is another one of those isolated islands you sometimes hear about. island of Fernando de Noronha
This is a sign on a post in front of the airport. As you can see, it’s a pretty long way from almost anywhere.
, it has been occupied by the English, the French and the Dutch. Mauritius
Like Diego Garcia, the Americans built an air base there. (Back in the days of the Second World War – it’s longer operative.)
Devil's Island, it was once a prison.
These days it’s a Brazilian possession, a maritime national park, and a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The sea around the island is an important feeding ground for tuna, cetaceans, sharks and marine turtles.
There’s a huge population of resident dolphins.
It has some of the most pristine, most beautiful beaches on earth.
And it is visited mostly by surfers, marine biologists and divers. (See photos here http://tinyurl.com/25zbonj of the Ipiranga, a Brazilian warship sunk in 1987. Click on each to enlarge.)
For most folks in
Brazil, Fernando de Noronha had long evoked nothing more than a tropical paradise, a getaway for the favored few.
That changed on the 31st of May, 2009.
On that night, the aircraft you see pictured above flew directly over the island. An Airbus A330-200, registered as F-GZCP and assigned the flight number 447 by Air
France, she was on a nonstop flight from Rio de to Janeiro . Paris
Just after 10:30 PM AF447 passed out of radar range.
And, some 45 minutes later, plunged into the
No one knows exactly where or why.
The black boxes have never been recovered; the exact spot where the fuselage hit the sea has never been determined.
There were 228 people on board.
It was the greatest disaster in the history of French aviation.
On the 5th of June, five days after the disaster, searchers spotted a piece of the aircraft’s tail.
The first two bodies were recovered on the sixth; sixteen more on the seventh; eight more on the eighth.
The media flooded onto
Fernando de Noronha, started reporting from there, kept sending out images of recovered victims.
I was in
at the time. Paris
I heard the name of the island cited again and again on French television, saw it appear again and again in French newspapers.
Most, in that country, had never heard of the place before the disaster.
Their introduction to it was horrific.
, can still think of it as a tropical paradise. Brazil
I doubt that is the case for the French.
Fernando de Noronha has become one of those place names associated with death and disaster.
Leighton – Monday