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Origin of name

Silhouette Island was named after Etienne de Silhouette, (1709-1767) who was the Controller General of Finances in France in the reign of Louis XV.  

History

The island was visited by Charles Oger who took possession of it in the name of the King of France on the 28th January 1771. He was not the first visitor, however; it was the crew of an English East India Company vessel, the Ascension who was the first to step ashore on Silhouette in 1609; at least as far as written records can tell us. Graves discovered at Anse Lascars were thought to be of Arabic origin; hence the name Lascar, which is the local term for an Arab, but when bones from the graves were taken for investigation, they were dated to around 1800, and it is possible they are those of slaves who escaped the plantations of their owners on Mahé and created a new life for themselves on Silhouette and becoming the island’s first permanent inhabitants. Such escaped slaves were known as marrons and as on Mauritius during the same period, those who managed to flee took refuge in the densest forest in order to avoid recapture and punishment.

Silhouette would have been an excellent hiding place. One of these marrons, by the name of Domingue, who was also known as Machabee, became a legend amongst the unhappy slaves of Seychelles: his name is commemorated in a place name on Mahé, and the name of a river on Silhouette. In the early years of settlement Machabee escaped to Silhouette with two companions and their furious owner, Antoine Gillot sent soldiers to track them down and bring them back. Thankfully they could not catch Machabee, and it is believed he settled down to a relatively peaceful life on Silhouette.

In the early days of settlement, several proprietors were granted ‘concessions’ or leases of land on Silhouette. The first landowner about whom we have any background was Jean- François Hodoul, a French corsair who made a name for himself during the wars between England and France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Hodoul was one of the most successful corsairs and was able to retire from this precarious way of life with what was reputed to be quite a tidy fortune. Stories of Hodoul and his hidden treasure abound in Seychelles, and Silhouette is no exception. The corsair is supposed to have buried his fortune somewhere in the dark mountain forest. A Seychelles Almanac of 1819 states that Hodoul settled on the island in 1800, which was the year in which he decided to take up a respectable new life in Seychelles, even though in 1787 the authorities had considered that there was insufficient acreage to make a viable plantation. The island was later leased and then sold, as one entity to the Dauban family, whose impressive mausoleum still stands.

The Daubans bought the island in 1860 and owned it for a hundred years. They were plantation owners of French extraction and made real efforts towards profitable farming, clearing forest on the flat land in order to plant coconut palms and fruit trees, and building the necessary supporting infrastructure. As the number of labourers living and working on the island grew to around 1,000, a jetty was built at La Passe, which has remained the main landing point for the island, houses for the staff were constructed and wide tracks were laid to facilitate the transport of produce by mule to La Passe. 

The Dauban era came to an end when Henri Dauban sold the island to a French group. Following the purchase by Seychelles Government in 1983, a small hotel was constructed. This was later replaced by the larger Labriz Resort which is still operational to date.