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Palagruža (pronounced [palǎɡruːʒa]; from Ancient greek Pelagousae Πελαγούσαι from pèlagos, sea, Italian: Pelagosa) is a small, remote archipelago of dolomite in the middle of the Adriatic Sea in Croatia.

It consists of one main island, called Vela or Velika ('Great') Palagruža, and one smaller one, Mala ('Little') Palagruža, and there are twenty or so other closely associated rocks or reefs. All the main islets are in the form of steep ridges.

The place is some 123 kilometres (76 miles) south of Split, Croatia, and 160 east of Pescara, Italy. It is visible from land only from other remote islands of Italy and Croatia. The archipelago is the southernmost point of the Republic of Croatia[1] and its most inaccessible part. It can be reached only by chartered motor-boat, requiring a journey of two to three hours from the island of Korčula.


The place is known in Italian as Pelagosa, derived from Greek pèlagos πέλαγος 'sea'. This is the source of the current Croatian name, as well as of the name of pelagosite. Perhaps the transformation of the third syllable in the island's name is due to awareness of Gruž, the name of the northern harbour of Dubrovnik. Gruž also means 'ballast' in Croatian, and the term is therefore well known in two ways to seafarers.

Legend and history

For some, Palagruža is associated with the Roman, and early medieval periods have been recorded.

It is reliably recorded that the galley-fleet of Pope Alexander III landed here on 9 March 1177.

Palagruža is closer to Italy than to the Croatian mainland, being some 42 km (26 mi) from Monte Gargano. Before 1861, it belonged to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and after 1861 therefore to Italy, but was ceded to Austria-Hungary by the Dreikaiserbund treaty ('Three Emperors' Alliance') in 1873. The first action of the new authorities was to build the important lighthouse mentioned above, in 1875. It reverted to Italy between the two World Wars, as part of the province of Zara (now Zadar, Croatia), and was ceded to Yugoslavia in 1947. Since the break-up of Yugoslavia, it has formed part of the sovereign country of Croatia. It is the centre of a traditional fishing-ground of the community of Komiža, island of Vis, Croatia.[4]

Topography, economy and ecology

Vela Palagruža is some 1300 metres long and 350 metres wide. The highest point of the archipelago, on Vela Palagruža (Italian: Pelagosa Grande), is about 90 metres above sea-level, and on this elevation is a lighthouse.[5] Palagruža is surrounded by dangerous waters, and landing can be difficult. It is uninhabited, except by lighthouse staff and by summer tourists who occupy two units of residential accommodation.[6] There is one beach of golden sand. The lighthouse is also the site of a meteorological station. Other important islands in this archipelago are Mala Palagruža (Italian: Pelagosa Piccola), Galijula (Italian: Caiola) and Kamik od Tramuntane (Italian: Sasso di Tramontana)

Palagruža sits in the heart of fish-rich seas, including spawning-grounds of sardines (Božanić 1973). It is a nature reserve, and where there is vegetation it is of the Mediterranean type, for instance Montanari et al. 2007). The distinctive local fauna, including the black lizard now classed as Podarcis melisellenis ssp. fiumana and the related Podarcis sicula ssp. pelagosana (primorska gušterica in Croatian), was mentioned first by Babić and Rössler (1912).


Velika Palagruža is an apical part of subsurface geological complex, composed of carbonate, siliciclastic and evaporite rocks of different ages, ranging from Triassic (approx. 220 mil. years ago), through Miocene (approx. 10 mil. years ago), to Quaternary (recent deposition).[7]


Palagruža has a weather station, established in 1894, which represents a major indicator of weather, especially wind, waves and precipitation on the open Adriatic. Weather conditions on the central Adriatic are dictated by movements of low-pressure area, which causes frequent changes of bora and scirocco winds. Annually, Palagruža Island has 104 days with strong (6-7 Bf), and 21 days with stormy winds (>8 Bf).[8]

Due to its remote position in the middle of the sea, Palagruža exhibits more Mediterranean climate features than the Croatian coast. Summers are sunny and dry, while most of the rain falls in winter months. There are 2620 sunshine hours annually (1961–1990 average). Annual precipitation level of 304 mm (12.0 in) is the lowest of all Croatia. Maritime winds temper air temperatures compared with the mainland, with average summer daily highs of 26.5 °C (79.7 °F); on the other extreme, winter average daily lows are 8.4 °C (47.1 °F).[8]


There are not very many types of creatures on this island but the ones that do live there are bright and colourful. Some snakes are poisonous but are mostly harmless.[9]

See also



  • Babic, K., & E. Rössler (1912) Beobachtungen über die Fauna von Pelagosa. Verhandlungen der kaiserlich-königlichen zoologisch-botanischen Gesellschaft in Wien 62, pp. 220ff.
  • Baric, Daniel (2003) Illyrian heroes, Roman emperors, Greek myths: Appropriations and rejections in Dalmatia under Austrian rule (1815-1918). Research project web outline, section III.
  • Božanić, Joško (1973) Komiška ribarska epopeja. Komiža (written in the Croatian dialect of Komiža).
  • 41 (1), pp. 1-3.
  • Kaiser, Timothy, and Staso Forenbaher (1999) Adriatic sailors and stone knappers: Palagruža in the 3rd millennium BC. Antiquity 73 (280), pp. 313–24.
  • Kaiser, Timothy. "Ancient Mariners of the Adriatic: Archaeological Perspectives on Early Navigation". Meet the Professors Lecture Series 2007-2008. Orillia Campus, Lakehead University, Orillia, ON. 11 October 2007.
  • 9.
  • Territori irredenti: L'arcipelago di Pelagosa (anonymous, 2003).

External links

  • Palagruža Light ( - Lighthouses - Pictures)
  • Palagruža Light (Journeys: Croatia - They Keep the Light on for Visitors - Travel - New York Times)

Coordinates: 42°23′05″N 16°15′16″E / 42.384722°N 16.254444°E / 42.384722; 16.254444

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