Monday, February 23, 2015

Glorioso Islands

It seems as if all the little islands of the world, all the coral reefs and atolls, all the tiny places that don’t quite fit into the country nearest them, but ought to, that all of them belong to France, as though the French had decided to skip Mayfair and Leicester Square and all the serious properties on the Monopoly board (that's Marvin Gardens and Broadwalk in the American version) and just buy the four railway stations, the water works and the electricity company, which nobody else wanted. Playing chess only with the pawns. The French Open Golf championship, but on a putting green. The glorious Glorioso are part of this little box of miniatures, an archipelago in theory, though there are just two islands, Grande Glorieuse the larger at three kilometres in width, and Ile du Lys, which is just six hundred metres in diameter; plus two rock islets - Roches Vertes and l’Ile aux Crabes - and an occasional sand bank, which is to say that you can just make out what may very well be a sand bank, but only when the tide is at its lowest.

Its entire majestic gloriousness, all seven square kilometres of it, is located off Mozambique, one hundred and sixty kilometres north of Madagascar, so it is not obvious why they are regarded as a separate entity from that other French domain, the Southern and Antarctic Lands. One neat trick by the French on this occasion is that, while the island may be only seven square kilometres, it has an economic exclusion zone around it of fully forty-five thousand square kilometres, so go sailing down that part of the Indian Ocean and see if any French battleships come out to challenge you. Why do they need it? Have you reached G in this blogbook and still need to ask? It is to protect the coral reef and the lagoon from nasty people who might damage it if the good French were not there to keep it safe. What other reason could there be, so close to the unfriendly Antarctic?

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