Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha
|Motto: Our faith is our strength|
|Anthem: God Save the Queen|
Location of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean.
|Capital||Edinburgh of the Seven Seas
|Largest city||capital (village)|
|Government||British overseas territory|
|-||Governor||Mark A. Capes|
|-||Chief Islander||Ian Lavarello|
|Part of St Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha|
|-||Dependency of Cape Colony (to UK)||14 August 1816|
|-||Dependency of St Helena||12 January 1938|
|-||Current constitution||1 September 2009|
80 sq mi
|-||Main island||98 km2|
|Currency||Pound sterling (£) (
|Time zone||GMT (UTC+0)|
|Drives on the||left|
|a.||.sh or .uk can be used.
Postcode: TDCU 1ZZ
Tristan da Cunha / /, colloquially Tristan, is both a remote group of volcanic islands in the south Atlantic Ocean and the main island of that group. It is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying 2,816 kilometres (1,750 mi) from the nearest land, South Africa, and 3,360 kilometres (2,088 mi) from South America. The territory consists of the main island of Tristan da Cunha itself, which has a north-south length of 11.27 kilometres (7.0 mi) and has an area of 98 square kilometres (37.8 sq mi), along with the smaller, uninhabited Nightingale Islands and the wildlife reserves of Inaccessible and Gough Islands.
Tristan da Cunha is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. This includes Saint Helena 2,430 kilometres (1,510 mi) to its north and equatorial Ascension Island even further north. The island has a permanent population of 275 (2009 figures).
- 1 History
- 2 Environment
- 3 Society
- 4 In literature
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes and references
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
The islands were first sighted in 1506 by Portuguese explorer Tristão da Cunha, although rough seas prevented a landing. He named the main island after himself, Ilha de Tristão da Cunha, which was anglicised from its earliest mention on British Admiralty charts to Tristan da Cunha Island.
In 1643 the crew of the Heemstede, captained by Claes Gerritsz Bierenbroodspot made the first recorded landing.
The first permanent settler was Jonathan Lambert, from Salem, Massachusetts, United States, who arrived at the islands in December 1810 with two other men. Lambert publicly declared the islands his property and named them the Islands of Refreshment. After being joined by an Andrew Millet, three of the four men died in 1812; however, the survivor among the original three permanent settlers, Thomas Currie (or Tomasso Corri) remained as a farmer on the island.
In 1816, the United Kingdom formally annexed the islands, ruling them from the Cape Colony in South Africa. This is reported to have primarily been a measure to ensure that the French would be unable to use the islands as a base for a rescue operation to free Napoleon Bonaparte from his prison on Saint Helena. The occupation also prevented the United States from using Tristan da Cunha as a cruiser base, as it had during the War of 1812.
The islands were occupied by a garrison of British Marines and a civilian population was gradually built up. Whalers also set up on the islands as a base for operations in the Southern Atlantic. However, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, together with the gradual move from sailing ships to coal-fired steam ships, increased the isolation of the islands, as they were no longer needed as a stopping port or for shelter for journeys from Europe to the Far East.
In 1867, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and second son of Queen Victoria, visited the islands. The main settlement, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, was named in honour of his visit. Lewis Carroll's youngest brother, the Rev. Edwin Heron Dodgson, served as an Anglican missionary and school teacher in Tristan da Cunha in the 1880s.
On 12 January 1938 by Letters Patent the islands were declared a dependency of Saint Helena. Prior to roughly this period, passing ships stopped irregularly at the island for a period of mere hours.
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
During World War II, the islands were used as a top secret Royal Navy weather and radio station codenamed HMS Atlantic Isle, to monitor Nazi U-boats (which were required to maintain radio contact) and shipping movements in the South Atlantic Ocean. The first Administrator was appointed by the British government during this time.
In 1958 as part of an experiment, Operation Argus, the United States Navy exploded an atomic bomb 200 kilometres (124 mi) high in the upper atmosphere  about 160 kilometres (99 mi) southeast of the main island.
The 1961 eruption of Queen Mary's Peak forced the evacuation of the entire population via Cape Town to England. The following year a Royal Society expedition went to the islands to assess the damage, and reported that the settlement of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas had been only marginally affected. Most families returned in 1963.
On 23 May 2001, the islands experienced an extratropical cyclone that generated winds up to 193 kilometres per hour (120 mph). A number of structures were severely damaged and a large number of cattle were killed, prompting emergency aid, provided by the British government.
In 2005, the islands were given a United Kingdom post code (TDCU 1ZZ) to make it easier for the residents to order goods online.
On 4 December 2007 an outbreak of an acute virus-induced flu was reported. This outbreak was compounded by Tristan's lack of suitable and sufficient medical supplies.
On 13 February 2008, fire destroyed the fishing factory and the four generators that supplied power to the island. On 14 March 2008, new generators were installed and uninterrupted power was restored. This fire was devastating to the island because fishing is a mainstay of the economy.
The St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Constitution Order 2009 ended the "dependency status" of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
On 16 March 2011, the freighter MS Oliva ran aground on Nightingale Island, spilling tons of heavy fuel oil into the ocean, leaving an oil slick threatening the island's population of rockhopper penguins. Nightingale Island has no fresh water, so the penguins were transported to Tristan da Cunha for cleaning.
Tristan da Cunha is thought to have been formed by a long-lived centre of upwelling mantle called the Tristan hotspot. Tristan da Cunha is the main island of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, which consists of the following islands:
- Tristan da Cunha, the main island and largest, area: 98 square kilometres (37.8 sq mi), ( )
- Inaccessible Island, area: 14 square kilometres (5.4 sq mi)
- Nightingale Islands, area: 3.4 square kilometres (1.3 sq mi)
- Gough Island (Diego Alvarez), area: 68 square kilometres (26.3 sq mi)
Inaccessible Island and the Nightingale Islands are 35 kilometres (21.7 mi) SW by W and SSW of the main island respectively, whereas Gough Island is 395 kilometres (245.4 mi) SSE.
The main island is quite mountainous; the only flat area is the location of the only village, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, on the northwest coast. The highest point is a volcano called Queen Mary's Peak 2,062 metres (6,765.1 ft); it is covered by snow in winter. The other islands of the group are uninhabited, except for the weather station on Gough Island, which has been operated by South Africa since 1956 (since 1963 at its present location at Transvaal Bay on the southeast coast), with a staff of six.
The archipelago has a wet oceanic climate with pleasant temperatures but consistent moderate to heavy rainfall and very limited sunshine, due to the persistent westerly winds. The number of rainy days is comparable to the Aleutian Islands at a much higher latitude in the northern hemisphere, while sunshine hours are comparable to Juneau, Alaska, 20° further from the equator. Frost is unknown below elevations of 500 metres (1,600 ft) and summer temperatures are similarly mild, never reaching 25 °C (77 °F).
|Climate data for Tristan da Cunha|
|Record high °C (°F)||23.7
|Average high °C (°F)||20
|Average low °C (°F)||16
|Record low °C (°F)||10.9
|Rainfall mm (inches)||93
|Avg. rainy days||18||17||17||20||23||23||25||26||24||22||18||19||252|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||139.5||144.0||145.7||129.0||108.5||99.0||105.4||105.4||120.0||133.3||138.0||130.2||1,498|
|Source #1: Climate and Temperature.|
|Source #2: Worldwide Bioclimatic Classification System (extremes)|
Flora and fauna
Many of the flora and fauna have a broad circumpolar distribution in the South Atlantic and South Pacific Oceans. Thus many of the species that occur in Tristan da Cunha appear as far away as New Zealand. For example, the plant species Nertera depressa was first collected in Tristan da Cunha, but has since been recorded in occurrence as far distant as New Zealand.
Tristan is primarily known for its wildlife. The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because there are 13 known species of breeding seabirds on the island and two species of resident land birds. The seabirds include Northern Rockhopper Penguins, Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, Sooty Albatrosses, Atlantic Petrels, Great-winged Petrels, Soft-plumaged Petrels, Broad-billed Prions, Grey Petrels, Great Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Tristan Skuas, Antarctic Terns and Brown Noddies. Tristan and Gough Islands are the only known breeding sites in the world for the Atlantic Petrel.
The endemic Tristan Thrush or Starchy occurs on all of the northern islands and each has its own subspecies, with Tristan birds being slightly smaller and duller than those on Nightingale and Inaccessible. The endemic Inaccessible Island Rail, the smallest extant flightless bird in the world, is only found on Inaccessible Island. In 1956 eight Gough Moorhens were released at Sandy Point on Tristan, and have subsequently colonised the island.
Inaccessible Island is also the only known breeding ground of the Spectacled Petrel (Procellaria conspicillata; IUCN Vulnerable).
The islands have a population of 264. The main settlement is Edinburgh of the Seven Seas (known locally as "The Settlement"). The only religion is Christianity, with denominations of Anglican and Roman Catholic. The current population is thought to have descended from 15 ancestors, eight males and seven females, who arrived on the island at various times between 1816 and 1908. The male founders originated from Scotland, England, The Netherlands, the United States and Italy and share just eight surnames: Glass, Green, Hagan, Lavarello, Patterson, Repetto, Rogers, and Swain.[n 1] There are 80 families on the island. Tristan da Cunha's isolation has led to an unusual, patois-like dialect of English. Bill Bryson documents some examples of the island's dialect in his book, The Mother Tongue.
Politics and law
Executive authority is vested in the Queen, who is represented in the territory by the Governor of Saint Helena. As the Governor resides permanently in Saint Helena, an Administrator is appointed to represent the Governor in the islands. The Administrator acts as the local head of government, and takes advice from the Tristan da Cunha Island Council, made up of eight elected and three appointed members. The most senior councillor, or Chief Islander, is, as of 2013, Ian Lavorello. He lit the island's beacon celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Policing in Tristan da Cunha is undertaken by one full-time police officer and three special constables.
Tristan da Cunha has some of its own legislation, but the law of Saint Helena applies generally (to the extent that it is not inconsistent with local law, insofar as it is suitable for local circumstances and subject to such modifications as local circumstances make necessary).
All Tristan families are farmers, owning their own stock and/or fishing. All land is communally owned. Livestock numbers are strictly controlled to conserve pasture and to prevent better-off families from accumulating wealth. Unless it votes for a change in its law, no outsiders are allowed to buy land or settle on Tristan; theoretically the whole island would have to be put up for sale.
The islands' main source of foreign income is the lobster factory and the sale of postage stamps and coins to overseas collectors. Most people have dual occupations, often working for the local government. Many inhabitants have plots of land (at the patches) on which they grow potatoes. A Danish observatory on a remote island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean will provide researchers with new knowledge about the mysterious irregularity of the Earth’s magnetic field known as the South Atlantic Anomaly. The observatory is a partnership between DMI, the Danish Meteorological Institute, and DTU Space, the Danish National Space Institute.
The 1961 volcanic eruption destroyed the Tristan da Cunha canned crayfish (spiny lobster) factory, which was rebuilt a short time later. The crayfish catchers and processors work for the South African company Ovenstone, which has an exclusive contract to sell crayfish to the United States and Japan. Even though Tristan da Cunha is a UK overseas territory, it is not permitted direct access to European Union markets. Recent[clarification needed] economic conditions have meant that the islanders have had to draw from their reserves. The islands' financial problems may cause delays in updating communication equipment and improving education on the island.
The fire of 13 February 2008 (see History) has resulted in major temporary economic disruption.
Although Tristan da Cunha is part of the same overseas territory as Saint Helena, it does not use the local Saint Helena pound. Instead, the island uses the United Kingdom issue of the pound sterling. The Bank of Saint Helena was established on Saint Helena and Ascension Island in 2004. This bank does not have a physical presence on Tristan da Cunha, but residents of Tristan are entitled to its services. There are occasionally commemorative coins minted for the island.
Education is fairly rudimentary; children leave school at age 16, and although they can take GCSEs a year later, few do. The school on the island is St Mary's School, which serves children from ages 4 to 16. The current facility, which opened in 1975, has five classrooms, a kitchen, a stage, a computer room, and a craft and science room.
The Tristan Song Project is an ongoing collaboration between St Mary's School and amateur composers in England, led by music teacher Tony Triggs. It began in 2010, and involves St Mary's pupils writing poems and Tony Triggs providing musical settings by himself and his pupils. A desktop publication entitled Rockhopper Penguins and Other Songs (2010) embraced most of the songs completed that year and funded a consignment of guitars to the School.
In February 2013 the Tristan Post Office issued a set of four Song Project stamps featuring island musical instruments and lyrics from Song Project songs about Tristan's volcano and wildlife.
There are instances of health problems attributed to endogamy, including glaucoma. In addition, there is a very high incidence of asthma among the population and research by Dr. Noe Zamel of the University of Toronto has led to discoveries about the genetic nature of the disease. Three of the original settlers of the island were asthma sufferers.
Healthcare is funded by the government, undertaken by one resident doctor from South Africa and five nurses. Surgery or facilities for complex childbirth are therefore limited, and emergencies can necessitate communicating with passing fishing vessels so the injured person can be ferried to Cape Town. As of late 2007, IBM and Beacon Equity Partners, co-operating with Medweb, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the island's government on "Project Tristan", has supplied the island's doctor with access to long distance tele-medical help, making it possible to send EKG and X-ray pictures to doctors in other countries for instant consultation. This system has been limited owing to the poor reliability of Internet connections and an absence of qualified technicians on the island to service fibre optic links between the hospital and Internet centre at the administration buildings.
The remote location of the islands makes transport to the outside world difficult. Lacking an airport, the islands can be reached only by sea. Fishing boats from South Africa service the islands eight or nine times a year. The RMS Saint Helena used to connect the main island to St Helena and South Africa once each year during its January voyage, but has only done so twice in the last few years, in 2006 and 2011. There is no direct service to Ascension Island and the United Kingdom, without flying from Cape Town to London or travelling on the RMS St Helena from Cape Town to St Helena. The March voyage of the RMS St Helena goes to Ascension and Portland from St Helena. The harbour at Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is called Calshot Harbour, and is named after the place in Hampshire where the islanders temporarily stayed during the volcanic eruption.
Television did not arrive on the island until 2001, with the introduction of the British Forces Broadcasting Service's BFBS 1 and 2 channels, which were replaced by BBC One and Two in 2013. Although Tristan da Cunha shares the +290 code with St Helena, residents have access the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Telecommunications Network, provided by Global Crossing. This uses a London 020 numbering range, meaning that numbers are accessed via the UK telephone numbering plan.
- Hervé Bazin's novel Les Bienheureux de la Désolation (1970) describes the 1961 forced exile of the population to England, and their subsequent return.
- Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838), Chapter 15, has a detailed history and description.
- Zinnie Harris's play Further Than the Furthest Thing (2000) is inspired by events on the island, notably the 1961 volcanic eruption and evacuation of the islanders.
- Raoul Schrott's novel Tristan da Cunha oder die Hälfte der Erde (2003) is almost entirely set on Tristan da Cunha and Gough islands, and chronicles the history of the archipelago.
- Robert A. Heinlein's book Tramp Royale (about a world trip in 1953-54, unpublished until 1992) devoted an entire chapter to his (almost) visit to Tristan da Cunha, arguably the most remote human settlement on earth. He talked to islanders but could not go ashore owing to the uncertain weather.
- In Primo Levi's novel The Periodic Table, one of the chapters ("Mercurio") is a fictional tale set on Tristan da Cunha, named "Desolation Island".
- In Jules Verne's novel In Search of the Castaways, one of the chapters is set on Tristan da Cunha, and a brief history of the island is mentioned. The island also appears several times in Verne's novel The Sphinx of the Ice Fields (1897), which he wrote as an unauthorized sequel to Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. The 1899 English translation by Mrs. Cashel Hoey is called An Antarctic Mystery.
- Tristan da Cunha is the site of a top-secret nuclear disarmament conference in Fletcher Knebel's 1968 political thriller Vanished which was adapted into a 1971 two-part NBC made-for-TV movie starring Richard Widmark.
- The DJ ATB recorded a number "Tristan Da Cunha", inspired by the island, in the music album "Trilogy".
- A chapter of Simon Winchester's book Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (1985) describes his brief visit to the island. Reprinted in 2003, its new foreword states that Winchester has been banned from Tristan da Cunha due to his writing about the war-time romance of one of the local women.
- The South African poet Roy Campbell wrote an elegiac poem dedicated to the isle of Tristan de Cunha in 1927.
- In Shackleton's Last Voyage  by Captain Frank Wild, a chapter (with photographs) is dedicated to the exploration of the island in May 1922.
- Raymond Rallier du Baty describes in chapter III of "15 000 miles in a ketch" the life of the population in 1908.
Notes and references
- As such the traditional forefathers before migration were Scottish; Dutch; Irish; Italian (prob. Ligurian); Scottish; Italian (prob. Ligurian); English; and English.
- Crawford, Allan (1982). Tristan da Cunha and the Roaring Forties. Charles Skilton. p. 20. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
- "About.com: Geography". Geography.about.com. 2 November 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- Winkler, Sarah, Where is the Most Remote Spot on Earth? Tristan da Cunha: The World's Most Remote Inhabited Island How Stuff Works.
- "The St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Constitution Order 2009, see "EXPLANATORY NOTE"". Opsi.gov.uk. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- "Territories: St Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha". BBC News. 12 May 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
- Mackay, Margaret (1963) Angry Island: The Story of Tristan da Cunha, 1506–1963. London: Arthur Barker, p. 30
- Roberts, Edmund (1837). Embassy to the Eastern Courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 33.
- By Wireless from R.M.S. Empress of Australia. "Royal Gifts Gladden 172 On Lonely Atlantic Island" (Tristan da Cunya)," New York Times. 24 March 1935.
- Operation Argus
- Global Volcanism Program | Tristan da Cunha | Summary
- Barwick, Sandra (2001-06-07). "120 mph storm devastates Tristan da Cunha". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- "Remote virus-hit island seeks aid". BBC News. 2007-12-04.
- "MS Oliva runs aground on Nightingale Island". The Tristan da Cunha Website. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
- BBC News Oil-soaked rockhopper penguins in rehabilitation
- "Gough Island". Sanap.ac.za. Retrieved 2012-10-25.
- "Tristan Da Cunha Climate Guide to the Average Weather & Temperatures with Graphs Elucidating Sunshine and Rainfall Data & Information about Wind Speeds & Humidity". March 2012.
- "SOUTH AFRICA - TRISTAN DA CUNHA". March 2012.
- Linnean Society of London. 1906. The journal of the Linnean Society of London, Published by Academic Press for the Linnean Society of London., v. 37
- C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Crown Fern: Blechnum discolor, Globaltwitcher.com, ed. N. Stromberg
- "Tristan da Cunha". Important Bird Areas. BirdLife International. 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- "Procellaria conspicillata". Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "UK | The quiet life: Tristan da Cunha". BBC News. 6 December 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- Genealogy and genes: tracing the founding fathers of Tristan da Cunha, European Journal of Human Genetics
- "Howstuffworks". Howstuffworks. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- "Saint Helena Dependencies". Statoids.com. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- "Thank you one and all: the people who helped make the Jubilee happen". Daily Telegraph. 10 June 2012.
- Economy of Tristan da Cunha. Tristan da Cunha Government and the Tristan da Cunha Association, June 2005. 
- "The Bank of Saint Helena". Sainthelenabank.com. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- Tristan da Cunha Coins
- Crossan, Rob 'Return to the Last Outpost' Telegraph Magazine, 11 November 2002
- By admin on 1 January 2007 (1 January 2007). "CNN Traveler: A long way from anywhere". Cnntraveller.com. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- "Tristan School." Tristan da Cunha Government. Retrieved on 21 June 2009.
- Music Teacher Magazine
- SARTMA 19 June 2011
- "Worldwide search for asthma clue". BBC News. 9 December 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Asthma amongst Tristan da Cunha islanders - MANTLE - 2006 - Clinical & Experimental Allergy - Wiley Online Library
- Calshot Harbour
- Global Crossing extends FCO network to Tristan da Cunha
- Tristan Da CunhaContact Information
- Shackleton's Last Voyage http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shackleton%E2%80%93Rowett_Expedition
- A Short Guide to Tristan da Cunha by James Glass and Anne Green, Tristan Chief Islanders (2005, Whitby Press, 12 pages).
- Field Guides to the Animals and Plants of Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island Edited by Peter Ryan (2007, RSPB Publication, 168 pages).
- Gough Island: A Natural History by Christine Hanel, Steven Chown and Kevin Gaston (2005, Sun Press, 169 pages).
- Tristan da Cunha: History, People, Language by Daniel Schreier and Karen Lavarello-Schreier (2003, Battlebridge, 88 pages).
- Rockhopper Copper: The life and times of the people of the most remote inhabited island on Earth by Conrad Glass MBE, Tristan Police Officer (2005, Polperro Heritage Press, 176 pages).
- Recipes from Tristan da Cunha by Dawn Repetto, Tristan Tourism Co-ordinator (2010, Tristan Books, 32 pages).
- Corporal Glass's Island: The Story of Tristan da Cunha by Nancy Hosegood (1966, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 192 pages, with several pages of photographs).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tristan da Cunha.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Tristan da Cunha.|
Videos of the island
- Return to Trista Da Cunha, Global Nomad, National Geographic (2012).
- A Day on Tristan Da Cunha, Global Nomad, National Geographic (2011).
- Tristan da Cunha: The story of Asthma Island, part 1 and part 2, BBC Four (2008).
- TRISTAN DA CUNHA - Life on the island in 1963 (1963).
- TRISTAN DA CUNHA - Life of an islander in 1963 (1963).