Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia is a tropical, footprint-shaped coral atoll
An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.- Usage :The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi word atholhu OED...

 located south of the equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

 in the central Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 at 7 degrees, 26 minutes south latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

. It is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory
British Indian Ocean Territory
The British Indian Ocean Territory or Chagos Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean, halfway between Africa and Indonesia...

 [BIOT] and is positioned at 72°23' east longitude
Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earth's surface. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds, and denoted by the Greek letter lambda ....


The atoll is approximately 1800 nautical miles (3,333.6 km) east of the African coast and 1200 nautical miles (2,222.4 km) south of the southern tip of India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. Diego Garcia lies at the southernmost tip of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge
Chagos-Laccadive Ridge
The Chagos-Laccadive Ridge , also known as Chagos-Laccadive Plateau, is a prominent volcanic ridge and oceanic plateau extending between the Northern and the Central Indian Ocean....

 a vast submarine range in the Indian Ocean topped by a long chain of coral reefs, atolls, and islands comprising the Laccadives, Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

, and the Chagos Archipelago
Chagos Archipelago
The Chagos Archipelago , is a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 individual tropical islands in the Indian Ocean; situated some due south of the Maldives archipelago. This chain of islands are the southernmost archipelago of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge a long submarine mountain range...

, in which Diego Garcia is geographically situated. Local time is GMT + 6 hours year-round (no daylight time change).

The US Navy operates a large naval ship and submarine support base, military air base, communications and space tracking facilities, and an anchorage for pre-positioned military supplies for regional operations aboard Military Sealift Command
Military Sealift Command
The Military Sealift Command is a United States Navy organization that controls most of the replenishment and military transport ships of the Navy. It first came into existence on 9 July 1949 when the Military Sea Transportation Service became solely responsible for the Department of Defense's...

 ships in the lagoon.


According to Southern Maldivian oral tradition, traders and fishermen were occasionally lost at sea and got stranded in one of the islands of the Chagos. Eventually they were rescued and brought back home. However, there are no separate names for the different atolls of the Chagos in the Maldivian oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...


The island may have been visited during the Austronesia
Austronesia, in historical terms, refers to the homeland of the peoples who speak Austronesian languages, including Malay, Filipino, Indonesian, Maori, Malagasy, native Hawaiian, the Fijian language and around a thousand other languages...

n diaspora around 700 AD, and some say the old Maldivian name for the islands was of Malagasy
Malagasy language
Malagasy is the national language of Madagascar, a member of the Austronesian family of languages. Most people in Madagascar speak it as a first language as do some people of Malagasy descent elsewhere.-History:...

 origin. It is also suggested that the Arabs who reached the Laccadive and Maldive island in around 900 AD may have visited the Chagos, and that Zheng He
Zheng He
Zheng He , also known as Ma Sanbao and Hajji Mahmud Shamsuddin was a Hui-Chinese mariner, explorer, diplomat and fleet admiral, who commanded voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa, collectively referred to as the Voyages of Zheng He or Voyages of Cheng Ho from...

 may have sailed close in 1413–1415. However, there is no evidence to date to support any of these suppositions.

European Discovery

Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 explorers may have been the first Europeans to discover the island of Diego Garcia. The Portuguese navigator Pedro de Mascarenhas
Pedro Mascarenhas
Pedro Mascarenhas was a Portuguese explorer and colonial administrator. He was the first European to discover the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in 1512...

 may have discovered the island during his voyage of 1512–1513, but there is little corroborative evidence for this; cartographic analysis points to 1532 or later.

Tradition suggests that the island took its name from the Spanish
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

 navigator Diego García de Moguer, who discovered the island in the 16th century. Garcia was the explorer who sailed to the Río de la Plata
Río de la Plata
The Río de la Plata —sometimes rendered River Plate in British English and the Commonwealth, and occasionally rendered [La] Plata River in other English-speaking countries—is the river and estuary formed by the confluence of the Uruguay River and the Paraná River on the border between Argentina and...

 in 1526, and possibly with Hernando de Soto's voyage. García headed a Portuguese expedition in the Indian ocean in 1554 and died before completing the return travel. Some Portuguese scholars believe that the Christian name "Diego" of the island's discoverer was a misnomer or a misreading that came into use towards the end of the 16th century. Although the Cantino Planisphere (1504) and the Ruysch map (1507) clearly delineate the Maldives, giving them the same names, they show no islands to the south which can be identified as the Chagos archipelago.

The Sebastian Cabot
Sebastian Cabot (explorer)
Sebastian Cabot was an explorer, born in the Venetian Republic.-Origins:...

 map (Antwerp 1544) shows a number of islands to the south which may be the Mascarene group. The first map which identifies and names "Los Chagos" (in about the right position) is that of Pierre Descelier (Dieppe 1550), although Diego Garcia is not named. An island called "Don Garcia" appears on the Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis of Abraham Ortelius
Abraham Ortelius
thumb|250px|Abraham Ortelius by [[Peter Paul Rubens]]Abraham Ortelius thumb|250px|Abraham Ortelius by [[Peter Paul Rubens]]Abraham Ortelius (Abraham Ortels) thumb|250px|Abraham Ortelius by [[Peter Paul Rubens]]Abraham Ortelius (Abraham Ortels) (April 14, 1527 – June 28,exile in England to take...

 (Antwerp 1564), together with "Dos Compagnos", slightly to the north. It may be the case that "Don Garcia" was named after Garcia de Noronha, although there no evidence exists to support this supposition. The island is also shown as 'Don Garcia' on Mercator
Mercator may refer to:* Marius Mercator , a Catholic ecclesiastical writer* Gerardus Mercator, a 16th-century Flemish cartographer** Mercator projection, a cartographic projection devised by Gerardus Mercator...

's Nova et Aucta Orbis Terrae Description (Duisburg 1569). However, on the Vera Totius Expeditionis Nauticae Description of Jodocus Hondius (London 1589), "Don Garcia" mysteriously changes its name to "I. de Dio Gratia", while the "I. de Chagues" appears close by.

The first map to delineate the island under its present name, Diego Garcia, is the World Map of Edward Wright (London 1599), possibly as a result of misreading Dio (or simply "D.") as Diego, and Gratia as Garcia. The Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica of Henricus Hondius (Antwerp 1630) repeats Wright's misreading of the name, which is then proliferated on all subsequent Dutch maps of the period, and to the present day.

Settlement of the Island

Diego Garcia and the rest of the Chagos islands were uninhabited until the late 18th century. In 1778 the French Governor of Mauritius granted Monsieur Dupuit de la Faye the island of Diego Garcia, and there is evidence of temporary French visits to collect coconuts and fish. Several Frenchmen living in "a dozen huts" abandoned Diego Garcia when the British East India Company attempted to establish a settlement there in April 1786. The supplies of the 275 settlers were overwhelmed by 250 survivors of the wreck of the British East Indian Ship ATLAS in May, and the colony failed in October. Following the departure of the English, the French colony of Mauritius began marooning lepers on Diego Garcia, and in 1793 the French established a coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 plantation using slave labour
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

, which also exported cordage made from coconut fiber, and sea cucumbers, known as a delicacy in the orient.

Diego Garcia became a colony of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 after the Napoleonic wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, and from 1814–1965 it was administered from Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

. On Diego Garcia, the main plantations were located at East Point, the main settlement on the eastern rim of the atoll; Minni Minni, 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) north of East Point; and Pointe Marianne, on the western rim, all located on the lagoon side of the atoll rim. The workers lived at these locations, and at villages scattered around the island.

From 1881 through 1888 Diego Garcia was the location of two coaling stations for steam ships crossing the Indian Ocean.

In 1882 the French-financed, Mauritian-based Societe Huilere de Diego et Peros (the "Oil Can Company of Diego and Peros"), consolidated all the plantations in the Chagos under its control.

20th century

In 1914 the island was visited by the German light cruiser SMS Emden half-way through its historic commerce raiding cruise during the first months of World War I.

In 1942 the British established an Advanced Flying Boat base at the East Point Plantation, staffed and equipped from the 205 and 240 Squadrons, then stationed on Ceylon. Both Catalina and Sunderland
Short Sunderland
The Short S.25 Sunderland was a British flying boat patrol bomber developed for the Royal Air Force by Short Brothers. It took its service name from the town and port of Sunderland in northeast England....

 aircraft were flown during the course of World War II in search of Japanese and German submarines and surface raiders. Following the conclusion of hostilities, the base was closed on 30 April 1946.

In 1962 the Chagos Agalega Company of the British colony of Seychelles purchased the Societe Huiliere de Diego et Peros and moved company headquarters to Seychelles.

In the early 1960s, the UK was withdrawing its military presence from the Indian Ocean area, not including the base at RAF Gan
The former Royal Air Force Station Gan commonly known as RAF Gan, was a Royal Air Force military airbase on Gan Island, the southern-most island of Addu Atoll which is part of the larger groups of islands which form the Maldives, in the middle of the Indian Ocean.-History:The area was originally...

 to the north of Diego Garcia in the Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

 (which remained open until 1976), and agreed to permit the US to establish a Naval Communication Station on one of its island territories there. The US requested an unpopulated island belonging to the UK to avoid political difficulties with newly-independent countries, and ultimately the UK and US agreed that Diego Garcia was a suitable location.

Purchase by UK

To accomplish the UK./US mutual defense strategy, in November 1965, the UK purchased the Chagos Archipelago
Chagos Archipelago
The Chagos Archipelago , is a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 individual tropical islands in the Indian Ocean; situated some due south of the Maldives archipelago. This chain of islands are the southernmost archipelago of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge a long submarine mountain range...

, which includes Diego Garcia, from the then self-governing colony of Mauritius for £3 million to create the British Indian Ocean Territory
British Indian Ocean Territory
The British Indian Ocean Territory or Chagos Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean, halfway between Africa and Indonesia...

 (BIOT), with the intent of ultimately closing the plantations to provide the uninhabited British territory from which the US would conduct its military activities in the region.

In April 1966 the British Government bought the entire assets of the Chagos Agalega Company in the BIOT for £600,000 and administered them as a government enterprise while awaiting US funding of the proposed facilities, with an interim objective of paying for the administrative expenses of the new territory. However, the plantations, both under their previous private ownership and under government administration, proved consistently unprofitable due to the introduction of new oils and lubricants in the international marketplace, and the establishment of vast coconut plantations in the East Indies and the Philippines.

On 30 December 1966, the US and the UK executed an Agreement through an Exchange of Notes which permit the US to use the BIOT for defense purposes for 50 years (through December 2016), followed by a 20-year optional extension (to 2036) to which both parties must agree by December 2014. No monetary payment was made from the US to the UK as part of this agreement or any subsequent amendment. Rather, the United Kingdom received a US$
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

14 million discount from the US on the acquisition of submarine launched ballistic missile system Polaris missiles
UGM-27 Polaris
The Polaris missile was a two-stage solid-fuel nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile built during the Cold War by Lockheed Corporation of California for the United States Navy....

 per a now-declassified addendum to the 1966 agreement.

Arrival of the US Navy

In March 1971, US Naval construction battalions (SeaBees
Seabees are members of the United States Navy construction battalions. The word Seabee is a proper noun that comes from the initials of Construction Battalion, of the United States Navy...

) arrived on Diego Garcia to begin the construction of the Communications Station and an airfield. To satisfy the terms of an agreement between the UK and the US for an uninhabited island, the plantation on Diego Garcia was closed in October of that year. The plantation workers and their families, some of whom had been on Diego Garcia for generations, were relocated to the plantations on Peros Bahnos and Salomon atolls to the northwest; those who requested were transported to the Seychelles or Mauritius. In 1972, the UK decided to close the plantations throughout the Chagos, including those on Peros Banhos and the Salomon Islands, and deported the Ilois to their ancestral homes on either the Seychelles or Mauritius. The then-independent Mauritian government refused to accept the islanders without payment, and in 1973, the UK gave the Mauritian government an additional ₤650,000 to resettle the islanders.

By 1973, construction of the Naval Communications Station (NAVCOMMSTA) was completed. In the early 1970s, setbacks to US military capabilities in the region including the fall of Saigon
Fall of Saigon
The Fall of Saigon was the capture of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by the People's Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front on April 30, 1975...

, victory of the Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

 in Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

, the closure of the Peshawar Air Station
Peshawar Air Station
Peshawar Air Station is a former United States Air Force Security Service listening post, used by the 6937th Communications Group from 1958 until January 7, 1970, when the facility was formally closed...

 listening post in Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 and Kagnew Station
Kagnew Station
Kagnew Station was an American army base in Asmara, Eritrea on the horn of Africa. The base was established in 1943 as an Army radio station, taking over and refurbishing a pre-existing Italian naval radio station, after Italian forces based in Asmara surrendered to the allies in 1941...

 in Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, the Mayaguez incident
Mayagüez incident
The Mayaguez incident between the Khmer Rouge and the United States from May 12–15, 1975, was the last official battle of the Vietnam War. The names of the Americans killed, as well as those of three Marines who were left behind on the island of Koh Tang after the battle and who were subsequently...

, and the build-up of Soviet Naval presence in Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

 and a Soviet Air Base at Berbera, Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

, caused the US to request, and the UK to approve, permission to build a fleet anchorage and enlarged airfield on Diego Garcia, and the SEABEES doubled the number of workers constructing these facilities.

Following the fall of the Shah of Iran
Pahlavi dynasty
The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi (reg. 1925–1941) and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty ...

 and the Iran Hostage Crisis
Iran hostage crisis
The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic crisis between Iran and the United States where 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamist students and militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran in support of the Iranian...

 in 1979–1980, the West became concerned with ensuring the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 through the Strait of Hormuz
Strait of Hormuz
The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow, strategically important waterway between the Gulf of Oman in the southeast and the Persian Gulf. On the north coast is Iran and on the south coast is the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman....

, and the US received permission for a $400 million expansion of the military facilities on Diego Garcia consisting of two parallel 12000 feet (3,657.6 m) runways, expansive parking aprons for heavy bombers, 20 new anchorages in the lagoon, a deep water pier, port facilities for the largest naval vessels in the US or British fleet, aircraft hangars, maintenance buildings and an air terminal, a 1340000 barrels (213,042,975.3 l) fuel storage area, and billeting and messing facilities for thousands of sailors and support personnel.

Naval Support Facility Established

On 1 October 1977, Naval Support Facility, Diego Garcia, was established as the senior US Navy command on the island. At the time the NAVCOMMSTA was the primary tenant, but as the new major facilities were completed, most notably the expanded anchorage and mooring area and the extended airfield, other tenants were commissioned.

In 1980, the US Navy established the Near-Term Prepositioned Force of 16 ships. Then NTPF became the Afloat Prepositioning Force (AFP) and eventually Composite Squadron Two (COMPSRON 2) consisting of 20 deep-water pre-positioned logistics ships anchored in the lagoon.

In 1981, the Naval Air Facility was commissioned. It was decommissioned in 1987 and its responsibilities returned to the NSF.

In 1982, Construction activities were transferred from the SEABEES to a consortium of civilian contractors, and the majority of the projects were completed by 1988.
On 26 March 1982, Barbara Shuping and five other women were assigned to the NSF. Prior to this assignment, no women had lived on island since those on the plantation in 1971.

In 1985, the new port facilities were completed, and the USS Saratoga (CV-60)
USS Saratoga (CV-60)
USS Saratoga , was one of four Forrestal- class supercarriers built for the US Navy in the 1950s. Saratoga was the sixth US Navy ship, and the second aircraft carrier, to be named for the Battle of Saratoga in the American Revolutionary War.Commissioned in 1956, she spent most of her career in...

 was the first aircraft carrier to tie up.

The Strategic Air Command
Strategic Air Command
The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

 began deploying Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers and aerial refueling
Aerial refueling
Aerial refueling, also called air refueling, in-flight refueling , air-to-air refueling or tanking, is the process of transferring fuel from one aircraft to another during flight....

 aircraft to the newly completed airfield facilities in 1987.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, three ships of COMPSRON 2 sortied, delivering a Marine Expeditionary Brigade
Marine Expeditionary Brigade
A Marine Expeditionary Brigade is a formation of the United States Marine Corps, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force of approximately 14,500 Marines and Sailors constructed around a reinforced infantry regiment, a composite Marine aircraft group, a logistics group and a command element...

 to Saudi Arabia to defend that kingdom and ultimately liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. Other COMPSRON 2 ships offloaded the munitions, bombs, and fuel on Diego Garcia that were required for the US bomber fleet that deployed to airfield. Subsequently, B-52G bombers flew more than 200 17-hour bombing missions over 44 days and dropped more than 800000 short tons (725,747,792 kg) of bombs on Iraqi forces in Iraq and Kuwait. One of the B-52s crashed from mechanical failures just north of the island with the loss of three of its six-man crew.

Beginning on 7 October 2001, the US again commenced military operations from Diego Garcia using B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers to attack enemy targets in Afghanistan following the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. A B-1 bomber was lost on 12 December 2001 to mechanical failures just after take off from the island, but the crew survived and was rescued by the USS Russell (DDG-59)
USS Russell (DDG-59)
USS Russell is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the United States Navy. She is the second ship of the USN to carry the name Russell and is named for Rear Admiral John Henry Russell and his son, Commandant of the Marine Corps John Henry Russell, Jr..In May 2004, Russell departed for a four-month...

Combat operations resumed in the spring of 2003, with MPSRON TWO sortieing to the Persian Gulf for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and bombing operations began again, this time against Iraq. Bomber operations ceased from Diego Garcia on 15 August 2006.

Protection from industry

In 2004, the UK applied for, and received, Ramsar Site
Ramsar Convention
The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands, i.e., to stem the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands now and in the future, recognizing the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural,...

 status for the lagoon and other waters of Diego Garcia.

On 1 April 2010, the UK. Cabinet declared the Chagos Archipelago a Marine Protected Area
Marine Protected Area
Marine Protected Areas, like any protected area, are regions in which human activity has been placed under some restrictions in the interest of conserving the natural environment, it's surrounding waters and the occupant ecosystems, and any cultural or historical resources that may require...

 (MPA) and prohibited all extractive industry, including fishing and oil and gas exploration. It is unclear whether Diego Garcia is included in the MPA.


Diego Garcia had no permanent inhabitants when discovered by the Spanish explorer Diego García de Moguer in the 16th century and remained so until settled as a French colony in 1793.

French Settlement

Most inhabitants of Diego Garcia through the period from 1793 to 1971 were plantation workers. There were several categories of workers, including Franco-Mauritian managers, Indo-Mauritian administrators, Mauritian and Seychellois contract employees, and in the late 19th Century some Chinese and Somali employees.

A distinct Creole culture called the Ilois
The Chagossians are an ethnic group who were the indigenous inhabitants of the Chagos Islands, British Indian Ocean Territory. The Chagossians resided in the islands of Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos, and the Salomon island chain, and had settled in other parts of the Chagos Archipelago, like Egmont...

, which means "Islanders" in French, evolved from these workers. The Ilois (now called Chagos Islanders or Chagossians) were descended primarily from slaves brought to the island from Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

 by the French between 1793 and 1810, and Malay
Malay race
The concept of a Malay race was proposed by the German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach , and classified as the brown race. Since Blumenbach, many anthropologists have rejected his theory of five races, citing the enormous complexity of classifying races...

 slaves from the slave market on Pulo Nyas, an island off the northwest coast of Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

 from around 1820 until the slave trade ended following the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. The Ilois also evolved a French-based Creole dialect
Mauritian Creole
Mauritian Creole is a French-based creole language spoken in Mauritius. In addition to the French base of the language, there are also some words from English and from the many African and Asian languages that have been spoken on the island.- Sociolinguistic Situation :Mauritian Creole is the...

 now called Chagossian Creole
Chagossian Creole
Chagossian Creole is a French-based Creole spoken by the 3,000 or so Chagossians, the former inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago. It is currently spoken mainly in Mauritius and the Seychelles. There is also a small minority community speaking the language in the United Kingdom....


Throughout their recorded history, the plantations of the Chagos Archipelago had a population of approximately 1,000 individuals, about two-thirds of whom lived on Diego Garcia. A peak population of 1,142 on all islands was recorded in 1953. Those workers born in the Chagos were referred to as Ilois, a French Creole
French-based creole languages
A French Creole, or French-based Creole language, is a creole language based on the French language, more specifically on a 17th century koiné French extant in Paris, the French Atlantic harbors, and the nascent French colonies...

 word meaning "Islanders", until the late 1990s, when they adopted the name Chagossians or Chagos Islanders.

The primary industry throughout the island's colonial period consisted of coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 plantations producing copra
Copra is the dried meat, or kernel, of the coconut. Coconut oil extracted from it has made copra an important agricultural commodity for many coconut-producing countries. It also yields coconut cake which is mainly used as feed for livestock.-Production:...

 and/or coconut oil
Coconut oil
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm . Throughout the tropical world, it has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for generations. It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry...

, until closure of the plantations and relocation of the inhabitants in October 1971. For a brief period in the 1880s it served as a coaling station for steamships transiting the Indian Ocean from the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 to Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...


Relocation of 1971

All the inhabitants of Diego Garcia, regardless of ancestry or employment status, were involuntarily, and some claim, forcibly, relocated
Depopulation of Diego Garcia
The Diego Garcia depopulation controversy pertains to the expulsion of the indigenous inhabitants of the island of Diego Garcia and the other islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory by the United Kingdom, beginning in 1968 and concluding on 27 April 1973 with the evacuation of Peros Banhos...

 to other islands in the Chagos Archipelago, or to Mauritius or Seychelles by 1971 to satisfy the requirements of a UK./US Exchange of Notes signed in 1966 to depopulate the island when the US constructed a base upon it. No current agreement exists on how many of the evacuees met the criteria to be an Ilois, and thus be an indigenous person at the time of their removal, but the UK and Mauritian governments agreed in 1972 that 426 families, numbering 1,151 individuals were due compensation payments as exiled Ilois. The total number of people certified as Ilois by the Mauritian Government's Ilois Trust Fund Board in 1982 was 1,579. This involuntary relocation decision remains in litigation as of 2010.

After 1971

Between 1971 and 2001, the only residents on Diego Garcia were UK and US military personnel and civilian employees of those countries. These included contract employees from the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 and Mauritius, including some Ilois. During the combat operations from the atoll against Afghanistan
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afghan United Front launched Operation Enduring Freedom...

 (2001–2006) and Iraq (2003–2006), a number of allied militaries were based on the island including Australian, Japanese and the Republic of Korea. According to David Vine, "Today, at any given time, 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops and civilian support staff live on the island." The inhabitants today do not rely on the island and the surrounding waters for sustenance. Although some recreational fishing for consumption is permitted, all other food is shipped in by sea or air.


Diego Garcia is the largest and only inhabited island in the British Indian Ocean Territory
British Indian Ocean Territory
The British Indian Ocean Territory or Chagos Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean, halfway between Africa and Indonesia...

, an Overseas territory of the United Kingdom, and, usually abbreviated as "BIOT". The Government of the BIOT consists of Commissioner
Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory
The Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory is the head of government in the United Kingdom's overseas territory of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The Commissioner is appointed by the British monarch on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office...

 appointed by the Queen. The Commissioner is assisted by an Administrator and small staff, and is based in London and resident in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly called the Foreign Office or the FCO is a British government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom overseas, created in 1968 by merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office.The head of the FCO is the...


Originally colonized by the French, Diego Garcia was ceded, along with the rest of the Chagos Archipelago, to the United Kingdom in the Treaty of Paris (1814)
Treaty of Paris (1814)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on 30 May 1814, ended the war between France and the Sixth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars, following an armistice signed on 23 May between Charles, Count of Artois, and the allies...

 at the conclusion of a portion of the Napoleonic Wars. Diego Garcia and the Chagos Archipelago were administered by the colonial government on the island of Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

 until 1965, when the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 purchased them from the self-governing government of Mauritius for £3 million, and declared them to be a separate British Overseas Territory. The BIOT administration was moved to Seychelles
Seychelles , officially the Republic of Seychelles , is an island country spanning an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, some east of mainland Africa, northeast of the island of Madagascar....

 following the independence of Mauritius in 1968 until the independence of Seychelles in 1976, and to a desk in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly called the Foreign Office or the FCO is a British government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom overseas, created in 1968 by merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office.The head of the FCO is the...

 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...


Military Administration

There are no civilian residents or administrators on Diego Garcia, and the UK represents the Territory internationally. A local government as normally envisioned does not exist. Rather, the administration is represented in the Territory by the Officer commanding British Forces on Diego Garcia, the "Brit Rep". Laws and regulations are promulgated by the Commissioner and enforced in the BIOT by Brit Rep.

Of major concern to the BIOT Government is the relationship with the US military forces resident on Diego Garcia. An annual meeting called "The Pol-Mil Talks" (for Political-Military) of all concerned is held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London to resolve pertinent issues. These resolutions are formalized by an "Exchange of Notes", or, since 2001, an "Exchange of Letters".

Transnational political issues

There are two transnational political issues which affect Diego Garcia and the BIOT, through the British government. As these issues affect the BIOT as a whole, not just the island of Diego Garcia, they are more appropriately and completely addressed in the Wikipedia articles British Indian Ocean Territory
British Indian Ocean Territory
The British Indian Ocean Territory or Chagos Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean, halfway between Africa and Indonesia...

 and Depopulation of Diego Garcia
Depopulation of Diego Garcia
The Diego Garcia depopulation controversy pertains to the expulsion of the indigenous inhabitants of the island of Diego Garcia and the other islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory by the United Kingdom, beginning in 1968 and concluding on 27 April 1973 with the evacuation of Peros Banhos...

  • First, the island nation of Mauritius claims the Chagos Archipelago (which is coterminous with the BIOT), including Diego Garcia. A subsidiary issue is the Mauritian opposition to the 1 April 10 UK Government's declaration that the BIOT is a Marine Protected Area with fishing and extractive industry (including oil and gas exploration) prohibited.

  • Second, the issue of compensation and repatriation of the former inhabitants, exiled since 1973, continues in litigation and as of this writing (23 August 2010) has been submitted to the European Court of Human Rights by a group of former residents. Some groups allege that Diego Garcia and its territorial waters out to 3 nautical miles (6 km) have been restricted from public access without permission of the BIOT Government since 1971.

Prison site allegations

In June 2004, the British Foreign Secretary
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commonly referred to as the Foreign Secretary, is a senior member of Her Majesty's Government heading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and regarded as one of the Great Offices of State...

 Jack Straw
Jack Straw
Jack Straw , British politician.Jack Straw may also refer to:* Jack Straw , English* "Jack Straw" , 1971 song by the Grateful Dead* Jack Straw by W...

 stated that US authorities had repeatedly assured him that no detainees had passed in transit through Diego Garcia or were disembarked there. In October 2007 the all-party Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament announced that it would launch an investigation of continued allegations of a prison camp on Diego Garcia, which it claimed were twice confirmed by comments made by Retired US Army General Barry McCaffrey
Barry McCaffrey
Barry Richard McCaffrey is a retired United States Army general, former U.S. Drug Czar, news commentator, and business consultant....

. On July 31, 2008, an unnamed former White House official alleged that the US had imprisoned and interrogated at least one suspect on Diego Garcia during 2002 and possibly 2003.

Manfred Nowak
Manfred Nowak
Manfred Nowak is an Austrian human rights lawyer.Nowak was a student of Felix Ermacora, and cooperated with him until Ermacora's death in 1995. They co-founded the Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Menschenrechte in 1992...

, one of five of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

, says that credible evidence exists supporting allegations about the use of Diego Garcia as a prison black site
Black site
In military terminology, a black site is a location at which an unacknowledged black project is conducted. Recently, the term has gained notoriety in describing secret prisons operated by the United States Central Intelligence Agency , generally outside of U.S. territory and legal jurisdiction. It...

 for alleged terrorists. The human rights group Reprieve alleges that US-operated ships moored outside the territorial waters
Territorial waters
Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending at most from the baseline of a coastal state...

 of Diego Garcia were used to incarcerate and torture detainees.

Rendition flight refuelling admission

Diego Garcia is rumoured to have been one of the locations of the CIA's black sites. Several groups claim that the military base on Diego Garcia has been used by the US government for transport of prisoners involved in the controversial extraordinary rendition
Extraordinary rendition
Extraordinary rendition is the abduction and illegal transfer of a person from one nation to another. "Torture by proxy" is used by some critics to describe situations in which the United States and the United Kingdom have transferred suspected terrorists to other countries in order to torture the...

 program, an allegation formally reported to the Council of Europe
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation...

 in June 2007. On February 21, 2008, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband
David Miliband
David Wright Miliband is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for South Shields since 2001, and was the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2007 to 2010. He is the elder son of the late Marxist theorist Ralph Miliband...

 admitted that two US extraordinary rendition flights refuelled on Diego Garcia in 2002. No reference was made to whether prisoners were on board the aircraft at the time. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is one of the "high-value detainees" suspected to have been held in Diego Garcia.

WikiLeaks CableGate disclosure (2010)

According to Wikileaks CableGate documents (reference ID "09LONDON1156"), in a calculated move planned in 2009, the UK proposed that the BIOT become a "marine reserve" with the aim of preventing the former inhabitants from returning to their lands. The summary of the diplomatic cable is as follows: " HMG would like to establish a "marine park" or "reserve" providing comprehensive environmental protection to the reefs and waters of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official informed Polcouns on May 12. The official insisted that the establishment of a marine park—the world's largest—would in no way impinge on USG use of the BIOT, including Diego Garcia, for military purposes. He agreed that the UK and US should carefully negotiate the details of the marine reserve to assure that US interests were safeguarded and the strategic value of BIOT was upheld. He said that the BIOT's former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve. " Additionally, Diego Garcia was used as a storage section for US cluster bombs as a detour from UK parliamentary oversight.


Diego Garcia is the largest land mass in the Chagos Archipelago (which includes Peros Banhos
Peros Banhos
Peros Banhos, Pedro dos Banhos or Baixo de Pero dos Banhos in old maps, is a formerly inhabited atoll in the Chagos Archipelago of the British Indian Ocean Territory....

, the Salomon Islands
Salomon Islands
The Salomon Islands or Salomon Atoll is a small atoll of the Chagos Archipelago, British Indian Ocean Territory.-Description:It is located in the Northeast of the Chagos Archipelago, between Blenheim Reef and Peros Banhos...

, the Three Brothers (islands)
Three Brothers
-Places:* Three Brothers , group of islands in the Great Chagos Bank* Tri Brata , group of cliffs in the Avacha Bay of Kamchatka* Three Brothers, Okhotsk Sea, group of islands in the Sea of Okhotsk...

, the Egmont Islands
Egmont Islands
The Egmont Islands or Egmont Atoll, also known as Six Iles, is an uninhabited atoll under British rule. They are one of the few emerged coral atolls that make up the Chagos Archipelago, British Indian Ocean Territory....

 and the Great Chagos Bank
Great Chagos Bank
The Great Chagos Bank, in the Chagos Archipelago, about South of the Maldives, is the largest atoll structure in the world, with a total area of . The Atoll is administered by the UK through the BIOT.-Islands:...

), being an atoll occupying approximately 174 square kilometres (67.2 sq mi), of which 27.19 square kilometres (10.5 sq mi) is dry land. The continuous portion of the atoll rim stretches 40 miles (64.4 km) from one end to the other, enclosing a lagoon 13 miles (21 km) long and up to 7 miles (11 km) wide, with a 4 miles (6 km) pass opening at the north. There are three small islands located in the pass.

The island consists of the largest continuous atolls in the world. The dryland rim varies in width from a few hundred metres to 2.4 km. Typical of coral atolls, it has a maximum elevation on some dunes on the ocean side of the rim of just nine metres (30 ft) above mean low water. The rim nearly encloses a lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

 about 19 kilometres (11.8 mi) long and up to 8 kilometres (5 mi) wide. The atoll forms a nearly complete rim of land around a lagoon, enclosing 90 percent of its perimeter
A perimeter is a path that surrounds an area. The word comes from the Greek peri and meter . The term may be used either for the path or its length - it can be thought of as the length of the outline of a shape. The perimeter of a circular area is called circumference.- Practical uses :Calculating...

, with an opening only in the north. The main island is the largest of about 60 islands which form the Chagos Archipelago. Besides the main island, there are three small islets at the mouth of the lagoon: West Island (3.4 ha/8.4 acres); Middle Island (6 ha/14.8 acres); and East Island (11.75 ha/29 acres). A fourth island shown on some maps, Anniversary Island one km (1,100 yards) southwest of Middle Island, appears as just a sand bar on satellite images. Both Middle Island and Anniversary Island are part of the Spur Reef complex.

The total area of the atoll is 65.6 square miles (169.9 km²). The lagoon area is 47.9 square miles (124.1 km²) with depths ranging down to 80 feet (25 m). The total land area (excluding peripheral reefs) is 11.6 square miles (30 km²). The coral reef surrounding the seaward side of the atoll is generally broad, flat, and shallow at about 3 foot (0.9144 m) below mean sea level in most locations and varying from 300 to 650 feet (100 to 200 m) in width. This fringing seaward reef shelf comprises an area of approximately 13.61 square miles (35.2 km2). At the outer edge of the reef shelf, the bottom slopes very steeply into deep water, at some locations dropping to more than 1,500 feet (457 m) within 0.6 miles (1 km) of the shore.

In the lagoon, numerous coral heads present hazards to navigation. The shallow reef shelf surrounding the island on the ocean side offers no ocean-side anchorage. The channel and anchorage areas in the northern half of the lagoon are dredge
Dredging is an excavation activity or operation usually carried out at least partly underwater, in shallow seas or fresh water areas with the purpose of gathering up bottom sediments and disposing of them at a different location...

d, along with the pre-1971 ship turning basin. Significant salt-water wetlands called barachois
A barachois is a term used in Atlantic Canada and Saint Pierre and Miquelon to describe a coastal lagoon separated from the ocean by a sand or shingle bar...

 exist in the southern half of the lagoon. These are small lagoons off of the main lagoon, filled with seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...

 at high tide and dry at low tide. Scientific expeditions in 1996 and 2006 described the lagoon and surrounding waters of Diego Garcia, along with the rest of the Chagos Archipelago, as "exceptionally unpolluted" and "pristine".

There are no endemic species of plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans, or mammals on Diego Garcia or in the surrounding waters. There are several endemic fish and aquatic invertebrates. All plants, wildlife, and aquatic species are protected to one degree or another. In addition, much of the lagoon waters are protected wetlands as a designated Ramsar site, and large parts of the island are nature preserves.
Diego Garcia is frequently subject to earthquakes caused by tectonic plate
Plate tectonics
Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that describes the large scale motions of Earth's lithosphere...

 movement along the Carlsberg Ridge
Carlsberg Ridge
The Carlsberg Ridge is the northern section of the Central Indian Ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary between the African Plate and the Indo-Australian Plate, traversing the western regions of the Indian Ocean....

 located just to the west of the island. One was recorded in 1812; one measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale hit on November 30, 1983 at 21:46 local time and lasted 142 seconds, resulting in a small tsunami which raised wave height in the lagoon to 1.5 metres (5 ft), and another on December 2, 2002, an earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter Scale struck the island at 12:21 a.m.

In December 2004, a tsunami generated near Indonesia caused some shoreline erosion on Barton Point (the northeast point of the atoll of Diego Garcia).


Diego Garcia lies within the influence of the South Equatorial current year-round. The surface currents of the Indian Ocean also have a monsoonal regime associated with the Asian Monsoonal wind regime. Sea surface temperatures are in the range of 80-84 °F/26-28 °C year-round.

Fresh water supply

Diego Garcia is the above-water rim of a coral atoll composed of Holocene
The Holocene is a geological epoch which began at the end of the Pleistocene and continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Quaternary period. Its name comes from the Greek words and , meaning "entirely recent"...

 coral rubble and sand to the depth of about 36 metres (120 ft), overlaying Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 limestone deposited at the then-sea level on top of a seamount
A seamount is a mountain rising from the ocean seafloor that does not reach to the water's surface , and thus is not an island. These are typically formed from extinct volcanoes, that rise abruptly and are usually found rising from a seafloor of depth. They are defined by oceanographers as...

 rising approximately 1,800 metres (6,000 ft) from the floor of the Indian Ocean. The Holocene sediments are porous and completely saturated with sea water. Any rain falling on the above-water rim quickly percolates through the surface sand and encounters the salt water underneath. Diego Garcia is of sufficient width to minimise tidal fluctuations in the aquifer
An aquifer is a wet underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials from which groundwater can be usefully extracted using a water well. The study of water flow in aquifers and the characterization of aquifers is called hydrogeology...

, and the rainfall (in excess of 102.5 inches/260 cm per year on average) is sufficient in amount and periodicity for the fresh water to form a series of convex, fresh-water, Ghyben-Herzberg lenses floating on the heavier salt water in the saturated sediments.

The horizontal structure of each lens is influenced by variations in the type and porosity of the sub-surface deposits, which on Diego Garcia are minor. At depth, the lens is globular; near the surface it generally conforms to the shape of the island. When a Ghyben-Herzberg lens is fully formed, its floating nature will push a freshwater head
Hydraulic head
Hydraulic head or piezometric head is a specific measurement of water pressure above a geodetic datum. It is usually measured as a water surface elevation, expressed in units of length, at the entrance of a piezometer...

 above mean sea level, and if the island is wide enough, the depth of the lens below mean sea level will be 40 times the height of the water table above sea level. On Diego Garcia this equates to a maximum depth of 20 metres. However, the actual size and depth of each lens is dependent on the width and shape of the island at that point, the permeability of the aquifer, and the equilibrium between recharging rainfall and losses to evaporation to the atmosphere, transpiration by plants, tidal advection, and human use.

In the Plantation period, shallow wells, supplemented by rainwater collected in cisterns, provided sufficient water for the pastoral life style of the small population. On Diego Garcia today, the military base uses over 100 shallow "horizontal" wells to produce over 560,000 liters per day from the "Cantonment" lens on the northwest arm of the island - sufficient water for western-style usage for a population of 3,500. It is estimated that this 3.7 km2 lens holds 19 million m3 of fresh water and has an average daily recharge from rainfall of over 10,000 m3, of which 40% remains in the lens and 60% is lost through evapotranspiration.

Extracting fresh water from a lens for human consumption requires careful calculation of the sustainable yield of the lens by season because each lens is susceptible to corruption by salt-water intrusion caused by overuse or drought. In addition, overwash by tsunamis and tropical storms has corrupted lenses in the Maldives and several Pacific islands. Vertical wells can cause salt upconing into the lens, and over-extraction will reduce fresh water pressure resulting in lateral intrusion by seawater. Because the porosity of the surface soil results in virtually zero runoff, lenses are easily polluted by fecal waste, burials, and chemical spills. Corruption of a lens can take years to "flush out" and reform, depending on the ratio of recharge to losses.

There are a few natural depressions on the atoll rim that capture the abundant rainfall to form areas of fresh-water wetlands. Two are of significance to island wildlife and to recharge their respective fresh-water lenses. One of these is centered on the northwest point of the atoll, another is found near the Point Marianne Cemetery on the southeast end of the airfield. Other, smaller freshwater wetlands are found along the east side of the runway, and in the vicinity of the receiver antenna field on the northwest arm of the atoll.

There are also several man-made fresh-water ponds resulting from excavations made during construction of the airfield and road on the western half of the atoll rim. These fill from rainfall and from extending into the Ghyben-Herzberg lenses found on this island.


Precipitation: All precipitation
Precipitation (meteorology)
In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation (also known as one of the classes of hydrometeors, which are atmospheric water phenomena is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravity. The main forms of precipitation...

 falls as rain, characterised by air-mass type showers. Annual rainfall averages 260 cm (102 inches), with the heaviest precipitation from October to February. January is the wettest month with 25 cm (14 in.) of rain, with August the driest month, averaging 100 mm (4.2 in) of rain.

Temperatures: The surrounding sea surface temperature is the primary climatic control and temperatures are generally uniform throughout the year, with an average maximum of 31 °C (87.8 °F) by day during March and April, and 29 °C (84.2 °F) in July through September. Diurnal variation is approximately 3 C-change, falling to the low 20s °C (70 °F) by night. Humidity is high throughout the year. The almost constant breeze keeps conditions reasonably comfortable.

Winds: From December through March, winds are generally westerly at approximately 6 knots (11.8 km/h). During April and May winds are light and variable, ultimately backing to an east-southeasterly direction. From June through September the influence of the Southeast trades is felt, with speeds of 10-15 knots. During October and November winds again go through a period of light and variable conditions veering to a westerly direction with the onset of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Thunderstorms: Activity is generally noticed during the afternoon and evenings during the summer months (December through March) and when the Intertropical Convergence Zone
Intertropical Convergence Zone
The Intertropical Convergence Zone , known by sailors as The Doldrums, is the area encircling the earth near the equator where winds originating in the northern and southern hemispheres come together....

 is in the vicinity of the island.

Diego Garcia is at minimum risk from tropical cyclone
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

s due to its proximity to the equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

 where the coriolis parameter
Coriolis effect
In physics, the Coriolis effect is a deflection of moving objects when they are viewed in a rotating reference frame. In a reference frame with clockwise rotation, the deflection is to the left of the motion of the object; in one with counter-clockwise rotation, the deflection is to the right...

 required to organize circulation of the upper atmosphere is minimal. However, some low-intensity storms have hit the island, including in 1901, which blew over 1,500 coconut trees, on September 16, 1944 which caused the wreck of a Royal Air Force PBY Catalina, September 1990 which demolished the tent city then being constructed for USAF bomber crews during Operation Desert Storm, and on July 22, 2007 when winds exceeded 60 knots (117.6 km/h) and over 10 inches (254 mm) of rain fell in 24 hours.

The island was somewhat affected by the tsunami
A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake...

 caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea megathrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, December 26, 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake itself is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake...

. Service personnel on the western arm of the island reported only a minor increase in wave activity. The island was protected to a large degree by its favourable ocean topography. About 80 km (50 mi) east of the atoll lies the 650 km (400-mile) long Chagos Trench, an underwater canyon plunging more than 4,900 m (16,000 ft). The depth of the trench and its grade to the atoll's slope and shelf shore makes it more difficult for substantial tsunami waves to build before passing the atoll from the east. In addition, near shore coral reefs and an algal platform may have dissipated much of the waves' impact. A biological survey conducted in early 2005 indicated erosional effects of the tsunami wave on Diego Garcia and other islands of the Chagos Archipelago. One 200 to 300 m (218.7 to 328.1 yd) stretch of shoreline was found to have been breached by the tsunami wave, representing approximately 10 percent of the eastern arm. A biological survey by the Chagos Conservation Trust reported that the resulting inundation additionally washed away shoreline shrubs and small to medium-size coconut palms.


The first botanical observations of the island were made by Hume in 1883, by which time the coconut plantations had been in operation for a full century. Subsequent studies and collections during the Plantation Era were made in 1885, 1905, 1939, and 1967. Thus, very little of the nature of the pre-contact vegetation
Vegetation is a general term for the plant life of a region; it refers to the ground cover provided by plants. It is a general term, without specific reference to particular taxa, life forms, structure, spatial extent, or any other specific botanical or geographic characteristics. It is broader...

 is known.

The 1967 survey, published by The Smithsonian is used as the most authoritative baseline for more recent research. These studies indicate the vegetation of the island may be changing rapidly. For example, J. M. W. Topp collected data annually between 1993–2003 and found that on the average three new plant species arrived each year, mainly on Diego Garcia. His research added fully a third more species to Stoddart. Topp and Martin Hamilton of Kew Gardens compiled the most recent checklist of vegetation in 2009, which can be found at this footnote.
In 1967, Stoddart described the land area of Diego Garcia as being is dominated by a littoral hedge
Hedge may refer to:* Hedge or hedgerow, line of closely spaced shrubs planted to act as a barrier* Hedge , investment made to limit loss* Hedge , intentionally non-committal or ambiguous sentence fragments-See also:...

 of Scaevola taccada
Scaevola is a genus of flowering plants in the Goodenia family, Goodeniaceae. It consists of more than 130 tropical species, with the center of diversity being Australia and Polynesia, including Hawaii....

 while inland Cocos nucifera
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 (Coconut) was the most dominant tree, covering most of the island. The substory was either managed and park-like, with understory less than 0.5 metres in height, or consisted of what he called "Cocos Bon-Dieu", an intermediate story of juvenile trees, and a luxuriant ground layer of self-sown seedlings, causing those areas to be relatively impenetrable.

There are also areas of remnant tropical hardwood forest at the sites of the plantation-era villages, as well as Casuarina equisetifolia
Casuarina is a genus of 17 species in the family Casuarinaceae, native to Australasia, southeast Asia, and islands of the western Pacific Ocean. It was once treated as the sole genus in the family, but has been split into three genera .They are evergreen shrubs and trees growing to 35 m tall...

 (Iron Wood Pines) woodlands.
In 1997, the US Navy contracted a vegetation survey and identified about 280 species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of terrestrial vascular plant
Vascular plant
Vascular plants are those plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water, minerals, and photosynthetic products through the plant. Vascular plants include the clubmosses, Equisetum, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms...

s on Diego Garcia. None of these was endemic, and another survey in 2005 identified just 36 species as "native", meaning arriving without the assistance of humans, and found elsewhere in the world. No terrestrial plant
Terrestrial plant
A terrestrial plant is one that grows on land. Other types of plants are aquatic , epiphytic , lithophytes and aerial ....

 species are any of conservation concern at present.

Of the 36 native vascular plants on Diego Garcia, there are 12 tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s, five shrub
A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

s, seven dicotyledon
The dicotyledons, also known as dicots, are a group of flowering plants whose seed typically has two embryonic leaves or cotyledons. There are around 199,350 species within this group...

 herbs, three grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

es, four vine
A vine in the narrowest sense is the grapevine , but more generally it can refer to any plant with a growth habit of trailing or scandent, that is to say climbing, stems or runners...

s and five fern
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species of plants belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike mosses, they have xylem and phloem . They have stems, leaves, and roots like other vascular plants...


The 12 tree species are: Barringtonia asiatica
Barringtonia asiatica
Barringtonia asiatica is a species of Barringtonia native to mangrove habitats on the tropical coasts and islands of the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean from Zanzibar east to Taiwan, the Philippines, Fiji, New Caledonia, the Cook Islands, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia...

(Fish-poison Tree), Calophyllum inophyllum
Calophyllum inophyllum
Calophyllum inophyllum is a large evergreen. It is native from East Africa, southern coastal India to Malesia and Australia.-Distribution and description:...

(Alexandrian Laurel), Cocos nucifera, Cordia subcordata, Guettarda speciosa
Guettarda speciosa
Guettarda speciosa, colloquially called beach gardenia, or zebra wood, is a species of shrub in the family Rubiaceae found in coastal habitats in tropical areas around the Pacific Ocean, including the coastline of central and northern Queensland and Northern Territory in Australia, and Pacific...

, Intsia bijuga, Hernandia sonora
Hernandiaceae is the botanical name for a family of flowering plants. Such a family has been recognised by most taxonomists.The APG II system, of 2003 , also recognizes this family, and assigns it to the order Laurales in the clade magnoliids...

, Morinda citrifolia, Neisosperma oppositifolium
Neisosperma is a genus of plant in family Apocynaceae.Species include:* Neisosperma brevituba, Boit.* Neisosperma brownii, Fosberg & Sachet* Neisosperma poweri, Fosberg & Sachet...

, Pisonia grandis
Pisonia grandis
Pisonia grandis is a species of flowering tree in the Bougainvillea family, Nyctaginaceae.-Description:The tree has broad, thin leaves, smooth bark and bears clusters of green sweet-smelling flowers that mature into sticky barbed seeds....

, Terminalia catappa
Terminalia catappa
Terminalia catappa is a large tropical tree in the Leadwood tree family, Combretaceae. The tree has been spread widely by humans and the native range is uncertain. It has long been naturalised in a broad belt extending from Africa to Northern Australia and New Guinea through Southeast Asia and...

, and Heliotropium foertherianum
Heliotropium foertherianum
Heliotropium foertherianum is a species of flowering plant in the borage family, Boraginaceae. It is native to tropical Asia, including southern China, Madagascar, northern Australia, and most of the atolls and high islands of Micronesia and Polynesia. Common names include Tree Heliotrope, Velvet...

. Another three trees are common, and may be native, but may also have been introduced by humans: Casuarina equisetifolia, Hibiscus tiliaceus, and Pipturus argenteus
Pipturus is a flowering plant genus in the nettle family, Urticaceae.-Selected species:* Pipturus albidus A.Gray ex H.Mann – Māmaki * Pipturus arborescens C.B.Rob., 1911...


The five native shrubs are: Caesalpinia bonduc
Caesalpinia bonduc
Caesalpinia bonduc, commonly known as Gray Nicker, is a species of flowering plant in the pea family, Fabaceae, that has a pantropical distribution. It is a vine-like shrub that reaches a length of and scrambles over other vegetation. Stems are covered in curved spines...

, Pemphis acidula
Pemphis is a possibly unispecific genus of maritime plants in family Lythraceae, represented by the type species, described in 1775, Pemphis acidula .Pemphis are highly adaptive...

, Premna serratifolia
Premna is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae.Species include:* Premna grandifolia, A.D.J. Meeuse* Premna hans-joachimii, Verdc.* Premna maxima, T.C.E. Fr.* Premna protrusa, A.C.Sm. & S.Darwin...

, Scaevola taccada (often mispronounced "Scaveola"), and Suriana maritima
Suriana is a monotypic genus of flowering plants containing only Suriana maritima, which is commonly known as Bay Cedar. It has a pantropical distribution and can be found on coasts in the New and Old World tropics. Bay Cedar is an evergreen shrub or small tree, usually reaching a height of and...

There are also 134 species of plants classified as "weedy" or "naturalised alien species", being those unintentionally introduced by man, or intentionally introduced as ornamentals or crop plants which have now "gone native", including 32 new species recorded since 1995, indicating a very rapid rate of introduction. The remainder of the species list consists of cultivated food or ornamental species, most grown in exceedingly restricted environments, some consisting of a single individual in a planter's pot.

In 2004, there were 10 recognised plant communities on atoll rim:

1. Calophyllum Forest, dominated by Calophyllum inophyllum, with trunks that can grow in excess of 2 metres in diameter. This forest often contains other species such as Hernandia sonora, Cocos nucifera and Guettarda speciosa with a Premna obtusifolia edge. When found on the beaches, Calophyllum often extends over the lagoon water and supports nesting red-footed boobies, as does Barringtonia asiatica. Found mostly on the eastern arm of the atoll.

2. Cocos Forest, essentially monotypic ("Cocos bon Dieu"), with the understory consisting of Cocos seedlings.

3. Cocos-Hernandia Forest, dominated by two canopy species - Cocos nucifera and Hernandia sonora.

4. Cocos-Guettarda Forest, dominated by the canopy species Cocos nucifera and Guettarda speciosa. The understory consists of a mix of Neisosperma oppositifolium, with Scaevola taccada and Tournefortia argentea on the beach edge.
5. Hernandia Forest, dominated at the canopy level by Hernandia sonora. The most representative areas of this forest type are on the eastern, undeveloped part of the atoll. Calophyllum inophyllum and Cocos nucifera are often present. Understory species in this forest are often Morinda citrifolia, Cocos seedlings and Asplenium nidus
Asplenium nidus
Asplenium nidus is a species of fern in the family Aspleniaceae, native to tropical southeastern Asia, eastern Australia, Hawaii, Polynesia, Christmas Island, India, and eastern Africa...

(bird's nest fern), and occasionally, Neisosperma oppositifolium and Guettarda speciosa.
6. Premna shrubland, occurring generally between marshy areas and forested areas. The most conspicuous vegetation is primarily Premna obtusifolia, with Casuarina equisetifolia and Scaevola taccada on the margins. The dense groundcover consists of species such as Fimbristylis cymosa
Fimbristylis is a genus of sedges. A plant in this genus may be known commonly as a fimbry, fimbristyle, or fringe-rush. There are 200 to 300 species distributed worldwide. Several continents have native species but many have been introduced to regions where they are not native. Many are...

, Ipomoea pes-caprae
Ipomoea pes-caprae
Ipomoea pes-caprae, also known as Beach Morning Glory or Goat's Foot, is a common pantropical creeping vine belonging to the family Convolvulaceae. It grows on the upper parts of beaches and endures salted air. It is one of the most common and most widely distributed salt tolerant plants and...

(Beach Morning Glory) and Triumfetta procumbens
Triumfetta is a genus of plants in the family Malvaceae.There are about 70 species which are widespread across tropical regions. These include :*Triumfetta albida Halford*Triumfetta antrorsa Halford...

. Premna shrubland appears mostly adjacent to the developed areas of the atoll, particularly in the well fields.

7. Littoral Scrub lines almost the entire seashore and lagoon shore of the island. It is dominated by Scaevola taccada, but also contains scattered coconut trees, Guettarda speciosa and Pisonia grandis. On the seaward side, it also contains Tournefortia argentea and Suriana maritima. On the lagoon side, it may also contain Lepturus repens
Thintail is a grass genus in the Poaceae family. The related monotypic genus Hainardia was formerly included in Lepturus. Species within this genus are often found in tropical or subtropical ecosystems; an example occurrence is on certain islands within the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral...

, Triumfetta procumbens
Triumfetta is a genus of plants in the family Malvaceae.There are about 70 species which are widespread across tropical regions. These include :*Triumfetta albida Halford*Triumfetta antrorsa Halford...

 and Cyperus ligularis
Cyperus is a large genus of about 600 species of sedges, distributed throughout all continents in both tropical and temperate regions. They are annual or perennial plants, mostly aquatic and growing in still or slow-moving water up to 0.5 m deep. The species vary greatly in size, with small species...

. There are also large pockets of Barringtonia asiatica on the eastern edge of the lagoon.

8. Maintained areas of grass and sedges routinely mowed. Aerial photographs of the island clearly display large areas of grasslands and park-like savanna
A savanna, or savannah, is a grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of C4 grasses.Some...

 upon which the US military has constructed large outdoor facilities such as antenna fields and the airport.

9. Mixed Native Forest, with no dominant canopy species.

10. Marshes divided into three different types: Cattail (Typha domingensis
Typha domingensis
Typha domingensis Pers., also known as Southern Cattail or Cumbungi, is a perennial herbaceous plant of genus Typha.It is found throughout temperate and tropical regions worldwide...

), wetland, and mixed species. Cattail marshes contained almost entirely cattails. These areas are often man-made reservoirs or drainages that have been almost entirely monotypic. Wetlands were based upon vegetation that occurred in the area, with some amount of fresh water. Mixed species marshes were highly variable and usually had no standing water.


All the terrestrial and aquatic fauna of Diego Garcia are protected, with the exception of certain game fish, rats and cats; hefty fines are levied against violators.

The island is a haven for several types of crustacean
Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 50,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at , to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span...

; "warrior crabs" (Cardisoma carnifex
Cardisoma carnifex
Cardisoma carnifex is a species of terrestrial crab found in coastal regions from the east coast of Africa and the Red Sea across the Indo-Pacific to the Line Islands and the Tuamotu Archipelago. The range includes parts of northern Australia and the Cocos Islands....

) overrun the jungle at night. The extremely large 4 kilograms (8.8 lb) coconut crab
Coconut crab
The coconut crab, Birgus latro, is a species of terrestrial hermit crab, also known as the robber crab or palm thief. It is the largest land-living arthropod in the world, and is probably at the upper size limit of terrestrial animals with exoskeletons in today's atmosphere at a weight of up to...

 or robber crab (Birgus latro) is found here in large numbers. Because of the protections provided the species on this atoll, and the isolation of the east rim of the atoll, the species is recorded in greater densities there than anywhere else in its range (339 crabs/ha).

There are no native mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

 species on Diego Garcia, and no record of bat
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

s. Other than rats (Rattus rattus), all "wild" mammal species are feral descendants of domesticated species. During the plantation era, Diego Garcia was home to large herds of Sicilian Donkeys (Equus asinus), dozens of horses (Equus caballus), hundreds of dogs (Canis familiaris) and house cats (Felis catus). In 1971, the BIOT Commissioner ordered the extermination of feral dogs following the departure of the last plantation workers, and the program continued through 1975, when the last feral dog was observed and shot. Donkeys, which numbered over 400 in 1972, were down to just 20 individuals in 2005. The last horse was observed in 1995, and by 2005, just two cats were thought to have survived an island-wide eradication program.

Native birds
The total bird list for the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia, consists of 91 species, with large breeding populations of 16 species. Although there are no endemic birds, there are internationally important seabird colonies. Diego Garcia's seabird community includes thriving populations of species which are rapidly declining in other parts of the Indian Ocean. Large nesting colonies of Brown Noddies (Anous stolidous
Brown Noddy
The Brown Noddy or Common Noddy is a seabird from the tern family. The largest of the noddies, it can be told from the closely related Black Noddy by its larger size and plumage, which is dark brown rather than black...

), Bridled terns (Sterna anaethetus), the Lesser Noddy (Anous tenuirostris), Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) and Lesser Frigate Birds (Fregata ariel), exist on Diego Garcia. Other nesting native birds include Red-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaethon rubricauda), Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus), Audubon's Shearwater (Puffinus iherminierii
Audubon's Shearwater
Audubon's Shearwater, Puffinus lherminieri, is a common tropical seabird from the family Procellariidae. Sometimes called Dusky-backed Shearwater, the scientific name of this species commemorates the French naturalist Félix Louis L'Herminier....

), Black-Naped Terns (Sterna sumatrana), White (or Fairy) Terns (Gygis alba), Striated Herons (Butorides striatus), and White-breasted Waterhens (Amaurornis phoenicurus),

Introduced birds
The island hosts introduced bird species from many different regions, including Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis), Indian Barred Ground Dove, also called the Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata), Turtle Dove (Streptopleia picturata), Indian Mynah (Acridotheres tristis), Madagascar Fody (Foudia madagascariensis), and chickens (Gallus gallus).

Terrestrial reptiles and fresh water amphibians
There are currently three lizards and one toad known to inhabit Diego Garcia, and possibly one snake. All are believed to have been introduced by human activity. The House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus), the Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris
Lepidodactylus lugubris
The Mourning Gecko or Common Smooth-Scaled Gecko is a species of gecko. This small , nocturnal gecko feeds on small insects and flower nectar. This species is notable because it is parthenogenic, and there are no remaining males that have been found...

), the Garden Lizard (an agamid) (Calotes versicolor
Calotes versicolor
The Oriental Garden Lizard, Eastern Garden Lizard or Changeable Lizard is an agamid lizard found widely distributed in Asia. It has also been introduced in many other parts of the world...

) and the Cane Toad (Bufo marinus). There may also be a viable population of a type of Blind Snake from the family Typhlopidae, probably the Brahminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus
Ramphotyphlops braminus
Ramphotyphlops braminus is a harmless blind snake species found mostly in Africa and Asia, but has been introduced in many other parts of the world. Completely fossorial, they are often mistaken for earthworms, except that they are not segmented. The specific name is a Latinized form of the word...

). This snake feeds on the larvae, eggs and pupae of ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

s and termite
Termites are a group of eusocial insects that, until recently, were classified at the taxonomic rank of order Isoptera , but are now accepted as the epifamily Termitoidae, of the cockroach order Blattodea...

s, and is about the size of a large earthworm.

Sea turtles
Diego Garcia provides suitable foraging and nesting habitat for both the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Juvenile Hawksbills are quite common in the lagoon and at Barachois Sylvane (also known as Turtle Cove) in the southern part of the lagoon. Adult Hawksbills and Greens are common in the surrounding seas and nest regularly on the ocean-side beaches of the atoll. Hawksbills have been observed nesting during June and July, and from November to March. Greens are have been observed nesting in every month; the average female lays three clutches per season, each having an average clutch size of 113 eggs. Diurnal nesting is common in both species. It is estimated that 300 - 700 Hawksbills and 400 - 800 Greens nest in the Chagos.

Endangered species
There are four reptiles and six cetaceans that are endangered and may or may not be found on or around Diego Garcia:.
Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmocheyls imbricata
Hawksbill turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. It is the only extant species in its genus. The species has a worldwide distribution, with Atlantic and Pacific subspecies. E. imbricata imbricata is the Atlantic subspecies, while E...

) - KNOWN; Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) - POSSIBLE; Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) - KNOWN; Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys oliveacea
Olive Ridley
The olive ridley sea turtle , also known as the Pacific ridley, is a species of sea turtle.- Description :The olive ridley is a small extant sea turtle, with an adult carapace length averaging 60 to 70 cm 1...

) - POSSIBLE; Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) - POSSIBLE; Sei Whale (Balaeonoptera borealis
Sei Whale
The sei whale , Balaenoptera borealis, is a baleen whale, the third-largest rorqual after the blue whale and the fin whale. It inhabits most oceans and adjoining seas, and prefers deep offshore waters. It avoids polar and tropical waters and semi-enclosed bodies of water...

Finback Whale (Balaeonoptera physalus
Fin Whale
The fin whale , also called the finback whale, razorback, or common rorqual, is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales. It is the second longest whale and the sixth largest living animal after the blue whale, bowhead whale, and right whales, growing to nearly 27 metres long...

) - POSSIBLE; Brydes Whale (Balaeonoptera edeni
Bryde's Whale
Bryde's whales are baleen whales, one of the "great whales" or rorquals. They prefer tropical and temperate waters over the polar seas that other whales in their family frequent. They are largely coastal rather than pelagic. Bryde's whales are very similar in appearance to sei whales and almost as...

) - POSSIBLE; Blue Whale (Balaeonoptera musculus
Blue Whale
The blue whale is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales . At in length and or more in weight, it is the largest known animal to have ever existed....

) - POSSIBLE; Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) - POSSIBLE.

US Military Activities

During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 era, the United States was keen to establish a military base in the Indian Ocean to counter Soviet influence in the region and protect the sea-lanes for oil transportation from the Middle East. The US saw the island as a strategically important one. The value has been proved many times, with the island providing a "fixed aircraft carrier" for the US during the Iranian revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The US military facilities on Diego Garcia have been known informally as Camp Justice and, after renaming in July 2006, as Camp Thunder Cove.. Formally, the base is known as Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia (the US activity) or Permanent Joint Operating Base (PJOB) Diego Garcia (the UK's term).

US military activities in Diego Garcia have caused friction between India and the US in the past. Various political parties in India repeatedly called for the military base to be dismantled, as they saw the US naval presence in Diego Garcia as a hindrance to peace in the Indian Ocean. In recent years, relations between India and the US have improved dramatically. Diego Garcia was the site of several naval exercises between the US and Indian
Indian Navy
The Indian Navy is the naval branch of the armed forces of India. The President of India serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. The Chief of Naval Staff , usually a four-star officer in the rank of Admiral, commands the Navy...

 navies held between 2001 and 2004.

Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia

The Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia provides Base Operating Services to tenant commands located on the island. The command's mission is "To provide logistic support to operational forces forward deployed to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf AORs in support of national policy objectives."

As of November 2011, the facility supported the following tenant commands:
  • Maritime Pre-Positioning Ship
    Maritime Prepositioning ship
    The 31 Maritime Prepositioning Ships are part of the United States Military Sealift Command's Prepositioning Program. They are strategically positioned around the globe to support the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Defense Logistics Agency...

    s Squadron TWO
  • Branch Health Clinic
    Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific
    Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific provides operational direction and management to all Pacific Naval Telecommunication System users...

     Pacific Det Diego Garcia
  • Naval Mobile Construction Battalion
    Naval Mobile Construction Battalion
    There are 9 active-duty Naval Mobile Construction Battalions — known as C.B.'s — in the United States Navy, split between the east and west coasts...

  • Naval Media Center Detachment Diego Garcia
  • Military Sealift Command
    Military Sealift Command
    The Military Sealift Command is a United States Navy organization that controls most of the replenishment and military transport ships of the Navy. It first came into existence on 9 July 1949 when the Military Sea Transportation Service became solely responsible for the Department of Defense's...

     Office Diego Garcia
  • Mission Support Facility
  • FISC Yokosuka
  • 36 MXG
    36th Wing
    The United States Air Force's 36th Wing is the host wing for Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. It is part of United States Pacific Air Forces Thirteenth Air Force...

     Pacific Air Force
  • Det 1, 715th AMOG
    515th Air Mobility Operations Wing
    The 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing is part of Air Mobility Command and is stationed at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. It was activated in 2008. It coordinates logistical air movements into, out of, and throughout the Pacific...

  • AFSPC Det 2, 22nd Space Operations Squadron (ARTS & GPS)
  • AFSPC Det 2, 18th Space Surveillance Squadron
    18th Space Control Squadron
    The United States Air Force's 18th Space Control Squadron was a space surveillance unit located at Edwards AFB, California. Before its inactivation, the 18th SPCS operated optical sensors for the Ground-based Electro Optical Deep Space System .-Mission:The mission of the 18th SPCS is to provide...


Additionally, the USS Emory S. Land (AS-39)
USS Emory S. Land (AS-39)
USS Emory S. Land is the lead ship in her class of submarine tenders in the United States Navy. She was named for Admiral Emory S. Land....

 is homeported in Diego Garcia.

US pre-positioned vessels

The atoll shelters the ships of the US Marine Pre-positioning Squadron Two. These ships carry equipment and supplies to support a major armed force with tanks, armoured personnel carriers, munitions, fuel, spare parts and even a mobile field hospital. This equipment was used during the Persian Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, when the squadron transported equipment to Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...


The ship composition of MPSRON TWO is dynamic. During August 2010 it was composed of:
  • MV Capt. Steven L. Bennett (T-AK-4296)
  • USNS SGT William R. Button (T-AK-3012),
  • MV SSG Edward A. Carter, Jr. (T-AK-4544),
  • MV Maj. Bernard F. Fisher (T-AK-4396)
    MV Maj. Bernard F. Fisher (T-AK-4396)
    MV Maj. Bernard F. Fisher is a US Military Sealift Command vessel named for US Air Force Medal of Honor recipient Bernard F. Fisher. The vessel is a civilian-owned and operated container ship under contract to deliver pre-positioned supplies and equipment under the Military Sealift Command's...

  • USNS Lawrence H. Gianella (T-AOT-1125)
    USNS Lawrence H. Gianella (T-AOT-1125)
    USNS Lawrence H. Gianella is a United States Military Sealift Command product tanker which typically carries diesel, gasoline, and JP5 . Its reinforced bow allows it to occasionally make the yearly fuel delivery to McMurdo Station in Antarctica.-Name origin:The vessel is named for Radio Operator...

  • USNS SGT Matej Kocak (T-AK-3005),
  • USNS 1st LT Baldomero Lopez (T-AK-3010),
  • MV LTC John U. D. Page
  • USNS GYSGT Fred W. Stockham (T-AK-3017)
    USNS GYSGT Fred W. Stockham (T-AK-3017)
    USNS GySgt. Fred W. Stockham is a container & roll-on roll-off support vessel in the United States Navy'sMilitary Sealift Command .The vessel is the second Navy ship named after Marine Gunnery Sergeant Fred W...

Five of these vessels carry supplies for the US Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 sufficient to support a Marine Air-Ground Task Force
Marine Air-Ground Task Force
The Marine Air-Ground Task Force is a term used by the United States Marine Corps to describe the principal organization for all missions across the range of military operations. MAGTFs are a balanced air-ground, combined arms task organization of Marine Corps forces under a single commander that...

 for 30 days: USNS Button, USNS Kocak, USNS Lopez, USNS Stockham, and USNS Fisher.

Prior to 2001, COMPSRON 2 consisted of up to 20 ships, including four Combat Force Ships which provided rapid-response delivery of equipment to ground troops in the US Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

. Three are Lighter aboard ship
Lighter Aboard Ship
The lighter aboard ship system refers to the practice of loading barges aboard a larger vessel for transport. It was developed in response to a need to transport lighters, a type of unpowered barge, between inland waterways separated by open seas...

s (LASH) which carry barges called Lighters
Lighter (barge)
A lighter is a type of flat-bottomed barge used to transfer goods and passengers to and from moored ships. Lighters were traditionally unpowered and were moved and steered using long oars called "sweeps," with their motive power provided by water currents...

 that contain Army ammunition to be ferried ashore: MV American Cormorant, SS Green Harbour, (LASH), SS Green Valley, (LASH), MV Jeb Stuart, (LASH). There were Logistics Vessels to service the rapid delivery requirements of the US Air Force, US Navy and Defense Logistics Agency
Defense Logistics Agency
The Defense Logistics Agency is an agency in the United States Department of Defense, with more than 26,000 civilian and military personnel throughout the world...

. These included container ship
Container ship
Container ships are cargo ships that carry all of their load in truck-size intermodal containers, in a technique called containerization. They form a common means of commercial intermodal freight transport.-History:...

s for Air Force munitions, missiles and spare parts; a 500-bed hospital ship
Hospital ship
A hospital ship is a ship designated for primary function as a floating medical treatment facility or hospital; most are operated by the military forces of various countries, as they are intended to be used in or near war zones....

, and floating storage and offloading units assigned to Military Sealift Command
Military Sealift Command
The Military Sealift Command is a United States Navy organization that controls most of the replenishment and military transport ships of the Navy. It first came into existence on 9 July 1949 when the Military Sea Transportation Service became solely responsible for the Department of Defense's...

 supporting the Defense Logistics Agency, and an offshore petroleum discharge system (OPDS) tanker ship. Some ship names were MV Buffalo Soldier
MV Buffalo Soldier
Merchant Vessel Buffalo Soldier is roll-on/roll-off ship, formerly of the French Government Line She was sold and reflagged US, renamed to honor Buffalo Soldiers, and charted by the United States Navy Military Sealift Command as a Maritime Prepositioning ship serving at Diego Garcia laden with...

, MV Green Ridge, pre-position tanker USNS Henry J. Kaiser, and tanker USNS Potomac (T-AO-181)
USNS Potomac (T-AO-181)
The fifth USNS Potomac was a United States Navy oiler in non-commissioned service with the Military Sea Transportation Service, later Military Sealift Command, from 1976 to 1983.Potomac, sixth U.S...


Air Force Satellite Control Network station

The US Air Force operates a Remote Tracking Station on Diego Garcia. Its call sign is REEF. This facility became more vital after the closure of the Indian Ocean Station in 1996.

GEODSS Station

The US Air Force Operates a station of the Ground-based Electro-optical Deep Space Surveillance system on the southern end of the atoll.7.41173°S 72.45222°E

Global Positioning System monitoring station

Diego Garcia is one of the five control bases for the Global Positioning System
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...

, operated by the United States military. The US Air Force also has monitoring stations in Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, Kwajalein
Kwajalein Atoll , is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands . The southernmost and largest island in the atoll is named Kwajalein Island. English-speaking residents of the U.S...

, Ascension Island
Ascension Island
Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the South Atlantic Ocean, around from the coast of Africa and from the coast of South America, which is roughly midway between the horn of South America and Africa...

, and Colorado Springs. The stations synchronise and update the atomic clocks on the 24 orbiting satellites that emit the signals used by GPS receivers. 7.26654999°S 72.36312094°E

HF Global station

The US Air Force operates a High Frequency Global Communications System transceiver site located on the south end of the atoll near the GEODSS station. The transceiver is operated remotely from Joint Base Andrews and locally maintained by NCTS FE personnel.

Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Far East Detachment Diego Garcia

Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Far East Detachment Diego Garcia operates a detachment in Diego Garcia. This detachment provides base telephone communications, provides base network services (Local Network Services Center), pier connectivity services, an AN/GSC-39C SHF
SHF may refer to:* Super high frequency, radio frequencies in the range of 3 GHz and 30 GHz* Société de l'histoire de France, a society formed in 1833 to study French history* Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, a mid-1970s country-rock band....

 satellite terminal, operates the Hydroacoustic Data Acquisition System
Air Force Technical Applications Center
The Air Force Technical Applications Center , based at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. is an Air Force surveillance organization assigned to the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency. Its mission is to monitor nuclear treaties of all applicable signatory countries...

, and performs on-site maintenance for the remotely operated Air Force HF-GCS terminal.

Naval Security Group Detachment Diego Garcia

Naval Security Group
Naval Security Group
The Naval Security Group was an organization within the United States Navy, tasked with intelligence gathering and denial of intelligence to adversaries. A large part of this is Signals Intelligence gathering, Cryptology and Information Assurance...

 detachment Diego Garcia was disestablished on September 30, 2005. Remaining essential operations were transferred to a contractor. The large AN/AX-16 High Frequency Radio direction finding Circularly Disposed Antenna Array
The Wullenweber is a type of Circularly Disposed Antenna Array sometimes referred to as a Circularly Disposed Dipole Array . It is a large circular antenna array used for radio direction finding...

 has been demolished, but the four satellite antenna radome
A radome is a structural, weatherproof enclosure that protects a microwave or radar antenna. The radome is constructed of material that minimally attenuates the electromagnetic signal transmitted or received by the antenna. In other words, the radome is transparent to radar or radio waves...

s around the site remain as of 2010.

ETOPS emergency landing site

Diego Garcia may be identified as an ETOPS (Extended Range Twin Engine Operations) emergency landing site (en route alternate) for flight planning purposes of commercial airliners. This allows twin-engine commercial aircraft (such as the Airbus A330
Airbus A330
The Airbus A330 is a wide-body twin-engine jet airliner made by Airbus, a division of EADS. Versions of the A330 have a range of and can accommodate up to 335 passengers in a two-class layout or carry of cargo....

, Boeing 767
Boeing 767
The Boeing 767 is a mid-size, wide-body twin-engine jet airliner built by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It was the manufacturer's first wide-body twinjet and its first airliner with a two-crew glass cockpit. The aircraft features two turbofan engines, a supercritical wing, and a conventional tail...

 or Boeing 777
Boeing 777
The Boeing 777 is a long-range, wide-body twin-engine jet airliner manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It is the world's largest twinjet and is commonly referred to as the "Triple Seven". The aircraft has seating for over 300 passengers and has a range from , depending on model...

) to make theoretical nonstop flights between city pairs such as Perth
Perth, Western Australia
Perth is the capital and largest city of the Australian state of Western Australia and the fourth most populous city in Australia. The Perth metropolitan area has an estimated population of almost 1,700,000....

 and Dubai
Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates . The emirate is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and has the largest population with the second-largest land territory by area of all the emirates, after Abu Dhabi...

 (9013.61 km (5,600.8 mi)), Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 and Johannesburg
Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Jo'burg or Egoli, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa...

 (10658 km (6,622.6 mi)) or Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 and São Paulo
São Paulo
São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, the largest city in the southern hemisphere and South America, and the world's seventh largest city by population. The metropolis is anchor to the São Paulo metropolitan area, ranked as the second-most populous metropolitan area in the Americas and among...

 (15985.41 km (9,932.9 mi)), all while maintaining a suitable diversion airport within 180 minutes' flying time with one engine inoperable.

Space shuttle

The island was one of 33 emergency landing
Space Shuttle abort modes
A Space Shuttle abort was an emergency procedure due to equipment failure on NASA's Space Shuttle, most commonly during ascent. A main engine failure is a typical abort scenario. There are fewer abort options during reentry and descent...

 sites worldwide for the NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

. None of these facilities were ever used throughout the life of the shuttle program.

Cargo service

All consumable food and equipment is brought to Diego Garcia by sea or air, and all non-biodegradable waste is shipped off the island as well. From 1971 to 1973, US Navy LSTs provided this service. Beginning in 1973, civilian ships were contracted to provide these services. Beginning in 2004 the US-flagged container ship
Container ship
Container ships are cargo ships that carry all of their load in truck-size intermodal containers, in a technique called containerization. They form a common means of commercial intermodal freight transport.-History:...

 MV Baffin Strait, often referred to as the "DGAR shuttle," has been chartered to deliver 250 containers each month to Diego Garcia from Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

. The ship delivered more than 200,000 tons of cargo to the island each year." On the return trip to Singapore, it carries recyclable metals.

In 2004 TransAtlantic Lines
TransAtlantic Lines LLC
TransAtlantic Lines LLC is an American shipping company based in Greenwich, Connecticut. The limited liability company was founded in 1998 by vice-president Gudmundur Kjaernested and president Brandon C. Rose. The company owns and operates 5 vessels, including one tug-and-barge combination...

 outbid Sealift Incorporated
Sealift Incorporated
Sealift Incorporated is an American shipping company based in Oyster Bay, New York. The privately held corporation was founded in 1975 by the four owners who remain the principal executives. Sealift Inc. is one of the largest ocean contractors for transporting U.S. food aid and participates in...

 for the transport contract between Singapore and Diego Garcia. The route had previously been serviced by Sealift Inc.'s MV Sagamore, manned by members of American Maritime Officers
American Maritime Officers
American Maritime Officers is a national labor union affiliated with the Seafarers International Union of North America. With an active membership of approximately 4,000, AMO is the largest union of merchant marine officers in the U.S. and primarily represents licensed mariners working in the...

 and Seafarers' International Union. TransAtlantic Lines reportedly won the contract by approximately 10 percent, representing a price difference of about US$2.7 million. The Baffin Straits charter ran from January 10, 2005 to September 30, 2008 at a daily rate of US$12,550.

Further reading

  • US Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia "Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan," September 2005.
  • Vine, David, Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  • Winchester, Simon, Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (2004).

External links


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