National Geographic : 1959 Nov
Government House Dominates Victoria, Capital of Seychelles Near the villa, home of the British governor, rests the Stone of Possession, which marked the claim of the early French settlers. Seychelles often plays host to political castaways. Prempeh II of Ashanti, West Africa. went there in 1900 in a leopard skin; he left 25 years later in top hat and morning coat. Great Britain banished Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus to the Crown Colony in 1956; he stayed a year. In the Middle Ages the coco de mer was ex ceedingly rare. Princes and potentates paid fantastic sums, believing that its whitish meat would neutralize any poison in food or drink, that it could cure gallstones and paralysis, and that it made a powerful love potion. Where did the coco de mer come from? No one knew, really. Old accounts related that every so often one would wash up on the shores of the Maldive Islands, or on the beaches of Ceylon and India. One story said the tree bearing the cocos de mer grew deep under water near Java, and that a diver trying to reach it would drown. Another tale claimed that all the cocos de mer in the world came from a single tree 694 whose top grew through the surface of the sea. All the currents of all the oceans con verged at this spot, and ships were drawn to it inexorably, never to return. Market Glutted, Value Declines Occasionally nuts would drop and float away-they had the magical power of moving against currents. When they reached some distant shore, they would walk up on the beach. So the stories went. But when the Seychelles island of Praslin was discovered in 1768, so also was the true source of the coco de mer. A Frenchman, Brayer du Barre, shipped large numbers of Praslin nuts to India.