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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Port aux Francais part 2 - a glimpse

What an interesting place - physically, environmentally, culturally, historically. Thanks to Doug's papers, I know about as much of the history as the locals. They spend one year here - two month handover overlap between 'missions' a bit like the ISS crews - research projects continue but personnel change. There is a tracking facility for satellites with a telemetry download process and a meteorological station with the usual internet access and an atmospheric balloon launch every day to monitor the upper atmosphere.

A tomb outside the non denominational church with the tombstone written in arabic. Also a plain wooden cross, weathered and grey - in memory of someone who died at sea - memorial plaques to people from many countries inside - poignant indicators of the international and cosmopolitan tide of the place.

Perhaps it's typically French and a spin off from the extreme professionalism and respect between the people here but you handshake when you meet someone anywhere for the first time during the day if he's male, double cheek kiss for female - it's expected and a sort of formal ritual. There's a lot of it going on at breakfast! And there's a genuine Boulanger - yay! Fresh bread, chocolate cake par excellence, croissants, palmiers, the lot. French wine if required.

Tomorrow, we hope to be allowed to sail on MV Aventure around the islands of the Baie du Morbihan doing the weekly delivery run to the many outposts and research sites. Requires permission from the Chef du Mission, who is in the field till tomorrow.

1800 or so sheep on the island left over from one of the farming projects - we had one for lunch yesterday! And there are rainbow trout in the rivers - wild after an aborted attempt to farm them in the 1920's - Anne-Claire, one of the Doctors, leaves on Wednesday for Reunion at the end of her year here and she has gone trout fishing up there in the hills with the scientist who runs the toothfish project - and who was at Macquarie University in Australia studying Lungfish. But he should know how to catch a trout!

There's a wonderful documentary lurking out here - the place, the history, the wildlife, the people, the projects - I'd love to do it! There is a lovely uncluttered thread from the past that lives and breathes and evolves here - just like the settlements in the North West Passage, particularly Cambridge Bay which is strikingly similar.

More if I can - these posts depend on my sitting outside with the laptop and the satphone - local internet is way too clunky and we don't get much chance to use it anyway.

Must have all snailmail addresses in by Monday evening local so that I have time to catch the outgoing ship on Wednesday with the letters. Again, no promises but I'll do my best.

Ivan, lots of photos of Baie de L-Oiseau. We did not land - decided to leave in the weather window. There's still a scattered pile of stones on the little headland where the bottle was left - the remains of Cook' cairn perhaps? And I bet de Rochegude's buried bottle is still there somewhere. I know how it might be possible to find it too.

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Port Aux Francais (population 60 + 2)

Somewhere south of the middle of nowhere! Cool. Click to enlarge, not that there is much more to see!

Port aux Francais

Arrived around 0800 UTC - Berri on a mooring 50 metres from the jetty and we are up in the settlement being rather well lokked after. Settlement just like an Austalian mining camp - demountable buildings for acommodation, communal eating, movies - the works. The Postmaster - selected for his knowledge of philately as well as general soundness of mind - is going to do a special edition envelope commemorating our visit - if you want one posted to you with Kerguelen TAAF stamp, I need snail mail addresses urgently. No promises but I'll do my best.
Norml internet access almost impossible so will go outside into the cold cold wind with the laptop and the satphone and try to send this.
After whch, totally knackered and gong to bed. Saha! Seals and penguins not far from window.