Jason Islands

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Grand Jason
Location of the Jason Islands

The Jason Islands are an archipelago in the Falkland Islands, lying to the far north-west of West Falkland. Three of the islands, Steeple Jason, Grand Jason and Clarke's Islet are private nature reserves owned by the Wildlife Conservation Society, New York. Other islands in the group are National Nature Reserves owned by the Falkland Islands Government.


Satellite image of the Jason Islands

The islands include Steeple Jason, Grand Jason, Elephant Island, Flat Island and South Island.

Areas of Jason Islands[1]
Island Area (acres) Area (sq mile)
Steeple Jason 2,000 3.1
Grand Jason 3,400 5.3
Steeple Islet 54 0.085
Flat Jason 930 1.45
Elephant Jason 640 1
South Fur 62 0.097
North Fur 190 0.29
Clarke's Islet 12 0.019
Total 8,320 13
  • Steeple Jason Island is runs south-east to north-west. A narrow neck of land breaks the island into two sections, both with steep slopes on both sides. The northern point has a wide low plateau which is an important area for breeding seabirds.
  • Grand Island, the largest of the group, has a varied terrain with steep cliffs and high plateaux with gullies. There are tussac-covered west and south facing slopes, but severely eroded areas, especially at the northern, south-eastern and western ends. Above 197–295 feet, tussac is sparse and there are low grasses and small cushion plants
  • Steeple Islet is generally low-lying and slopes towards a rocky north-western point. It is almost completely covered in dense tussac grass.
  • Flat Jason Island is low-lying.
  • Elephant Jason Island has a long ridge with a maximum height of 682 feet. On the western coast thee are sheer cliffs; on the northern and eastern coasts the land slopes into low-lying plateaux covered with dense tussac. The tussac extends round most of the island except at the most northerly point, where there are areas of grass and heath. Early in the 20th century it was used as a base for government sealing inspectors.
  • South Jason Island has a central ridge with a high point about 984 feet.
  • South Fur Island, about 3 miles off the south coast of South Jason Island, is notable for its dolerite boulders.
  • North Fur lies east of Flat Jason. It has steep cliffs and has never been stocked probably because access is difficult.
  • Clarke's Islet is about 0.3 mile off the north-eastern coast of Grand Jason Island. The Fridays are two small, low-lying islands about 3 miles off the north-west coast of Flat Jason.[1]

The Jason Islands are somewhat geologically distinct. Ian Strange says,

sharply rising peaks give them a grandeur found in few other areas of the archipelago.


Jason Islands depicted on an 18 century map, as "S. de Waerds Isl.s" (R.W. Seale, ca. 1745, fragment)

An archipelago in the region of the Falkland Islands appeared on maps from the early 16th century, suggesting they may have been sighted by an expedition of the 16th century. Esteban Gómez of the "San Antonio", one of the captains in the expedition of Magellan, deserted this enterprise and encountered several islands, which members of his crew called "Islas de Sansón y de los Patos" ("Islands of Samson and the Ducks"). Although these islands were probably the Jason Islands, the names "Islas de Sansón" (or "San Antón," "San Son," and "Ascensión") were used for the Falklands as a whole on Spanish maps during this period.

It was on his homeward leg back to the Netherlands after having left the Straits of Magellan that Sebald De Weert noticed some unnamed and uncharted islands, or at least islands that did not exist on his nautical charts. There he attempted to stop and replenish but was unable to land due to harsh conditions. The islands Sebald de Weert charted were the present day Jason Islands. De Weert then named these islands the "Sebald de Weert Eilanden" ("Sebald de Weert Islands" in English) which became to be known to the world as the Sebald Islands. Since 1766, these have been known as the "Jason Islands", though the Spaniards retain the earlier Dutch "Islas Sebaldinas" or "Sebaldes".

Between 1864 and 1866, approximately two million rockhopper and gentoo penguins were killed on the Jasons and boiled to extract their oil. None of the islands has ever been inhabited, but until the 1980s they were used for grazing sheep - one or two buildings remain.

In March 1970, the islands were bought by Len Hill. Hill famously once issued some now sought-after banknotes in their name to raise money for conservation there. The notes indicate a validity until the 31 December 1979 and are signed by "Len Hill - Administrator".[2][3] By a stroke of fate, the Jason Islands were offered to Hill for £10,000, which included sheep that had been stocked by the previous owner. After some negotiation, he bought the islands for £5,500 without the sheep.

Two of the Jason Islands, Steeple Jason Island and Grand Jason Island, were bought by New York philanthropist Michael Steinhardt in the 1990s, who later donated them to the Bronx Zoo based Wildlife Conservation Society. He also gave them US$ 425,000 to build a conservation station named after himself and his wife Judy.

Wildlife and conservation

The Jason Islands are the main stronghold of the striated caracara, while other wildlife includes albatrosses, Antarctic skuas and fur seals.

Steeple and Grand Jason were stocked with cattle and up to 5,000 sheep from the late 19th century to about 1968. Overgrazing has left parts of these two islands badly eroded. Elephant Jason was stocked from 1967 to 1971. Since then, the sheep have been removed and the islands have been managed as nature reserves. Fire has been a problem on South Jason.

Apart from an infestation of mice on Steeple Jason, the islands in the group are free of introduced predators.[1] They are now run as a nature reserve.

Outside links


The Jason Islands

Grand JasonElephant JasonFlat JasonThe FridaysNorth FurSouth FurClarke's IsletEast CayWest CaySeal RocksSouth JasonSteeple JasonSteeple Islet