Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Astola Island

Astola Island

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Astola Island, also known as Jezira Haft Talar (Urduجزیرہ ہفت تلار‎) or 'Island of the Seven Hills', is a medium-sized, uninhabited island in the Arabian Sea in Pakistan's territorial waters, some 25 km south of Pakistan's nearest coastline and 39 km southeast of the Pakistani fishing port of Pasni. Astola is Pakistan's largest offshore island and the only significant offshore island in the northern Arabian Sea. The area is about 6.7 km2 (0 sq mi). Administratively, the island is part of the Pasni subdistrict of Gwadar District in Balochistan province.
A view of Astola Island's northern face




The island of Astola finds its first known mention in Arrian's account of Alexander's Admiral Nearchos, who was dispatched to explore the coast of the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Azadi and the Persian Gulf in 325 BCE. According to Dr. A. V. Williams Jackson, "The seamen on board the ships of Nearchos, being superstitious, like the sailors of all ages and countries, were much frightened at the weird tales told about an uninhabited island, which Arrian calls Nosala, and is now known as Astola or Astalu. It lies nearly midway between Urmera and Pasni headlands, and is to this day as much an object of dread to the Med fisherman as it was long ago to the Greek sailors." [1]


Astola Island lies in the northern tip of the Arabian Sea, approximately 25 km south of Pakistan's Makran Coastline and approximately 39 km southeast of the Pakistani fishing port of Pasni. It is also the northernmost island of the Arabian Sea.
Its geographical coordinates are Latitude 25° 7'21.51"N and Longitude 63°50'51.53"E.


The island is approximately 6.7 km in length with a maximum width of 2.3 km. Its highest point is 246 feet above sea level.


Astola Island can be accessed by rented boats via Pasni after travelling by road from either Gwadar or Karachi via the Makran Coastal Highway. Motorized boats from Pasni, on average, take 5 hours to reach the island.

[edit]Terrain and physical features

The island consists of a large tilted plateau and a series of seven small hillocks (hence the local name "Haft Talar" or "Seven Hills"), with deep chasms and crevices, which are several feet wide.
There are several natural caves and coves on the island. The south face of the island slopes off gradually whereas the north face is cliff-like with a sharp vertical drop.

[edit]Wildlife and marine life

The isolated location of the island has helped maintain endemic life forms. The endangered Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbracata) nest on the beach at the foot of the cliffs. The island is also a very important area for endemic reptiles such as the Astola Viper (Echis carinatus astolae). The island is reported to support a large number of breeding water birds including coursers, curlews, godwits, gulls, plovers and sanderlings. Feral cats, originally introduced by fishermen to control the endemic rodent population, pose an increasing threat to wildlife breeding sites.
Astola Island is also home to coral reef.

[edit]Flora and fauna

Vegetation on the island is sparse and largely consists of scrubs and large bushes. There are no trees on the island. The largest shrub on the island is Prosopis juliflora, which was introduced intoSouth Asia in 1877 from South America.
There is no source of fresh water on the island and the vegetation depends on occasional rainfall and soil moisture for survival.

[edit]Man-made features

In 1982, the Government of Pakistan installed a small gas-powered beacon on the island for the safety of passing vessels, which was replaced by a solar-powered one in 1987.[2]
Between September and May of each year, Astola becomes a temporary base for mainland fishermen for catching lobsters and oysters. From June to August, the island remains uninhabited due to the fishing off-season, the rough seas and high tides.
There is a small mosque dedicated to the Muslim saint, Khawaja Khizr, which is used by the mainland fishermen during the fishing season. Ruins of an ancient Hindu temple of the Hindu goddess, Kali are located on the island.[3] The island was also known to the Hindus as Satadip.[4]
In Arrian's Indica, which describes the westward journey of Alexander's fleet after the Indus Valley campaign (325 BC), Admiral Nearchus is quoted as having anchored by an island named 'Carnine'. It was said to be inhabited by the Ichthyophagoi ('fish eaters' in Greek) and where, "even mutton had a fishy taste". The Persian phrase mahi khoran (fish eaters) has become the modern name of the coastal region of Makran. Some scholars have assumed Carnine to be Astola Island, without considering the extreme aridity and lack of fresh water, which renders the place inhospitable for human habitation, as well as animal husbandry. In all likelihood, Carnine was the name of an island in the inland sea, presently known as Khor Kalmat. This latter conjecture supports Nearchus' coast-hugging voyage (which would have kept him well away from Astola), a compulsion meant to provision Alexander's army that was supposed to have marched along a coastal route.


Astola Island is a popular but "hard" destination for eco-tourism, although there are no lodging facilities on the island. Overnight tourists must camp on the island and bring their own provisions. Camping, fishing and scuba-diving expeditions are popular. It is also a site for observing turtle breeding. There has been some damage to Astola's ecology due to domesticated cats left behind by fishermen, which have threatened bird nesting sites and turtle hatcheries.

[edit]See also

Thursday, January 10, 2013