Since I’ve run out of actual travel post ideas, I though I would start writing some theoretical travel posts. Traveling to a place in your mind is entirely possible, especially now that we have Google Earth and other such tools. It’s also a lot cheaper and not as time-consuming as actual travel. Perfect for the busy worker or student, such as myself and probably you as well. So since we 99 percenters get screwed by The Man and have to take mind-vacations to save money so that we can pay rent and eat, let’s relax at a nice, inviting destination!
Clipperton Island (Ile de la Passion)
Located far off the Pacific coast of Mexico, Clipperton Island is truly the destination for someone looking to “get away from it all.” Clipperton was found in various parts of the last millennium by Spanish and French explorers and has been in French colonial overseas possession for about two centuries, minus a period of dispute with Mexico over its claim, and was a center of mining and fishing operations at times.
So what might you expect to find on this island? Beautiful beaches? Rum? Friendly natives? Pissed off natives? Naked brown boobies?
Sadly, none of the above, except for the last one (Clipperton is indeed home to the brown booby.) Clipperton Island consists of a thin strip of land encircling a lagoon full of brackish water. There are no human inhabitants. There seems to be no workable soil to speak of, and the only point of interest aside from some clumps of palm trees is a 100 foot-tall rock.
Why, then, would anyone bother with this place? Aside from the probably very complicated legal issues regarding Mexico and France’s territorial waters and resultant fishing and mining rights in the Pacific surrounding, it doesn’t have anything to offer, does it?
Well, it used to have plenty of something – guano. Guano is “the excrement of seabirds, cave-dwelling bats, pinnipeds, or (in English usage) birds in general” (source: wikipedia.) Lots of islands in the Pacific happened to contain a lot of guano, probably as a result of birds living on said islands for thousands of years. As it happened, bird shit was highly sought after as a fertilizer by many countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the United States Congress even passed an act declaring that any US citizen could claim any island containing guano that was uninhabited and not held by any other country for the US. The US did claim a lot of Pacific islands on this basis and still holds some of them to this day, but Clipperton, being a French holding from the 18th century, was not among them. So those lucky French farmers were able to get their hands on the lucrative crap that must have resulted in nice crop yields. Good for them.
Clipperton was visited on a fairly regular basis by miners looking for guano, and also by fishing and whaling vessels. Because of its both literal and figurative shittiness, the island was never permanently inhabited, but for once, when a Mexican settlement was established there and supplied by ship until 1915, when shipments were halted. The inhabitants were required to live off fish and rainwater collected in boats. The small settlement then broke out into scurvy and mostly died, and the remaining man on the island went mad and lorded over the several remaining women and children and committed several serious crimes before being killed in self-defense or retribution by one of the women. The remaining residents were recused, and perhaps understandably, no one has ever tried to live on Clipperton Island since.
Clipperton Island isn’t an entirely bad place, though, if you’re a marine or avian biologist with an interest in the eastern Pacific. A lot of birds still make their homes on the island. A large amount of coral grows around the island, along with a diverse group of Pacific sea-life. A species of bright orange crabs also lives on Clipperton, but put your shellfish fork away: their meat is poisonous.
Getting to Clipperton Island is difficult, as it has no harbor or even a dock or anything and nobody goes there save a few scientific expeditions and maybe the occasional French patrol ship. But you probably shouldn’t visit anyway. In fact, you should just be happy that you live in a place with constant fresh water supplies and no poisonous pinchy crabs. That’s pretty much the only positive thing I have in my life going right now, and I’m grateful for it.