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. 40)
Population 63 (transient) (2009)
Pop. density 48 /km2 (124 /sq mi)

Saint Brandon, also known as the Cargados Carajos shoals, is an Indian Ocean archipelago about 430 km to the northeast of Mauritius consisting of a number of sand banks, shoals and islets. It forms part of the Mascarene Plateau. The Mascarene plateau is a submarine plateau in the Indian Ocean, north and east of Madagascar which is the second largest undersea plateau in the Indian Ocean after the Kerguelen Plateau. Saint Brandon consists of five groups of in total 22 islands or islets, with an aggregate land area no greater than about half a square mile and prone to substantial submersion in severe weather. Their practical utility lies in the fishing on the very extensive shallow bank covering some 900 square miles around them. Most of the isles, by the early 19th century, were in use as fishing stations.

These outer islands are part of the Mauritia (microcontinent) have a total land area of approximately 1.3 km², belong to Mauritius and are administered by the Outer Island Development Corporation (OIDC). The Outer Island Development Corporation (OIDC) is responsible for the management and development of the Outer Islands. "Outer Islands" are defined as the islands comprised in the State of Mauritius other than the Islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues. The OIDC reports to the Prime Minister’s Office. Some of the outer islands were deemed to have been a permanent grant to the Raphael Fishing Company Ltd., under a judgment delivered by the Lords of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on 30 July 2008. [1] [2]

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).[3] 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.[4] The islands are rich in flora and fauna but on some isles the latter have been severely affected by the uncontrolled presence of rats. They are classified as a dependency of Mauritius, which is more than 300 km to the south, and are administered from Port Louis.[5] 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.[6] This may demonstrate the pace of protection of natural resources in the area, slowed by the complications of new independence.

On some isles, rats, rabbits and chicken are damaging the native fauna which consist mainly of turtles and birds and it is unclear how much longer 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.

In 2011, The Ministry of Environment & Sustainable Development issued the "Mauritius Environment Outlook Report" which stated that "There is an urgent need to allocate more resources for a closer monitoring of the environmental assets of the islands." It further recommended that St Brandon be declared a Marine Protected Area.


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).[7] 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.[8] 73 men worked in fishing, 11 at the guano mines and 4 were ship's carpenters.[9] Only one (male) person was recorded as having been born on St. Brandon.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

In 2011, The Ministry of Environment & Sustainable Development issued the "Mauritius Environment Outlook Report" which stated that "For the Outer Islands of (..) St. Brandon, major improvements are required to promote development, environmental protection and judicious use of natural resources.


Shipwrecks on the low-lying, rocky reefs of St. Brandon have been recorded since as early as 1662.

On 12 February 1662, the Dutch East Indiaman sailing ship Arnhem wrecked itself on the rocks at St. Brandon.[14][15][16]

In July 1818, the sailing vessel Cabalva, owned by the East India Company, struck the reef at St. Brandon and was destroyed.[17][18][19]

On 15 September 1845, the sailing ship Letitia ran aground on Frigate islet.[20]

On October 3 l969, the Russian tugboat Argus itself on the reef at St. Brandon. 38 men were rescued by local fishermen.[21]

On November 29, 2014, during the second leg of the 2014–15 Volvo Ocean Race, the sailboat Team Vestas Wind ran aground on St. Brandon.[22] The crew was safely rescued,[23] and a complicated salvage operation succeeded in removing the wreck from the reef.[24]

On February 1 2015, the fishing vessel Kha Yang, with 250,000 litres of fuel in its tanks, ran aground on the reef of St. Brandon.[25] 20 crew were rescued shortly after its grounding,[26] and a salvage operation pumped the fuel from its tanks a few weeks later.[27]

Population figures[edit]

Resident Transient Total Notes
1861 35 All were men.[28][29]
1871 9 All were men.[28][30][29]
1881 6 All were men.[28][29]
1891 0 [31][32]
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"[32]
1911 110 [33]
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.[34]
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.[35]
1944 93 All were men, two of them ethnic Indians, and the remainder of the "general population".[36]
1952 136 124 men (one of whom was ethnically Chinese) and 12 women.[37]
1962 90 [38]
1972 128 [39]
1983 137 [40]
2000 0 63 63 No permanent residents. Only transient population.[41]
2011 0 No permanent residents. Transient population not reported.[42]


  1. ^ Privy Council Judgment 30 July 2008 - Raphaël Fishing Company Ltd.,
  2. ^ Le bail permanent de Raphaël Fishing confirmé sur St.-Brandon
  3. ^ "Introduction". Central Statistics Office, Mauritius. 2001. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "St Brandon Island - Cargados Carajos - Mauritius Attractions". Retrieved 2016-01-07. 
  5. ^ "Districts of Mauritius". Statoids. 
  6. ^ The Developing Western Indian Ocean (WIO) Coral Reef Programme
  7. ^ 1911 Census, p. iv, Abstracts iv.
  8. ^ 1911 Census, p. Abstracts xcvi, xcviii.
  9. ^ 1911 Census, p. Abstracts cxii.
  10. ^ 1911 Census, p. Abstracts cxvii.
  11. ^ 1911 Census, p. Abstracts cxxxi–cxxxiii.
  12. ^ 1921 Census, pp. 13,15,16,cciii–ccvii.
  13. ^ 1921 Census, pp. cciii–ccvii.
  14. ^ J. R. Bruijn; F. S. Gaastra; Ivo Schöffer (1979). Dutch-Asiatic Shipping in the 17th and 18th Centuries: Outward-bound voyages from the Netherlands to Asia and the Cape (1595-1794). Nijhoff. 
  15. ^ Perry J. Moree (January 1998). A Concise History of Dutch Mauritius, 1598-1710: A Fruitful and Healthy Land. Kegan Paul International. ISBN 978-0-7103-0609-8. 
  16. ^ Anthony S. Cheke; Julian Pender Hume (2008). Lost Land of the Dodo: An Ecological History of Mauritius, Réunion & Rodrigues. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-14186-3. 
  17. ^ Thomas Byerley; John Timbs (1829). The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction. J. Limbird. pp. 389–. 
  18. ^ On a coral reef. 1869. pp. 4–. 
  19. ^ C W. Francken (1819). A narrative of the loss of the East India company's ship Cabalva. pp. 1–. 
  20. ^ Various (28 February 2013). The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle for 1846. Cambridge University Press. pp. 180–. ISBN 978-1-108-05434-8. 
  21. ^ Norman Hooke (1989). Modern shipping disasters, 1963-1987. Lloyd's of London Press. 
  22. ^ "Grounded". Volvo Ocean Race official website. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  23. ^ "Bad Words". Sailing Anarchy. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  24. ^ Shipwrecked In A Round-The-World Race | Popular Science
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b c 1901 Census, p. 168.
  29. ^ a b c 1881 Census, pp. 481–482.
  30. ^ 1871 Census, Part 2, p.2.
  31. ^ Census of Mauritius and its Dependencies (PDF), Mauritius: Census Commission for Mauritius and its Dependencies, 1 April 1892, pp. 38,41 
  32. ^ a b Census of Mauritius and its Dependencies (PDF), Mauritius: Census Commission for Mauritius and its Dependencies, 21 March 1902, p. 168 
  33. ^ Census of Mauritius and its Dependencies (PDF), Port Louis, Mauritius: Census Commission for Mauritius and its Dependencies, 1912, p. iv 
  34. ^ Census of Mauritius and its Dependencies (PDF), Port Louis, Mauritius: Census Commission for Mauritius and its Dependencies, 1921, p. 13,15,16 
  35. ^ Census of Mauritius and its Dependencies (PDF), Port Louis, Mauritius: Census Commission for Mauritius and its Dependencies, 1931, p. lxii–lxiii 
  36. ^ Census of Mauritius and its Dependencies (PDF), Port Louis, Mauritius: Census Commission for Mauritius and its Dependencies, 1944, p. 3 
  37. ^ Census of Mauritius and its Dependencies (PDF), Port Louis, Mauritius: Census Commission for Mauritius and its Dependencies, 1 June 1953, p. 6 
  38. ^ Census of Mauritius and its Dependencies (PDF), Port Louis, Mauritius: Census Commission for Mauritius and its Dependencies, 1962, p. 42–43 
  39. ^ Preliminary Results of the 1983 Population Census (PDF), Port Louis, Mauritius: Central Statistical Office, January 1984, p. 1 
  40. ^ 1983 Housing and Population Census of Mauritius (PDF), 1, Port Louis, Mauritius: Central Statistical Office, October 1984, p. 1 
  41. ^ Population Tables: 2000 Housing and Population Census, Port Louis, Mauritius: Central Statistical Office, November 2001 
  42. ^ Census 2011 Atlas (PDF), Port Louis, Mauritius: Central Statistical Office, 2011, p. 1 


External links[edit]