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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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the world's most isolated inhabited island?
The title of the world's most isolated inhabited island belongs to Tristan da Cunha. Located in the South Atlantic Ocean, it is approximately 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) from the nearest continental land, which is Saint Helena, its closest neighbor, and over 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) from the nearest mainland, South Africa. Tristan da Cunha is part of a remote group of volcanic islands known as the Tristan Archipelago.
How many people live on Tristan da Cunha?
Tristan da Cunha has a small population, with the number of inhabitants hovering around 250 people. The residents primarily live in the settlement of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, which is often referred to as the most remote permanent settlement on Earth. The community is known for its close-knit society and self-sufficient lifestyle.
Can tourists visit Tristan da Cunha?
Yes, tourists can visit Tristan da Cunha, but it requires significant planning due to its remote location. Access to the island is typically by a week-long boat trip from South Africa, and there are only a limited number of trips each year. Visitors need to arrange their travel well in advance and be prepared for a potentially rough sea journey.
What kind of wildlife is found on Tristan da Cunha?
Tristan da Cunha is home to a unique array of wildlife, particularly bird species. It is a haven for seabirds, including the endangered Tristan albatross and the northern rockhopper penguin. The waters around the island are rich in marine life, with various species of whales, dolphins, and seals often spotted. The island's isolation has allowed its ecosystem to develop with minimal human impact.
How do the residents of Tristan da Cunha sustain themselves?
The residents of Tristan da Cunha sustain themselves through a combination of subsistence farming, fishing, and government jobs. The islanders grow potatoes and other vegetables and raise livestock. The community also benefits from a lobster export business, which is a significant source of income. Supplies from the outside world are brought in by the infrequent ships that visit the island.