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Life at Port aux Français


[ Caboose ]Introduction >> Kerguelen >> Life at Port aux Français ]

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Reunion and Mauritius
The Marion Dufresne and Crozet
Life at Port aux Français
Port Jeanne d'Arc
Back on the Marion
Kerguelen Album
How to get to Kerguelen
Turkey 2003
Mount Cameroon 2005
Technical notes

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Warning! Elephant seals crossing!Port aux Français is the 'town' on Kerguelen. Like most Antarctic and sub-Antarctic bases it's not the most attractive of places, the elephant seals seem to like it though.

While the ship was there accommodation was a bit limited, people were sleeping everywhere. Two people were living in the library, one of the geophysicists slept in his office and even the hospital was used as accommodation.


Once the ship left things settled down a bit and Jean-Paul and I could begin our work. This was mostly maintenance work on the radar. It had been built the year before so this was the first maintenance trip, Jean-Paul wanted to see how often he would have to return.

I was glad to see that on the whole the radar was in good condition, the main job would be replacing some metal coils at the ends of the antennas. We got this done much more quickly than expected with the assistance of the crane.

The PopChatMobileTransport around the base was provided by a fleet of decrepit Renault vans, Jean-Paul managed (after a lot of work) to find a van for us to travel the 4km to the radar. The amazing PopChatMobile belonged to the biologists studying the local cat population and had a variety of unusual features, such as the large hole at the passenger's feet and the bit of string to hold the back doors shut.


I was living in Ker-Avel, the summer accommodation building. Compared to the summer accommodation building at Halley (the atrocious SAB/Drewry) it was the height of luxury, single rooms with en-suite shower and toilet.

A very big French flag and the restaurantMeals were eaten in the restaurant (behind the flag in the photo), with free wine laid on. The bar was upstairs, with a selection of magazines, stage, table football, table tennis and pool.

Other facilities included a cinema, a couple of phoneboxes operated by special Kerguelen phonecards and a gym.

Off base

The area immediately surrounding PAF wasn't too exciting, a bit on the flat and windswept side. It soon sloped up to the mountains though and the view across the Golfe du Morbihan to Mont Ross was fantastic.

We managed a day trip along the coast to the Riviere du Sud on Christmas Eve, passing the church (built by winterers) and the small, heavily rabbit-fenced gardens of the biologists.

Kerguelen cabbageEven better was a trip out to the Val Studer with the 'Cabbage Girls', biologists studying the famous Kerguelen cabbage. This is apparently an excellent protection against scurvy but has been wiped out on most of the island by the rabbits introduced by British sailors. We spent four days on this trip, one day each way and two days of looking at cabbages.

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