Prince Edward Islands

Prince Edward Islands
PrEdwIsl Map.png
Map of Prince Edward Islands
Orthographic projection centered on the Prince Edward Island.png
Orthographic projection centred on the Prince Edward Islands
LocationIndian Ocean
Coordinates46°53′19″S 37°44′08″E / 46°53′19″S 37°44′08″E / -46.888739; 37.735658 South Africa
Population0 (Uninhabited – Permanent)
50 (Research Staff – Non-Permanent)
Designated24 January 1997
Reference no.1688[1]

The Prince Edward Islands are two small islands in the sub-antarctic Indian Ocean that are part of South Africa. The islands are named Marion Island (named after Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne) and Prince Edward Island (named after Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn).

The islands in the group have been declared Special Nature Reserves under the South African Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, No. 57 of 2003, and activities on the islands are therefore restricted to research and conservation management.[2][3] Further protection was granted when the area was declared a marine protected area in 2013.[4][5] The only human inhabitants of the islands are the staff of a meteorological and biological research station run by the South African National Antarctic Programme on Marion Island.


Prince Edward, after whom the islands are named

The islands were discovered on 4 March 1663 by Barent Barentszoon Lam of the Dutch East India Company ship Maerseveen and were named Dina (Prince Edward) and Maerseveen (Marion),[6] but the islands were erroneously recorded to be at 41° South, and neither were found again by subsequent Dutch sailors.[7][8] In January 1772, the French frigate Le Mascarin, captained by Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, visited the islands and spent five days trying to land, thinking they had found Antarctica (then not yet proven to exist).[9] Marion named the islands Terre de l'Espérance (Marion) and Ile de la Caverne (Pr. Edward).[7] After failing to land, Le Mascarin continued eastward, discovering the Crozet Islands and landing at New Zealand, where Marion du Fresne and some of his crew were killed and eaten by Māori natives. Julien Crozet, navigator and second in command of Le Mascarin, survived the disaster, and happened to meet James Cook at Cape Town in 1776, at the onset of Cook's third voyage.[10] Crozet shared the charts of his ill-fated expedition, and as Cook sailed from Cape Town, he passed the islands on 13 December, but was unable to attempt a landing due to bad weather.[9] Cook named the islands after Prince Edward, the fourth son of King George III; and though he is also often credited with naming the larger island Marion, after Captain Marion, this name was adopted by sealers and whalers who later hunted the area, to distinguish the two islands.[11]

The first recorded landing on the islands was in 1799 by a group of French seal hunters of the Sally.[11] Another landing in late 1803 by a group of seal hunters led by American captain Henry Fanning of the Catharine found signs of earlier human occupation.[12] The islands were frequented by sealers until about 1810, when the local fur seal populations had been nearly eradicated.[11] The first scientific expedition to the islands was led by James Clark Ross, who visited in 1840 during his exploration of the Antarctic, but was unable to land.[11] Ross sailed along the islands on 21 April 1840. He made observations on vast numbers of penguins ("groups of many thousands each"), and other kinds of sea-birds. He also saw fur seals, which he supposed to be of the species Arctocephalus falklandicus.[13] The islands were finally surveyed during the Challenger Expedition, led by Captain George Nares, in 1873.[14]

The sealing era lasted from 1799 to 1913. During that period visits by 103 vessel are recorded, seven of which ended in shipwreck.[15] Sealing relics include iron trypots, the ruins of huts and inscriptions. The occasional modern sealing vessel visited from Cape Town, South Africa, in the 1920s.

The islands have been the location of other shipwrecks. In June 1849 the brig Richard Dart, with a troop of Royal Engineers under Lt. James Liddell, was wrecked on Prince Edward island; only 10 of the 63 on board survived to be rescued by elephant seal hunters from Cape Town.[16] In 1908 the Norwegian vessel Solglimt was shipwrecked on Marion Island, and survivors established a short-lived village at the north coast, before being rescued.[12][17][18] The wreck of the Solglimt is the best-known in the islands, and is accessible to divers.[12]

In 2003, the South African government declared the Prince Edward Islands a Special Nature Reserve, and in 2013 declared 180,000 km2 (69,000 sq mi) of ocean waters around the islands a Marine Protection Area, thus creating one of the world's largest environmental protection areas.[5]

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Prins-Eduard adaları
беларуская: Прынс-Эдвард
Bahasa Indonesia: Kepulauan Pangeran Edward
norsk nynorsk: Prince Edwardøyane
Simple English: Prince Edward Islands
slovenščina: Otoki princa Edvarda