Etymology and history
The uninhabited island was named after the Portuguese explorer Diogo Rodrigues in February 1528. Many maps also describe it as Diego Roiz. From the 10th century, Arabs have been known to visit the Mascarene Islands. A 12th-century map by the Arab geographer Ash-Sharif al-Idrisi supposedly contains them, and the Cantino planisphere of c.1500 and some other contemporary maps clearly show the three islands of the Mascarenes as Dina Arobi (or Harobi), Dina Margabin and Dina Moraze. These are apparently corrupted transliterations or transcriptions of the Arabic ديفا هاراب Diva Harab ("Desert Island"), ديفا مغربين Diva Maghrebin ("Western Island") and ديفا ماشريق Diva Mashriq ("Eastern Island"). While the second clearly refers to Réunion, sources disagree about which of the other is Mauritius and which one Rodrigues, which are both to the east of Réunion and arranged in a somewhat stylised way on these maps. However, even in its original state, Rodrigues had some karst, while Mauritius even after suffering 500 years of deforestation can by no means be called "desert" even in a colloquial sense.
The island was located again in February 1507. Part of the fleet of Afonso de Albuquerque and Tristão da Cunha, Diogo Fernandes Pereira's Cirne spotted Réunion on 9 February after a cyclone diverted their course. The other two islands were subsequently rediscovered. The initial name was Diogo Fernandes; Domingo Froiz was given as a name some years later, and by 1528 it had been again renamed after the Portuguese navigator D. Diogo Rodrigues and has remained so since. The orthography has been less stable at first, with the name being transcribed Diogo Rodriguez (Spanish maps), Diego Roiz, Diego Ruys (Dutch maps) (or even "Diego Ruy's Island"), Dygarroys or Bygarroys. Some early French sources called it Île Marianne.
Due to the island lying far off the beaten track of seafarers at that time, it received few visits. From 1601, the Dutch began visiting the island somewhat more regularly for fresh supplies of food. In 1691, the Huguenot François Leguat and seven companions landed on the island, intending to set up a farming colony of Protestant refugees. Farming was not successful, but there was an abundance of tortoises, turtles, birds, fish and other seafood.
During the 18th century several attempts were made by the French to develop the island. African slaves (ancestors of the present population) were brought to Rodrigues to develop stock-breeding and farming. In 1735 a permanent French settlement is established, subordinated to Île Bourbon.
In 1809, after a brief battle with the French, English or British troops took possession of Rodrigues.
After British occupation, slavery was eventually abolished in 1834. By 1843, population had declined to a low of 250.
In 1883, the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa was heard at Rodrigues Island and it remains the furthest point at almost 4,800 km (3,000 mi), at which the explosion was heard. The sound was described as "the roar of heavy guns". Naval ships were ordered to investigate as it was feared the sound was due to a ship in distress firing its guns. Having been heard from about 5,000 km (3,100 mi) away on the other side of the Indian Ocean, the noise remains the loudest sound in recorded history.
In 1968, Rodrigues was joined with Mauritius when it attained independence; In 2002 when it became an autonomous region of Mauritius, the island was made the seat of the Roman Catholic Vicariate Apostolic of Rodrigues.
In 1997, the 40-foot-long (12-meter) Russian yacht Admiral Nevelskoi was found in the lagoon of Rodrigues Island. Formerly captained solo by professor Leonid Lysenko for the Russian Maritime State University as a research ship, the vessel's mast and rudder broke on a voyage in 1995, drifting for 21 days until Lysenko was rescued by the crew of the Ukrainian vessel Arkaja, at which time the Admiral Nevelskoi was abandoned. Lysenko was certain that the ship would eventually sink, however the vessel continued to drift at sea without crew for over 2 years before finally washing up on Rodrigues, at which time it was removed from the water and brought ashore. In 2010, Russian Honorary Consul Eric Typhis Degtyarenko located the yacht and contacted the Maritime State University, at which time the ship was converted to a maritime museum in recognition as Russia's only link to the Indian Ocean.