The Clipperton Island is a small coral atoll located in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,300 kilometers southwest of Acapulco, the Mexican Coast.

It is a completely isolated islet; the nearest emerged land is almost thousand kilometers from there (it’s the Socorro Island). With just 9 square kilometers, including the lagoon, it is a piece of land without any interest, not even human, because it is completely uninhabited. France has sovereignty over it, but the island was not always French and was not always uninhabited. A hundred years ago was the scene of a tragedy worthy of any Shakespearean drama. Read below the story. The island was discovered at the beginning of the 18th century by John Clipperton, English pirate and corsair who was devoted, among other things, to attack possession and Spanish ships on behalf of his British Majesty. Although there is no documentary evidence, it is said that he used the island as a base for his robbery expeditions. The legend says that he buried part of his profits on the island (the Pirate’s treasure!), something that seems unlikely at this point, but let’s leave it there. In 1711, a pair of French ships arrived at the atoll and named it The Island of the Passion. There might be something weird about French people to name this way an island which only attraction is the guano. There is nothing more to be said! During century XIX, United States, France, and Mexico competed for sovereignty over the tiny atoll; Finally, in 1909 France and Mexico reached an agreement; they would be submitted to the arbitration of Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy then. The problem was that the decision took 22 years to arrive. Before the Mexican-French agreement, the Aztec Government had reached an agreement with the Pacific Island Company for the exploitation of guano from the island. It was 1906, and Clipperton would live just some years of what appeared to be prosperity that will end in a horrible tragedy. The British company, together with the Government of Porfirio Díaz, proceeded to the construction of a mining settlement, with its barracks, its small railway, its lighthouse and its Italian and Chinese miners brought from San Francisco. Mexico also sent a small military detachment, headed by Ramón Arnaud, first (and only) Governor of Clipperton, a title he held for ten years, between 1906 and his death in 1916. He got married to Alicia Rovira, who moved to the passion island along with him. Much as it is an idyllic island in the Pacific, an atoll covered with shit is not the best destination for a honeymoon, but ok.

Between 1906 and 1914 the population of the island was kept around 100 residents among miners, engineers, soldiers and their families (women and children included). In 1908 the Pacific Island Company ceased operations on the island due to bankruptcy, and because they were not able to take out of the isle the low quality guano. Only men from the military detachment remain on the island to reaffirm the Mexican sovereignty on the island, and miners without a place to go back or not having someone to take them back. Food and other resources, including water, were arriving every two months with a ship from Acapulco. It is not hard to get the conclusion of what was about to happen on an isolated island with barely a hundred people and the arrival of a ship with just what was necessary to survive. In 1910, the Mexican Revolution broke out, and Clipperton community hardly knew about it, until the ship from Acapulco stop arriving in January 1914. It was sunk by off the coast of Mazatlán Mexican revolutionaries. Shortly after an American schooner ran aground on the place an before the news that American sailors brought from Mexico three officers engaged in a boat to Acapulco, where they arrived weeks later; However, the new Mexican authorities declined to rescue a declared supporter of the previous regime. Scurvy and hunger were baited with the Islanders. By the time the U.S. Navy sent a rescue boat, in June 1915, only 24 people remain alive on the island, 14 men, six women and six children, surviving on coconut milk and fish. The Americans rescued their people and offered Arnaud transportation for the rest, but the captain refused. In his youth, he was tried and convicted of desertion, and perhaps he feared being charged with the same offense. That decision was his death sentence. For him and, almost everyone else. During the next year, the majority of the population died from hunger and scurvy. It ‘s hard to imagine their physical and mainly mental conditions of the small population of the island. Isolated, without supplies and hope, becoming crazy every minute. Captain Arnaud and four more men were drowned onboard a precarious raft trying to reach a ship that will rescue them. In 1917, there was only one man (the keeper), eight women and seven children on the island. The lighthouse keeper, a man, named Victoriano Álvarez, ended up going crazy (as other men on the island before him had gone), and after proclaiming himself, King of Clipperton proceeded to embark on a binge of rape and murder that took the lives of four women. The fifth on the list was the widow of Arnaud; when she started to receive the attention of the keeper, she just simply killed him. Soon after, a US warship passed through the island and collected the surviving 11, the four women and seven children. In 1931, King Victor Manuel from Italia complied with the orders of Mussolini and gave France sovereignty over the island. Mexico has not been there for fourteen years, so there was no dispute, though you can still someone claiming sovereignty over the island. In 1934, the island of passion was erased from the Mexican Constitution. France rebuilt the lighthouse and sent a small military detachment to the island, which was dismantled in 1944. The U.S. Navy secretly occupied it in 1945 until the end of the World War II. Since then, only brief scientific expeditions or amateur radio approach get close. Jaques Cousteau, the mythical researcher, and marine adviser visited the island in 1978 together with a survivor to shoot a documentary. And some castaways have stayed there for two or three weeks until being rescued. But that’s it. The Clipperton Island was swallowed by time and sea and forgotten by history until the Colombian writer Laura Restrepo who published a novel about the island in 2005. Perhaps, on another day, I will give you my critics about the book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *