Kerguelen, a subantarctic island of volcanic origin, is located in the South Indian Ocean, approximately 3,300 mi. (5,310 km) southeast of the southern tip of Africa (see map). Also known as Desolation Island, it is the largest of the 300 islands, islets and reefs in the Kerguelen Archipelago (total area ca. 2,700 mi2 / 7,000 km2), which lie between 48° to 50°S and 68° to 70°E. The region is part of the French Southern and Antarctic Territories — Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (TAAF), which also includes Terre Adélie (Antarctica), the Crozet Archipelago, and the tiny islands of Amsterdam/St-Paul.
Ille Kerguelen, covering an area of 1,318 mi2 (3,414 km2), has a highly irregular coastline with a number of large peninsulas linked to the island by low, narrow isthmuses. These large features are further sub-divided by fjords into smaller peninsulas. Remarkably, despite its total area, no point on the main island is more than 12 mi. (20 km) from the sea.
Mainnland, the main features are the numerous valleys and ridges with the highest point, the glaciated Mount Ross, reaching a height of 6,068 ft. (1,850 m). Mount Ross is the youngest volcanic edifice recognized in the Kerguelen Archipelago. The Kerguelen Islands lie in the Northern part of the Kerguelen-Gaussberg ridge, having been built up by a series of thick lava flows over millions of years (see “Origins of the Kerguelen Plateau”).
Cook Glacier covers nearly one third of the island, and the abundant rainfall combined with glacial meltwater keeps numerous streams and lakes full of water. Peat marshes, lignite, and guano deposits are found on the island.
Kerguelen’s weather is harsh, with rain, sleet or snow falling more than 300 days a year; it is not unusual to get snow at sea level in the middle of the summer. Winds blow continuously from the west, as the islands lie in the path of the “Furious Fifties”. Averaging 68 m.p.h. (110 km/hr) year-round, sustained winds of 93 m.p.h. (150 kph) are commonplace, and gusts of up to 124 m.p.h. (200 kph) have been recorded. Appropriately enough, the lone chapel on the island is called Notre Dame des Vents.
Kerguelen lies on the Antarctic Convergence where upwelling cold water from the Antarctic mixes with the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean, birdlife and marine mammals are abundant. The state of the sea reflects the high wind speeds, with wave heights of 40-50 ft. (12-15m) being common. The sea around Kerguelen is, however, ice free.
found on discoverfrance.net