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Thirteen Shipwrecked Refugees

Found 18 September 1887, Fremantle, Western Australia.

On a rusty tin band, fitted to the neck of an albatross:

13 naufragés sont réfugiés sur les îles Crozet, 4 Août, 1887.

13 shipwrecked refugees are on the Crozet islands, 4 August, 1887.

The Crozet Islands make up a small French-owned archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean, some 3,500 miles from Fremantle, where this message was found by a lad walking on a beach. It was punched into a rusty tin band, nine inches long and two inches wide, wrapped around the neck of a recently-deceased albatross, which had apparently flown the great distance over several weeks before expiring on arrival.

Australian authorities sent a search vessel to the Crozets, but found no trace of shipwrecked sailors, and the message became regarded as a hoax. However, in January 1888, a French search vessel found a letter on the uninhabited Pig Island. The letter stated that 13 shipwrecked men from the ship the Tamaris, having exhausted their provisions, had left the small island on 13 September to head to the larger Possession Island. No trace was found on Possession or any other Crozet island.

“Whether they were drowned in their effort at escape remains as yet unknown,” commented the Pall Mall Gazette. “But this much seems too unfortunately certain, that the life of the noble bird was sacrificed in vain.”

[Pall Mall Gazette, 9 May 1888]