Marcabrera environment

The isolation of the 19 islands and 12 small islands of the Cabrera Archipelago has shaped one of the most singular and best preserved coastal landscapes in the Mediterranean. Due to all this and to its exceptional seabed, in 1991 this area was declared Spain’s first Maritime-Terrestrial National Park. In 2002, the Government of the Balearic Islands declared the area between Cap Blanc, Cala Figuera, Santanyí and the border with the National Park as the Migjorn Marine Reserve, the biggest reserve in the Balearic Islands and the biggest protected marine area in the West Mediterranean Sea. It is also the centre of a great number of initiatives for even more vast protected areas, such as the area that is trying to be protected for the bluefin tuna.

Within this group of ecosystems, it is important to highlight the marine one, with its unique and highly vulnerable marine phanerogams meadows (Posidonia oceánica and Cymodocea nodosa), known for their high biological production and for being a spawning focus for many fish species; the red Algas Calcareas colonies (known as Maërl) and the coral and mollusks colonies (Bivalvia, gastropods); the presence of wrasses (Xyrichthys novacula) and their associated species (Bothus podas, Trachinus spp.), so important for the Majorcan traditional fishing sector.

The fact that the National Park of the Cabrera Archipelago is isolated has favored the existence of a great number of endemism's, accentuating the need to preserve this area. Among the botanical endemism's it is important to highlight the Astralagus balearicus, the Rubia angustifolia ssp. cespitosa, the Dracunculus muscivorum and the Hypericum balearicum.Each small island has one of the ten subspecies of Balearic lizard (Podarcis lilfordi). Among the invertebrates we can find one of the most important and unknown animals, the crustaceans, with a total of 20 registered species, 45% of which are endemic (Burrimysis and Psudoniphargus genus). They live in subterranean freshwater and brackish water lakes.

Cabrera is also an important stop along the migratory route of more than 150 bird species, not only in spring but also in autumn. It is also a breeding area for endemic species such as the Audouin's gull (Larus audouini), the Balearic shearwater and the Cory's shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus and Calonectris diomedea), Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae) and the osprey (Pandión haliaetus).

Cabrera is currently registered as a Special Protection Area and is also part of the Natura 2000 ecological network. Furthermore, it is a Site of Community Interest. It was also declared a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI) and a Natural Area of Special Interest by the Balearic Government.

Due to its location, close to Majorca, and the fact of being isolated, the Cabrera Archipelago played an important part during the vicissitudes of the different cultures that have existed in the Mare Nostrum. It also provided shelter to the ships, despite the dangerous location of its harbour mouth. The 7 sunk ships that lay on its seabed bear witness to this.

It seems that the first stable settlement, apart from the people who worked at the salting and “garum” factories, was a community of monks that in the 5th century founded a monastery, where they remained until late 8th century. These monks are sadly famous for their perverse behaviour and because they committed several crimes. This proves that, besides serving God, they also fought (and we say this with tears in our eyes) in favour of the old enemy, as it is reflected in the 12th epistle that Pope Gregory the Great addressed to the defender of the Christian Faith Johannes in 603 AD., in which he asks him to impose the corresponding sentences when necessary.

This community of monks disappeared in the 8th century, coinciding with the beginning of the so-called Muslim “razzias” that would lead to the conquest of the Balearic Islands in 902 AD. Cabrera was nowhere mentioned until the Christian conquest by James I in 1229, who afterwards gave the head of Tarragona’s Cathedral full control over Cabrera. The land was then rented to Bernat de Claramunt and Guillén Huguet, the first “lords of Cabrera”.

The castle was built in 1400 with the aim of alerting Majorca with smoke and fire signals that the Berber pirates were approaching. It was also the first place to be attacked by them; it had to be rebuilt several times.

Nevertheless, the most tragic episode in the island’s history took place in 1808, when it was used as a prison for 13,000 French soldiers who had fought in the Battle of Bailén. Due to the lack of resources on the island, the irregularity when receiving provisions and the illnesses, only 3,000 prisoners managed to escape the island after Bonaparte’s fall. During World War I, both sides used the harbour of the island time and again. During the Spanish War, it was used as a base for two republican submarines. And in World War II, Johannes Bochler, a ME-190 pilot, was shot down by a Royal Air Force fighter plane. After recovering his body, he was buried in the small cemetery of the island. According to legend, his ghost still wanders around Cabrera, even though his mortal remains where repatriated to Germany in 1982.