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Introduction

Clipperton, although officially an overseas possession of France, is located far away from the mother country. The nearest piece of land is Socorro Island, Mexico, at almost 1,000 kilometres to the north. The island itself is an atoll of about 9 square kilometres and is uninhabited. Apart from military personnel and scientist/researchers, there are almost no possibilities to get to the island and generally is not permitted as well.

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Geography

Clipperton is about 945 kilometres southeast of Socorro Island in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, the nearest land. Its ring-shaped atoll completely encloses a stagnant freshwater lagoon, and is 12 kilometres in circumference. The rim averages 150 metres in width, reaching 400 metres in the west and narrows to 45 metres in the northeast, where sea waves occasionally spill over into the lagoon. Land elevations average 2 metres, though Clipperton Rock, a barren 29 metres volcanic outcrop in the south-east, is considerably higher and is the highest point. The surrounding reef is exposed at low tide.

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Sights and Activities

  • Clipperton Rock in the south-east is the first thing you'll see when approaching the atoll. It is a volcanic outcrop, 29 meters high, and the only really elevated place on the island. On the rock you may find the ruins of an old lighthouse, erected by Mexico in 1906. If you're short on scary stories at night, you can think of the last lighthouse keeper, Victoriano Álvarez. After the other males on the island had died in 1917, he found himself alone with 15 women and children. He went mad and started raping and killing, until he himself was killed by two of the women.
  • There are several coconut palm tree groves on the island. At the largest one there are remains of US Navy buildings from WWII. Old machinery and munitions from this time can be found around the island.
  • Two wrecks from Mexican fishing boats, Lily Marie and Oco, are on the shores. Just make sure you don't repeat their mistake.
  • There is a shack remaining of a 1996 NASA radar site, constructed to track a French rocket launch from French Guiana. The rocket malfunctioned and exploded soon after launch, however.

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Weather

The island has a tropical climate with generally warm, humid conditions and a wet season between May and October, with possible hurricanes. Although the temperature hoovers arond 30 °C during most days, the constant breeze cools things of a bit.

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Getting There

Clipperton Island is under direct authority of the French Government and is a full part of the European Union. However, it is exempt from the Schengen Area and therefore citizens from outside France need a permit to visit Clipperton Island. It can be obtained from the French High Commission in French Polynesia. Despite that, unless a French Navy patrol visits the island, there are obviously no officials on the island to check permits.

There are no conventional tourist trips to Clipperton Island, you will have to go by your own boat or join an expedition. To make the journey there as short as possible, Acapulco is a good port from which to start.

There is no harbor on the island, the only option is to anchor offshore (the south west side has been cited as the best location) and go in using a smaller boat. This can be dangerous since the surf often is very rough as the waves break against the surrounding coral reefs. Leaving the island is even more difficult - it takes a skilled boatsman to time the passage past the reefs to the right moment, between the crashing waves.

The fresh water lagoon in the middle is enclosed and cannot be reached by boat.

There is no airstrip on Clipperton Island. It could be possible to land an Albatross or float plane in the lagoon.

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Getting Around

There are no other means of transportation on Clipperton Island than your own feet, and walking on the island is quite difficult. You will encounter two types of surfaces. One is soft sand, which collapses under your feet due to the burrows dug by the island's many crabs. The other surface is made out of hard coral fragments cemented together, covered with loose coral pieces. Watch where you put your feet so you don't step on the wrong piece and get an ankle sprain. If you consider this information a challenge, you may want to try and break the record time for running around the island. The fastest time noted is 1 hour and 17 minutes, by a radio amateur visiting the island in 2000.

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Eat/Drink

Bring your own food or be prepared for a diet of fish and the occasional coconut. Avoid the crabs, since they are poisonous to eat.
You cannot bring too much water - estimate at least around 10 liters per day or even more. The water from the lagoon in the middle, while not tasting very good, has yet to be proven undrinkable.

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Sleep

There are no accommodations on Clipperton Island, you will have to set up your own camp. Bring earplugs since you'll have to cope with the noise from thousands of birds. The hordes of crabs are a real nuisance so prepare your camp accordingly with fencing to keep them out. The rats will be interested too, so move your trash away from your camp and keep your tent closed. You don't want to get bitten by a diseased rat when you're on a deserted island.

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This is version 6. Last edited at 8:11 on May 18, 17 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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