Jean-Paul Kauffmann, the author and literary explorer, follows in the footsteps of the eighteenth-century sailor Yves-Joseph Kerguelen, who gave his name to the archipelago he discovered in the southern Indian Ocean. It remains part of the French Southern and Antarctic Territories. When he made his discover, Kerguelen was convinced he had found Hell and could not bring himself to go ashore. It was left to Captain Cook two years later to set foot on the principal landmass, to name it Desolation Island and its grey beach Christmas Harbour, and to describe the towering black arch that would later astound every sailor who saw it.
Where better than in this isolated spot to plumb the depths of one's own solitude? A truly desolate place, littered with the abandoned, wind-and-rain-lashed remnants of failed expeditions; its weather treacherous, capricious, unforgiving. But there are those who have adapted to the harsh conditions of Desolation Island as successfully as its unique flora and fauna. Why are there so many scientist here? What are they up to? And what is the shadow hanging over the reputation of Yves-Joseph Kerguelen? How did he disgrace himself at ? These are but some of the questions Kauffmann asks as he explores on of the loneliest points on the globe in his own quest to see for himself and famous arch of Kerguelen.