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Saint Peter and Paul Rocks
An archipelago in the Atlantic belonging to Brazil
Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago
Brazilian Navy scientific station and lighthouse of the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago
On April 20, 1511, a Portuguese Navy fleet composed of six caravels under the command of Captain Garcia de Noronha discovered the islets by accident while on their journey to India. While navigating in the open sea late at night, the Saint Peter caravel, under the command of Captain Manuel de Castro Alcoforado, crashed against the islets. The crew was rescued by the Saint Paul caravel, forming the name given to the islets.
On the morning of February 16, 1832, the rocks were visited by Charles Darwin on the first leg of his voyage on HMS Beagle around the world. Darwin listed all the fauna he could find; noting that not a single plant or even a lichen could be found on the island. Darwin found two birds, a booby and a noddy, a large crab that stole the fish intended for baby birds, a fly that lived on the booby and a parasitic tick. He found a moth that lived on feathers, a beetle, a woodlouse that lived on dung, and numerous spiders that he thought lived on scavengers of the waterfowl. Darwin felt that these rocks represented how life first took hold on a newly formed outcrop. Darwin was correct in noting that, unusually, these small islands were not volcanic, but were instead formed by a geologic uplift. Darwin's account formed the basis of a fictionalized episode in Patrick O'Brian's historical novel HMS Surprise, when the naturalist Stephen Maturin is briefly marooned and survives by drinking fouled rainwater and the blood of boobies.
On June 5-6, 2006, an earthquake with a magnitude of above six on the Richter magnitude scale rocked the archipelago. The strong tidal surge following the earthquake caused the battery compartment to crash against the station's outer wall, allowing sea water to flood the station. The four researchers who were on the archipelago took shelter in the lighthouse, while maintaining constant contact with the Brazilian Navy. A fishing vessel located nearby rescued the researchers, who were then transferred to a Brazilian Navy patrol boat. The incident caused considerable damage to the station and equipment. The station was repaired on September 9-11, 2006, and became operational shortly after.
The Saint Peter and Saint Paul Rocks are situated in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 km (62 mi) north of the Equator and are the only group of Brazilian oceanic islets in the Northern Hemisphere. The nearest point in the Brazilian coast, is Cabo do Calcanhar, Rio Grande do Norte, approximately 1,010 kilometres (630 mi) from the archipelago. The total emerged area is about 4.2 acres (1.7 ha) and the maximum land elevation is 18 m (59 ft), on Nordeste Island. The archipelago is composed of several rocks, five small rocky islets and four larger islets:
Belmonte Islet: 5,380 square metres (1.33 acres)
Challenger Islet (also known as São Paulo): 3,000 square metres (0.74 acres)
Nordeste Islet (also known as São Pedro): 1,440 square metres (0.36 acres)
Cabral Islet: 1,170 square metres (0.29 acres)
South Islet: 943 square metres (0.233 acres).
Their base is over 3,650 metres (11,980 ft) below sea level.
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