaré, Coco Island and Île du Sud.

The main settlement is on Île Raphael, comprising a privately owned commercial fishing station (with a minimum of 35 resident employees) and a coast guard and meteorological station (with eight residents in 1996). Smaller settlements exist on Avocaré, Coco, and Sud; the settlement on Albatross was abandoned in 1988.


Cargados comprises about 190 km² of reefs. It has perhaps the largest algal ridge in the Indian Ocean. Coconut trees can be found on a few islands as well as bushes and grass.

The islands are covered with white granular sand from eroded coral, and a thick layer of guano can be found in most places. Sea turtles take advantage of the low population of the islands and lay eggs on their beaches.

The reefs of Mauritius have been overfished and have suffered from the effects of tourism and other development. Mauritius plans to establish two marine reserves of coral reefs that were proposed for protection in 1974.[4] This may demonstrate the pace of protection of natural resources in the area, slowed by the complications of new independence.

It is unclear how long the archipelago will remain a refuge without international protection. The Mauritius economy is among the world's fastest growing. However, there is pressure to increase tourism. Sugar, introduced by the French, is Mauritius's main crop and represents 17% of the country's exports, but the price of sugar is dropping and increased tourism is seen as an important way to diversify the economy.


Cargados Carajos is located in Indian Ocean
Cargados Carajos
Cargados Carajos
Location of Cargados Carajos in the Indian Ocean

The atoll may have been discovered in the 7th century by Arabian sailors. It was named in 1506 by Portuguese sailors who put ashore for provisioning on their way to India. In 1598, the Dutch occupied the islands. The islands became a French protectorate in 1722 and passed into British hands in 1810.

Pirates have used the islands as a refuge. In modern times the islands were mined for phosphates derived from guano. Mining ceased in the mid-20th century.

The St. Brandon archipelago was surveyed by British colonial authorities on 31 March 1911 as part of the Census of Mauritius. This found a total population of 110, made up of 97 men (86 non-Indian and 11 Indian) and 13 women (10 non-Indian and 3 Indian).[5] While the archipelago likely had a resident population at this point, as indicated by the 8 children under the age of 15 and the 5 people over the age of 60, there was also likely a seasonal component, with the largest population segment being men between 20 and 35.[6] 73 men worked in fishing, 11 at the guano mines and 4 were ship's carpenters.[7] Only one (male) person was recorded as having been born on St. Brandon.[8]

The 1911 census reported that three of St. Brandon's 39 houses were built of stone and eight of wood, with 28 built of thatch. Most of these were single-room dwellings, but 10 had two rooms and one had three. There were also eight shops or stores and a one-room chapel.[9]

Ten years later, the population had plummeted to just 22, as reported by the 1921 census. There were 21 were men (ages 19–48) and just one woman, a married Catholic, aged 31. 14 people were identified as part of the "general population", with 11 of them born on Mauritius, one on Rodrigues and two in the Seychelles. In addition, there were 3 Indo-Mauritanians and 5 "other Indians" from Madras, Calcutta and Colombo.[10]

The most common employment on St. Brandon in 1922 was agriculture, with a manager, assistant manager and 11 labourers. Only two young men were recorded as working as fishermen. Three men worked as carpenters, one as a mason, one as a shoemaker and another as a domestic servant. There was no indication that the guano mines were operating.[11]

21st century[edit]

In April 2006, French surfer Erwan Simon discovered new surfspots in the west and south part of the archipelago.

On November 29, 2014, during the second leg of the 2014–15 Volvo Ocean Race, Team Vestas Wind, sponsored by the Danish wind-turbine maker, ran aground on St. Brandon.[12] The crew was safely rescued.[13]

Population figures[edit]

Resident Transient Total Notes
1861 35 All were men.[14][15]
1871 9 All were men.[14][16][15]
1881 6 All were men.[14][15]
1891 0 [17][14]
1901 87 85 men and 2 women. 54 men and one woman were from the "general population"; 29 men were Indo-Mauritanians, and two men and one woman were "other Indians"[18]
1911 110 [19]
1921 22 14 people were identified as part of the "general population", with 3 Indo-Mauritanians and 5 "other Indians". 21 were men and just one was a woman.[20]
1931 61 All were men, of whom nine were married and one was an ethnic Indian. Fishing was the occupation of 59 of the men, while two were domestic servants. Most were Catholics, but one Muslim lived on the island.[21]
1944 93 All were men, two of them ethnic Indians, and the remainder of the "general population".[22]
1952 136 124 men (one of whom was ethnically Chinese) and 12 women.[23]
1962 90 [24]
1972 128 [25]
1983 137 [26]
2000 0 63 63 No permanent residents. Only transient population.[27]
2011 0 No permanent residents. Transient population not reported.[28]


  1. ^ "Introduction". Central Statistics Office, Mauritius. 2001. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "St Brandon Island - Cargados Carajos - Mauritius Attractions". Retrieved 2016-01-07. 
  3. ^ "Districts of Mauritius". Statoids. 
  4. ^ The Developing Western Indian Ocean (WIO) Coral Reef Programme
  5. ^ 1911 Census, p. iv, Abstracts iv.
  6. ^ 1911 Census, p. Abstracts xcvi, xcviii.
  7. ^ 1911 Census, p. Abstracts cxii.
  8. ^ 1911 Census, p. Abstracts cxvii.
  9. ^ 1911 Census, p. Abstracts cxxxi–cxxxiii.
  10. ^ 1921 Census, pp. 13,15,16,cciii–ccvii.
  11. ^ 1921 Census, pp. cciii–ccvii.
  12. ^ "Grounded". Volvo Ocean Race official website. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  13. ^ "Bad Words". Sailing Anarchy. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c d 1901 Census, p. 168.
  15. ^ a b c 1881 Census, pp. 481–482.
  16. ^ 1871 Census, Part 2, p.2.
  17. ^ 1891 Census, pp. 38,41.
  18. ^ 1901 Census, p. 49,168–169.
  19. ^ 1911 Census, p. iv.
  20. ^ 1921 Census, p. 13,15,16.
  21. ^ 1931 Census, p. lxii–lxiii.
  22. ^ 1944 Census, p. 3.
  23. ^ 1952 Census, p. 6.
  24. ^ 1962 Census, Part II (between pp. 42–43).
  25. ^ 1983 Census Preliminary Report, p. 1.
  26. ^ 1983 Census Volume 1, p. 1.
  27. ^ 2000 Census.
  28. ^ 2011 Census, p. 1.


External links[edit]