The islands belong to France, and were discovered by Yves Joseph de Kerguelen-Trémarec in February 1772. The archipelago was exploited for its seal population until their destruction, fur seals in the 18th century and elephant seals in the early 20th century. A number of expeditions have briefly touched the islands, including that of James Cook in 1776.
Kerguelen has been used by a small number of science teams since 1949, with a population of 50-100 always present. There is also a satellite tracking station. The main island is also home to a well established feral cat population descended from ships' cats. They survive on sea birds and introduced rabbits.
The main base is located at the eastern end of the Golfe du Morbihan and is known as Port-Aux-Français. Facilities include a bar, gym, hospital, library and the chapel of Notre-dame des Vents.