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"Possible Piton" - identified


Pieter Both, Mauritius. Photo: Darren PageDarren Page writes: I have just seen the article titled above in this January’s Geoscientist (19.1) and would say that the location is most certainly Mauritius. The rock formation is “Pieter Both”, which at 820m is the second highest peak, named for the first Governor General of the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch had established the first settlement there.

Gesocientist 19.3 March 2009

Mauritius was won from the French in 1810 (principally to maintain the trading route to the East Indies), which is reasonably close to 1835. Mauritius was the newly acquired colony and the planting of the flag is clearly symbolic. The shape of the Pieter Both is distinctive and unmistakable. The island in the sea in the background is Coin du Mire, which is equally distinctive. The coastline in the background is also distinctive.

The artist’s view point is the ridge immediately south of Pieter Both. Coin du Mire lies to the north of Mauritius and can be seen from this position – so, not so “romanticised” after all! The steep climb up the ridge to the peak is accurately depicted (though its steepness is perhaps a little exaggerated).

Mauritius is part of a seamount chain that rises from the Indian Ocean and forms part of the Mascarenes Archipelago, which includes Rodrigues and Reunion. Mauritus lies at the south end of the chain. Volcanic activity ceased in Rodrigues approx 1.5Ma, in Mauritius at 0.17Ma; whereas Reunion is still active. The islands are thought to have formed by a deep mantle plume beneath the northward-moving Indian Plate. The geology of Mauritius is dominated by volcanics, predominantly basaltic lavas. Three distinct volcanic series have been recognised. Pieter Both is formed of the Older Series marking the erosional remnants of a large shield volcano.