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984: Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (TAAF)


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Go directly to our travel:  TAAF: Crozet



Introduction to the TAAF

The Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises are a PTOM (Pays et Territoire d’Outre-Mer; English = Overseas Country and Territory) with administrative and financial autonomy. The TAAF is not part of the European Union but it's associated to it. The Headquarters are located since 2000 in 97410 Saint-Pierre. 


Signpost in Saint-PierreSignpost in Saint-Pierre

The TAAF currently include five very different districts: 

Saint-Paul et Nouvelle  Amsterdam (98411)

Archipel Kerguelen (98412)

Archipel de Crozet (98413)

Terre Adélie (98414)

Îles Éparses (98415)

The Southern Antarctic Islands are the most isolated place in the world, being without an airport and more than 3900 km away from the nearest inhabited location. The only means of transport to get there is the ship Marion Dufresne II, and this only four times a year. 


In 2006, 15’600 km2 of the TAAF area have been declared Nature Reserve with strict conservation and preservation rules. In 2016, the Nature Reserve was extended to 673'000 km2. The French Southern Islands and waters have the status of National Nature Reserve, which is the highest environmental protection regulation that exists under French law. In addition, since March 2017, the regulation and governance of the Nature Reserve are also applicable to all the French exclusive economic zone around it i.e. a huge protection perimeter around the reserve. Nobody can access this vast area under continuous naval and satellite surveillance without authorization.

This is the largest marine sanctuary in the world! As a comparison, Metropolitan France covers only a land area of 543'940 km2.

The French Southern Antarctic Islands are the most protected islands in the world with a nearly intact ecosystem unaffected by the direct impacts of human activities. The evolution of native plants and animals occurs in a pristine habitat. The access to the islands is strongly regulated and strict bio-security rules are enforced (all belongings are cleaned before and after disembarking). 

The vast numbers of penguins and seals that occupy the beaches are considered one of the greatest wildlife sights of the world.

The king penguin, second only to the emperor penguin in size, has an habitat range between 45o and 55o S. The worldwide largest colony of king penguins, corresponding to half of the total population, is on Crozet as well as the largest yellow-nosed albatross colony. On Kerguelen, one can find the second largest population of elephant seals in the world.

On the 5th of July 2019, the archipelagos of Crozet, Kerguelen, Saint-Paul and Amsterdam have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. This is by far the largest UNESCO site. 


France's EEZFrance's EEZThe TAAF occupies an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2’757’453 km2, contributing to France being the largest EEZ in the world, covering a total of 11’691’000 km2.

The EEZ of France covers approximately 8% of all the EEZ’s of the world, whereas the land area of the Republic is only 0.45% of the total land mass of the Earth.





OP1 (Opération Portuaire) 2017: Our travel to the TAAF

The Marion Dufresne II departed from 97420 Le Port on 22-Mar-17 and returned on 21-Apr-17. On its way, the Marion Dufresne crossed the most hostile seas in the world, the famous Roaring Forties (26-Mar-17) and Furious Fifties (5-Apr-17) ! This is a remote and stormy part of the globe, on the Antarctic Convergence where upwelling cold water from the Antarctic mixes with the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean. 

The weather on Kerguelen is harsh, with rain, sleet or snow falling more than 300 days a year. Winds blow continuously from the West, averaging 110 kmh year-round, sustained winds of 150 kmh are commonplace. The state of the sea reflects the high wind speeds with wave heights of 12-15 m being common. 

OP1 2017OP1 2017


The main base and "capital" of Kerguelen is the city of Port-aux-Français, located along the Eastern shore of Grande Terre, with a permanent presence of 60 to 120 scientists, engineers and a military force. Facilities include scientific-research buildings, satellite tracking station, dormitories, a hospital, a library, a gym, a pub and the chapel of Notre-Dame des Vents. 






The agenda of the rotation was completely driven by the unpredictable weather, especially considering there are no harbors on the islands and all transfers are done by helicopter. We were able to escape all the storms and could add to the OP1, the re-supply and team-exchange at Tromelin, which was not scheduled. This confirmed that every rotation is different. 


Marion Dufresne II and landing helicopterMarion Dufresne II and landing helicopter


The Marion Dufresne is not a cruise ship but a working vessel. The primary purpose is the re-supply of the scientific bases and the people transport to and from those bases.

The Marion Dufresne is a helicopter-carrier, an oceanographic research vessel  and at the same time, it is a cargo-ship supplying food, equipment, construction material and fuel to the bases.



The Marion Dufresne is performing only 4 rotations per year and on each rotation, 8 to 12 visitors are allowed on board. The selection of the passengers is strict and includes a thorough medical check! We started our application in October 2016 and got confirmation only in January 2017. It’s an incredible opportunity to be aboard this mythic ship and having the unique chance to meet some of the leading experts in oceanography, geology, biology, climatology and more.


For further information, here the official blogs of the TAAF districts:





The TAAF YouTube channel here:



Finally, we highly recommend watching this lovely "Happy" video performed by the entire "population" of Saint Paul and Amsterdam:



Please follow our travel to the TAAF by clicking here:  TAAF: Crozet


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