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—  City  —
La cité de Port-aux-Français-aux-Kerguelen
Palais de l'Indépendance, seat of the parliament


Coat of arms
Motto: Tout pour la recherche scientifique
Port-aux-Français in dark red; La Capitale in light red
Commune La Capitale
Province East Kerguelen
Founded 1949
Founder Pierre Sicaud
Named for France
City Assembly City Assembly of Port-aux-Français
 - Mayor Livi Adriane Duparreau
 - Total 151 km2 (58 sq mi)
 - Land 147.9 km2 (56.8 sq mi)
 - Water 3.1 km2 (1.2 sq mi)  (2.1)%
Population (2014)
 - Total 6,690
 - Demonym Francien(ne)s
Time zone UTC+04:00 (UTC+04)

Port-aux-Français, officially The City of Port-aux-Français on the Kerguelen (French: La cité de Port-aux-Français-aux-Kerguelen, pronunciation: [lɑsiˈtedə ˈpɔ:ʁ.ˌto fʁãˈsɛ ʔoˈkɛʁgəˌlã]; official English: City of Port-of-France-on-the-Kerguelen) is the capital city and the most populous city of the Republic of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands. The city proper has 6,690 inhabitants (2014); if the remainder of the commune of La Capitale is included (Port-de-la-Baie-Norvégienne and Port-du-Prince-de-Galles (sic)), the total number of inhabitants is 14,670. It is located in the province of East Kerguelen, of which it is also the provincial capital.

The city serves as the main hub of the province, the Kerguelen Islands, and the majority of the Republic. Its location on the north of the Baie Morbihan, behind the shelter of the Presqu'île du Prince de Galles, makes it a safe port for both commercial and recreational seafaring.

Despite its relatively small size, Port-aux-Français is ranked as a Beta- world city due to its relative economic and social independence, as well as its importance within the region. This rating is mainly provided by the regional influence of the government within much of the Indian Ocean, the exceptional self-sufficiency due to its remote and relatively isolated location, its wealth, and the presence of the University of the Kerguelen.

Famous Francien(ne)s include the painter and poet Édouard de Fervières-Lesvériés de la Fourrière, the ecologist and tv presenter Marie Lefeuille, and photo model Lisette Dedunkerque.

Famous tourist attractions in Port-aux-Français are the National Museum of Arts of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands, the theme park Parc de la neige, the Val Château, the Vallée de grand nombre des cours, and the Plage-aux-Français.


For a more detailed history, see History of Port-aux-Français.


The name was chosen by Pierre Sicaud in 1949 for the newly founded settlement.

In 1972, the communal assembly of La Capitale voted unanimously to add -aux-Kerguelen to the official name to specify its alignment of loyalty. Interestingly, the explorer Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse had named a fjord in Alaska Port des Français, and it was the ship La Pérouse that brought Sicaud to the Kerguelen. Sicaud later acknowledged that this was pure coincidence.

Founding and early years

The site of Port-aux-Français was chosen for its sheltered location and the feasability of the construction of an airstrip (which was never realised; instead, the Aéroport de Kerguelen was created 23 km further north near Port-du-Cap-Digby). Pierre Sicaud, leader of the mission and administrator of Overseas France, decided to commission the construction of the station in 1949. Upon Sicaud's retour the minister of Overseas Territories, François Mitterand, confirmed the decision to create a permanent station.

The governour of the Kerguelen Archipelago in Port-Christmas decided that the location would be a good place to create a new village, both to permanently house a significant number of Jewish World War II refugees, as well as many natives of the isles. Sicaud acknowledged the advantages of the creation of a new village at the site, and commissioned that it be built around the scientific research station.

Port-aux-Français was granted a communal council as it became the Commune de Port-aux-Français in 1951, when approximately 200 people lived there.

The first neighbourhoods, La Synagogue and La Forêt were finished in 1953, and the population of Port-aux-Français rose to approximately 750 individuals. The neighbourhoods of Les Champs and La Vallée were finished in 1955, by which time approximately 4,000 people had taken residence in the city, exceeding the then territorial capital of Port-Christmas. The Grand Port was created in the same year.

Independence of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands

Capital city

Remainder of the Twentieth century

Twenty-first century


Port-aux-Français is located between the Baie Morbihan in the south and the Rivière Châtea in the north. The western boundary is formed by Les Vallées Séchées, the eastern boundary by the Dead Lady's Lakes. Geologically it lies on a bottom of quartenary deposits.


The Port-aux-Français Arboretum.

Port-aux-Français consists of several separated neighbourhoods which are surrounded by meadowy fields interspersed with forested valleys. The most famous of these is probably the Vallée de grand nombre des cours located in the west of the city, separating the La Synagogue, La Forêt, Les Champs, Grand Port and La Vallée neighbourhoods. This valley system consists of a number of larger and smaller lakes which are connected with each other through a system of small brooks and rivulets, known collectively as Les Larmes de la Déesse (The Goddess' Tears). This valley is characterised by its many birch trees, and houses a variety of small songbirds.

The eastern part of the city is characterised by the Vallée Assemblée, through which the Ruisseau Assemblée runs to the Baie Morbihan. It runs due north of the La Vallée and La Dame neighbourhoods and is home to a number of monumental weeping willows.

Another important natural feature of the city is the Côte des abres, located between the Les Champs neighbourhood and the Baie Morbihan. This forest is fully coniferous and extends into the Les Champs neighbourhood. It is a popular recreation area, but also an important breeding ground for several species of bird and small mammals.

All three natural areas mentioned above are state-protected parks of the Province of East Kerguelen.

The city also holds the Port-aux-Français Arboretum, which is managed and maintained by the University of Kerguelen. The Arboretum holds several rare trees, as well as the more usual ones.

The Arboretum especially prides its collection of walnut, maple and linden trees, but also houses poplars, willows, and a variety of flowering trees.

The Arboretum provides living places for both birds and insects, and boasts one of the few permanent stork couples to breed on the Kerguelen Islands. It also houses a small family of pine martens, a population of rabbits, and several badger homes.


Port-aux-Français has an ocean moderated tundra climate (Köppen climate classification ET) with cool conditions year round. Temperatures (without windchill) tend to remain fairly stable throughout the year, rarely reaching over 18 °C (64 °F) or falling below −8 °C (18 °F).[1] The average temperature in February, the warmest month, is 7.5 °C (45.5 °F) with a maximum of 11.5 °C (52.7 °F) during the day and 4.3 °C (39.7 °F) during the night. In winter, August and July are the coldest months, averaging 4.8 to 5.0 °C (40.6 to 41.0 °F) during the day and −0.8 °C (30.6 °F) at night. Snowfall is possible in all months, even in summer though it is more common during the winter months than during the summer months. The climate is very windy, with wind speeds that can reach 80m/s.[2] The lowest recorded temperature was −9.5 °C (14.9 °F) on 11 August 2014, which beats the old record of −9.4 °C (15.1 °F) set in June 1953.[3] Highest temperature was 23.0 °C (73.4 °F) on 30 January 1959.[4]

Climate data for Port-aux-Français, Kerguelen Islands
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 23.0
Average high °C (°F) 11.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 7.2
Average low °C (°F) 4.1
Record low °C (°F) −1.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 48.9
Average precipitation days 16 13 17 18 19 20 21 22 21 20 18 18 223
Average rainy days 16 13 16 16 14 13 13 13 12 13 14 16 169
Average snowy days 1 0 2 4 6 10 11 13 12 11 7 2 79
Mean monthly sunshine hours 188 159 147 114 94 71 84 105 126 151 175 186 1,600
Source #1: NOAA (normals 1961-1990)[2]
Source #2: Weatherbase (record high and low)[5] (precipitation, snow, and rainy days)[1]


The official population of Port-aux-Français is 6,690 as of 2014. This excludes expats working in the city and students studying at the universities (see below). There are 4,087 females (61.1% of the population) and 2,603 males (38.9% of the population), which translates into a 3:2 female-to-male ratio.

In Port-aux-Français, 57.3% of the population is of French ethnicity, 24.2% is Yiddish, 6.9% is Australian, 4.5% Black African, and 7.1% were Other.

When expats and the university's students are included, the total population increases with 4,678 to 11,368. The reason expats are not included in the official statistics is because they do not possess citizenship of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands; the reason students are not included is because students retain their parents' address of residence officially until they have finished studying. Of the expats and students, 2,622 are female and 2,056 are male.


Religion does not play and has never played an important role in the society of Port-aux-Français. The only currently existing religious institution is the Synagogue of Port-aux-Français, which serves as the house of worship for the approximately 850 Jewish inhabitants of Port-aux-Français. No other established religions are present or registered en masse in Port-aux-Français, save the sporadic Catholic.


French name English name Number of inhabitants
in jure[6]
Number of inhabitants
de facto[7]
Centre-ville City centre 355 360 Centre-Ville.png
La Dame Dame 530 533 La Dame.png
La Forêt Forest 1200 1244 La Dame.png
La Plage Seaside 203 348 La Plage.png
La Synagogue Synagogue 2,045 2,560 La Synagogue.png
La Vallée Valley 914 922 La Vallée.png
Les Champs Fields 606 678 Les Champs.png
L'Harvoir Harbour 851 853 L'Harvoir.png
Total 6,690 6,983
Data provided by the Statistics of the Republic

Cityscape and architecture




Port-aux-Français is home to a number of famous and important museums, displaying a variety of things ranging from arts to history to natural exhibits.

Museums which specifically focus on visual arts are the National Museum of Arts of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands and the Faculty of Arts of the University of Kerguelen. The National Museum of Arts displays a number of works by Édouard de Fervières-Lesvériés de la Fourrière, Jackson Pollock, and Piet Mondrian, amongst other artists. It also displays art by several other famous artists from the Southern Indian Ocean Islands, like Louise Manarre and Ferdinand Ferdinand. The Faculty of Arts, located in Le Beffroi on the Port-aux-Français University Campus, displays a number of paintings by Fervières-Lesvériés de la Fourrière, Pablo Picasso, and several other artists.

The National History Museum of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands focuses on the history of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands. It is divided into six different main exhibits: the history of the Kerguelen Islands, the history of the Crozet Islands, the history of the Prince Edward Islands, the history of the Heard and McDonald Islands, the history of Amsterdam Island, and the history of Saint-Paul Island. The museum has in its possession a variety of historic fishing, sealing, and whaling equipment, as well as the original fishing vessel La-dent-de-lion, which was one of the vessels which brought families from La Réunion in the Landing of the Three Fishing Boats.

The Kerguelen Museum of Nature focuses on the natural history and present of the Kerguelen Islands, with exhibits of animals, plants, geological samples, fossils, and an aquarium with sea-dwellers.


Stage performance



Make-up of the City Assembly.

The city houses the Federal Assembly and Senate of the federation, the Provincial Assembly of East Kerguelen, the Communal Assembly of La Capital, and the City Assembly of Port-aux-Français. It is also home to the Palais de la Rivière, the official home of the President of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands.

The direct governing body of the city proper is the Assemblée de la Cité, which has direct jurisdiction over everything within the city limits (thus excluding the two ports, which are under direct control of the Communal Assembly). The City Assembly's 45 députés sous-municipaux are elected from eight multi-member districts, as well as from an at-large party-list.

The current make-up of the City Assembly is as follows:

  • NSG: 12 seats
  • DL: 10 seats
  • PJR: 6 seats
  • Les Verts: 4 seats
  • Les Socialistes: 4 seats
  • PRLGBT: 3 seats
  • PPF: 2 seats
  • Les Démocrates: 2 seats
  • Les Républiquains: 1 seat
  • APPF: 1 seat.

The coalition consists of the NSG, Les Verts, Les Socialistes, PRLGBT, and Les Démocrates. The NSG provides three aldermen, the other parties one each.

The current mayor is Mme Livi Adriane Duparreau, an independent.



Port-aux-Français is served by three major roads, two of which are highways; Rues de la République 1 and 2 are highways, and Rue de la République 8 is a secondary road. RRs 2 and 8 run east-west through the city proper and connect with the RR 1 just outside of the western boundary of the city in the Échangeur Courbet, where the RR 2 terminates.

The city's main at-grade road is the RR 8, which has level junctions with many of the intracity connecting roads; this road continues to Val Studer and Port-Accessible towards the west, and to Port-de-la-Baie-Norvégienne, De Ratmanoff and Port-du-Cap-Digby towards the east.

The main highway is the RR2, which has four entry and/or exit opportunities within the city proper. The exits for La Vallée/Périphérique de l'Est and L'Harvoir/La Dame only provide one-way exits and entries. The exits for L'Assemblée Fédérale/L'université de Kerguelen/Centre-ville and La Forêt/Les Champs do provide entry and exits in both directions. The highway terminates at the RR1, but runs to Molloy, Port-Couvreux, and Port-Christmas toward the west.

The RR 1 has two entries and/or exits: the La Dame exit connects the road to the La Dame neighbourhood, whilst the Palais de la Rivière exit is a private exit which connects the RR1 with the Palais de la Rivière, the official residence of the President of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands.

The city has two ringroads: the Périphérique and the Périphérique aux trois quarts. The Périphérique runs in clockwise fashion from the north past the Assemblée Fédérale, the Terrace à la Palaise de la Rivière, the La Vallée neighbourhood, the L'Harvoir neighbourhood, the Centre-ville, the Grand Port, connects with the RR2, runs parallel to the Gare de Port-aux-Français and connects with the Périphérique aux trois quarts past the La Synagogue neighbourhood and back to the Assemblée Fédérale.

The Périphérique aux trois quarts starts right opposite the Gare de Port-aux-Français and runs through the entire length of the La Synagogue neighbourhood, crossing the RR 8, runs through the La Forêt neighbourhood, connecting to the RR 2 before running through the Les Champs neighbourhood, eventually terminating in Grand Port.


Port-aux-Français' single train station, the Gare de Port-aux-Français, is a central hub of the Yellow Line to Molloy, the Blue Line to Port-Couvreux and Port-Christmas, and the Red Line to Port-du-Prince-de-Galles and Port-du-Cap-Digby. For the first two lines it is also the terminus.

Yellow Line trains leave one or two times per hour; Blue Line trains leave four times a day; Red Line trains leave once an hour in each direction.

As of April 2015, the province of East Kerguelen has commissioned research into the feasability of opening two more train stations, the Gare de La Forêt-Les Champs in the west of the city, and the Gare de la Dame et la Plage in the east of the city.


Port-aux-Français is served by four bus lines, all of which depart from the train station:

  • Ligne 1: Gare - University - La Synagogue - La Forêt - Les Champs - Grand Port - Gare
  • Ligne 2: Gare - Federal Assembly - La Vallée - Gare
  • Ligne 3: Gare - Centre-Ville - L'Harvoir
  • Ligne 4: Gare - L'Harvoir - La Dame - La Plage.

The city is also served by the R100 to Val Studer, Port-Accessible, Aéroport de Kerguelen and Port-du-Cap-Digby.


The Petit Port aux Français is the start and end of several passenger ferries:

  • Traversier d'Amsterdam to: Port-du-Cap-Digby, Port-du-Passage-des-Deux-Îles, Port-Christmas and the Îles Saint-Paul and Amsterdam;
  • Traversier des Vents to: Port-du-Cap-Digby, Port-du-Passage-des-Deux-Îles, Port-Christmas, Port-de-l'Île d'Ouest, Île de l'Est, Île de la Possession, Île aux Cochons, Prince Edward Island and Marion Island;
  • Traversier Antarctique to: Heard Island;
  • Traversier de l'autre côte to: Port-Douzième;
  • Traversier du Nord to: Port-du-Cap-Digby, Port-du-Passage-des-Deux-Îles, Lanne Gramont and La-Société-de-Géographie.


Port-aux-Français is an important connecting point for several of the Kerguelen trails as designated by the Hikers' Society of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands:

  • the aorta East-West Trail runs straight through the city from east to west;
  • the Val Studer Trail enters the Val Studer and follows the Rivière Studer to Port-Accessible;
  • the Château Trail runs through the valley of the Rivière Château, terminating in the East-West Trail to the east and in the Val Studer Trail to the west;
  • the East River Trail leaves from Port-aux-Français northwards across the Rivière Château, along much of the Rivière de l'Est and past Mont Campbell to join the Accessible-Hillsborough Trail at Cap Cotter;
  • the Trail of a Thousand Lakes starts due east from Port-aux-Français from the Château Trail and runs through the Courbet Lakes, past Lac Marville to Port-du-Cap-Digby.


La Grande Entrée, main building of the University of Kerguelen campus in Port-aux-Français.

Port-aux-Français is home to two public primary schools, as well as one Jewish primary school.

Secondary education is provided by a public high school and a public Montessori college.

Higher education is provided by the University of Kerguelen, the main campus of which lies in Port-aux-Français. The faculties of Philosophy, Behavioural and Social Sciences, Theology and Religious Studies and Arts. The campus also houses the Department of Biology of the University of Applied Sciences of the Austral Indian Ocean Islands.

Port-aux-Français is popular with international students, especially those with a purely academic interest. Student life is very laid back and relatively progressive, and there are no hazing rituals (see also: Évrard Lythie and Jonathan Quinn, two students who were executed after their attempts at hazing students amounted to capital crimes). Excellent sleeping facilities are provided in the two campus dormitories, as well as in a number of rooms and appartments in the rest of the city.

Notable people


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Port Aux Francais, France". Weatherbase. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Climate Normals for Port Aux Francais 1961-1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  5. "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Port-Aux-Francais, French Southern and Antarctic Lands". Weatherbase. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  6. Residents who are officially registered as living in Port-aux-Français.
  7. Residents who officially have their home address elsewhere in the Republic, but reside in Port-aux-Français for work, studies, or otherwise.