The world’s most isolated inhabited island is Tristan da Cunha, a dependency of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena. It is located far in the South Atlantic, roughly equidistant between Cape Town, South Africa and Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Tristan da Cunha is 1,750 miles (2,816 km) from South Africa and 2,088 miles (3,360 km) from South America, making it the most remote inhabited island on the planet. There are numerous islands in the central Pacific more distant from continental landmasses, but they are not inhabited. The closest inhabited island to Tristan da Cunha is Saint Helena, 1,350 miles (2,173 km) to the north. The world’s most isolated island in general, Bouvet Island, is located about 2,000 miles (3,218 km) to its southeast.
Tristan da Cunha is the largest island in an archipelago consisting of two other main islands and a couple tiny ones. In order of size, these are Inaccessible Island, Nightingale Island, Middle Island, and Stoltenhoff Island. They are all located about 20 miles (32 km) from one another, the arrangement of the largest three resembling an isosceles triangle pointing towards the northeast, with the largest, Tristan da Cunha, serving as the leading vertex. The two smallest are located right alongside Nightingale Island. Another, the uninhabited Gough Island, is located 245 miles (395 km) to the southeast.
Tristan da Cunha itself has an area of 121 square miles (201 square km), similar to a large city such as Paris, although most of the island is mountainous and uninhabited. The only flat area is the location of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, the capital and only real city. Locally it is known as “the Settlement.” Tristan da Cunha has a population of about 272 people, with 80 families sharing just eight surnames. Due to the limited size of their gene pool, hereditary health problems, such as asthma and glaucoma are more common among the inhabitants.
The island’s inhabitants live off fishing and growing vegetables on small plots of land. Its economy is built around its canned crayfish factory and the exporting of distinctive stamps and coins. Due to the lack of an airstrip, transportation to and from Tristan da Cunha is difficult, and must be conducted by boat. The island lies near the trading path for ships traveling from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Cape Town in South Africa.
The highest point is a volcano, Queen Mary’s Peak, with an altitude of 6,765 ft (2,062 m). In 1961, it erupted, pouring lava down a side of the island and forcing the evacuation of all residents to the United Kingdom. Most of the residents returned in 1963 after a Royal Society expedition sent there to investigate reported little damage to the primary settlement.
In 1958, as a part of Operation Argus, the United States exploded an atomic bomb in the area. This was not made public until May 2006.