Tristan da Cunha (island)

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Tristan da Cunha
Satellite image of Tristan da Cunha
Satellite image of Tristan da Cunha
Waters Atlantic Ocean
Archipelago Tristan da Cunha
Geographical location 37 ° 7 ′  S , 12 ° 17 ′  W Coordinates: 37 ° 7 ′  S , 12 ° 17 ′  W
Location of Tristan da Cunha
length 12.2 km
surface 98 km²
Highest elevation Queen Mary's Peak
2060  m
Residents 245
2.5 inhabitants / km²
main place Edinburgh of the Seven Seas
Map of Tristan da Cunha
Map of Tristan da Cunha
Climate diagram by Tristan da Cunha

Tristan da Cunha [ ˈtristɐn da ˈkuɲɐ ] is the main island of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago of the same name in the southern Atlantic Ocean . 245 people live on Tristan da Cunha, which is considered the most remote inhabited island in the world (as of August 2020). The island is an equal part of the British Overseas Territory of St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha .


The west coast of Tristan da Cunha

Tristan da Cunha is located in the South Atlantic 3238 kilometers from Cabo Frio in Brazil and 2779 kilometers from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge . The almost circular island has a diameter of about 12 km and an area of ​​98 km². It represents the conical tip of a mighty submarine shield volcano , which culminates in 2,060 meter high Queen Mary's Peak and 1,967 meter high Mount Olav , the two highest peaks of the crater rim. In the north of the island is the Edinburgh of the Seven Seas settlement , which is followed by the Patches Plain in a south-westerly direction , some of which is used for agriculture.


Tristan da Cunha has a temperate, oceanic balanced climate with regular rainfall that is distributed over the whole year. The bare peak of the volcano is often covered with snow in the southern winter, between June and October.

Flora and fauna

Below the 1500 meter height line, the volcanic mountain has dense vegetation, especially on its eastern half. Rockhopper penguins visit the archipelago in summer to breed and raise their young. The island is also a nesting site for albatrosses . Endemic species such as the Tristan island rail ( Gallinula nesiotis ) have become extinct due to the colonization of the island and introduced species such as house rats .


The island was discovered in March 1506 by the Portuguese admiral Tristão da Cunha , who named it Ilha de Tristão da Cunha after himself . However, he did not succeed in landing on the island.

It was not until 1767 that the crew of the French frigate L'Heure du Berger examined Tristan da Cunha in more detail. She recorded the water depth, documented the rough course of the coast and discovered fresh water resources in the form of the Big Watron waterfall and a lake on the north coast. The results of this fact-finding mission were published in 1781 by a hydrograph in the Royal Navy .

The first permanent settler was Jonathan Lambert from Salem, Massachusetts , USA , who arrived on the archipelago in 1810 and declared it his property. He called them Islands of Refreshment . However, his rule lasted only a short time, as he was killed in a boat accident in 1812. Legend has it that his fortune, made by selling elephant seal oil to passing ships, is still hidden somewhere on the island.

The island was formally annexed by Great Britain on August 14, 1816 when British troops occupied the island. The main motive for the annexation of Tristan da Cunha was to prevent France from using the island as a base for an attempt to liberate Napoleon Bonaparte from the prison on St. Helena .

A year later the garrison was withdrawn, only three settlers remained. One of these settlers was William Glass, who laid down the first basic order of the island, which is still observed today. According to Glass, all residents were equal, should share everything and work for the common good - everyone should help each other. Today's residents are the descendants of these settlers, as well as seamen, shipwrecked people, seal hunters, whalers and some women from St. Helena. They initially earned their living selling fresh vegetables and water to passing ships.

But after 1870, the number of ships that moored in front of Tristan da Cunha decreased significantly. There were several reasons for this: the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 changed shipping routes, whale oil was replaced by mineral oil and the American whaling fleet visited the island less frequently due to the civil war. It was therefore not uncommon for a year to pass before another ship moored off the island. Often some islanders left Tristan da Cunha with these ships, because they promised a better life elsewhere.

In 1886 the island had only 97 inhabitants, in 1892 there were only 50. In 1942 a naval base was set up on the island , through which the population now had regular communication with the outside world via radio and ships.

On October 9, 1961, the volcanic fissures near Edinburgh became active and all of the island's residents had to be evacuated to the United Kingdom. The Colonial Office tried to prevent their costly return, but the islanders conformed to British democracy, mobilized the public and numerous members of the House of Commons, and forced their return. Almost everyone took this opportunity. Since most of the houses survived the natural disaster undamaged, the reconstruction work did not take long.

Economy and Infrastructure

The main town and only place on the island is the Edinburgh of the Seven Seas settlement , also known locally as The Settlement , with 247 residents (as of 2020). There is a school, a hospital, a post office, a café, a bar, a Catholic (St. Joseph) and an Anglican (St. Mary) church as well as a swimming pool and a small museum. Occasionally a police officer is on duty and runs traffic controls at the island's only intersection. There is a local online newspaper called Tristan Times .

The inhabitants live from fishing for lobster (including export to the European Union since 2014) and mainly grow potatoes for their own use . An important source of income is the sale of stamps to collectors. There is no runway on Tristan da Cunha, so the only connection to the mainland is by sea. Supply ships from different parts of the world (including Hamburg ) call for the small port of Calshot Harbor several times a year . About once a month one of two fishing boats from Cape Town comes into the waters around the island to fish, and also transports passengers and goods.

In the 1950s, there was a farm on the eastern tip of Sandy Point that was soon abandoned.

The land is jointly owned and is cultivated by residents of all ages. Each family owns cattle and cultivates a potato patch and gardens around the house. Adults also work for the fishing society, the island government or in the service sector. Islanders employed by the island government, for example, are paid around £ 150 a month.

View of Tristan da Cunha

Artistic adaptation

In his book The Periodic System , Primo Levi lets the chapter Mercury play on an island that has many similarities with Tristan da Cunha, without explicitly mentioning the name. In his book the island is called Desolation , but descriptions of the location and historical details are fairly straightforward. The island is also the setting for mystical experiences in Jean Giono's adventure novel: fragments d'un paradis (Noël's ascent of the volcano).

Web links

Commons : Tristan da Cunha  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Population Update. Tristan da Cunha Government, August 21, 2020.
  2. ^ Peter A. Munch : Crisis in Utopia. The Ordeal of Tristan da Cunha . Crowell, New York 1971, ISBN 0-690-22075-8 (English).
  3. Cynthia Green: Tristan da Cunha Families: Population Update. Retrieved February 3, 2020 (UK English).
  4. ^ Tristan Times online newspaper
  5. Tristan Lobster gains access to EU Markets. In: Tristan da Cunha website. Tristan da Cunha Government & Tristan da Cunha Association, accessed April 17, 2017 .