Europa Island

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Europa Island
French: Île Europa
Flag of Europa Island
Location of the Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean :1. Bassas da India :2. Europa Island :3. Glorioso Islands :4. Juan de Nova Island :5. Tromelin Island KM=Comoros MG=Madagascar MU=Mauritius MZ=Mozambique RE=Réunion YT=Mayotte

Europa Island (French: Île Europa) is a 28-square-kilometre (11 sq mi) low-lying tropical atoll in the Mozambique Channel, about a third of the way from southern Madagascar to southern Mozambique. The island had never been inhabited until 1820, when the French family Rosier moved to it. The island officially became a possession of France in 1897.

The island, garrisoned by a detachment from Réunion, has a weather station and is visited by scientists. Though uninhabited, it is part of the "Scattered Islands" of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands administrative region.

Europa Island was the setting of a 1968 episode of "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau",[1] partly focusing on the breeding habits of the green sea turtle.


Europa is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) in diameter, with a maximum altitude of 6 metres (20 ft), and has 22.2 kilometres (13.8 mi) of coastline. It is surrounded by coral beaches and a fringing reef and encloses a mangrove lagoon of around 9 square kilometres (3.5 sq mi) and open to the sea on one side.

There are no ports or harbours but anchorage is possible offshore. Its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), contiguous with that of Bassas da India, is 127,300 square kilometres (49,200 sq mi). The airstrip is 1,500 metres (4,920 ft) metres long.

Climate is affected by the Agulhas Current with water temperatures usually above 30 °C, southeast trade winds during the (austral) winter and occasional cyclones.


The island is a nature reserve. Its vegetation consists of dry forest, scrub, euphorbia, the mangrove swamp, and the remains of a sisal plantation. It is one of the world's largest nesting sites for green sea turtles. It is also home to goats introduced by settlers in the late 18th century.

The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a large and diverse population of breeding seabirds and other waterbirds. It is the only known breeding site outside Aldabra and Madagascar for Malagasy pond herons. Seabirds include the second largest colony in the western Indian Ocean of great frigatebirds (with up to 1100 pairs), Audubon's shearwaters (up to 100 pairs, probably of the subspecies Puffinus lherminieri bailloni previously considered endemic to the Mascarene Islands), dimorphic egrets and Caspian terns.

The island is also home to an endemic subspecies of white-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus europae). There are three species of landbirds present, one of which is an endemic subspecies of the Malagasy white-eye (Zosterops maderaspatanus voeltzkowi).[2] Additionally, the island is also home to its own species of hissing cockroach.[3]


While the island has probably been sighted by navigators since at least the 16th century, it takes its name from the British ship Europa, which visited it in December 1774. Ruins and graves on Europa island attest to several attempts at settlement from the 1860s to the 1920s. For example, the French Rosiers family moved to the island in 1860, but subsequently abandoned it.[4]


  1. ^ "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau - Collection One". DocuWiki. 2013-11-10. Retrieved 2014-01-07. 
  2. ^ BirdLife International. (2012). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Europa. Downloaded from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2014-03-29.  on 2012-01-07.
  3. ^ C. van Herrewege. 1973. Contribution à l'étude des Blattaria de la faune Malgache. II. Description de huit espèces nouvelles appartenant aux genres Gromphadorhina Brunner v.W. et Elliptorhina gen. nov. Bulletin de la Société Linnéenne de Lyon, 42nd année, Numéro spécial du 150th anniversaire, décembre 1973. 75-103
  4. ^ "Europa". Districts - îles Eparses. Terres australes et anarctiques françaises. 2010. Archived from the original on 2012-01-31. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Warne, Kennedy (April 2014). "A tale of two atolls". National Geographic. pp. 62–75. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 22°22′06″S 40°21′48″E / 22.36833°S 40.36333°E / -22.36833; 40.36333