Sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands
Background Information 17
Essentially, the Paracels lie between latitude 16° and 17° north and longit-
ude 111° and 113° east.
They consist of two main groups: the Amphitrites and the Crescent
group, which lie some 70 kilometres from one another.2
Added to these are a number of islands and isolated rocks.
In the west, the Crescent Group consists of 5 main islands: Robert Island
(0.32 square kilometres), Duncan Island (0.48 square kilometres), Palm
Island (0.09 square kilometres), Drummond Island (0.41 square kilometres),
on which there are 5 tombs, and Pattle Island (0.3 square kilometres), which
displays the remains of a landing stage and a channel.
Some 12 kilometres away lies Money Island (0.5 square kilometres), then
further south, Triton Island. Each island has its own coral reef, with openings
enabling shallow-bottomed craft to beach.
In the west, the Amphitrite group consists of Woody Island, Rocky
Island, South Island, Middle Island, North Island, Tree Island, and to the east
of this group, Lincoln Island.
The largest of them is Woody Island, which is no more than 4 kilometres
long and 2 to 3 kilometres wide.3
Apart from the two groups of islands mentioned above, the archipelago as
a whole consists of over 30 islets, sandbanks or reefs and occupies some
15,000 square kilometres of the ocean surface, which explains the extremely
dangerous nature of navigation in this vicinity, a fact borne out, travellers
say, by the number of wrecks.
It is the wrecks that signal the danger, in particular the steam
kettles, which last longer thanks to their weight and which,
owing to their size, can be spied from a long way off, surprising
the uninitiated, who are thus at first at a loss to explain the
nature of these protuberances on the reefs.4
Geologically speaking, the scientific studies undertaken during the period of
French colonization by the da Lanessan, the results of which were collated in
the notes published by Doctor A. Krempf, Director of the Oceanographic
Service, indicate that the submarine shelf from which the reefs and islets of
See map in Annex 3.
See list of islands and islets in Annex 4.
P.A. Lapicque, A propos des lies Paracels (Saigon, Les editions d'Extreme-Asie), p. 3.