Tristan da Cunha /ËtrÉªstÉn dÉ ËkuËnjÉ/, 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 2,000 kilometres (1,200Â mi) from nearest inhabited land, Saint Helena, 2,400 kilometres (1,500Â mi) from the nearest continental land, South Africa, and 3,360 kilometres (2,090Â mi) from South America. The territory consists of the main island, also named Tristan da Cunha, which has a north-south length of 11.27 kilometres (7.00Â mi) and has an area of 98 square kilometres (38Â sqÂ 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 and equatorial Ascension Island some 3,730 kilometres (2,318Â mi) to the north of Tristan. The island has a permanent population of 297 (2014 figures).
The islands were first sighted in 1506 by Portuguese explorer TristÃ£o da Cunha; tall seas prevented a landing. He named the main island after himself, Ilha de TristÃ£o da Cunha, which was anglicised from its earliest mention on British Admiralty charts to Tristan da Cunha Island.
In 1643, the crew of Heemstede, captained by Claes Gerritsz Bierenbroodspot, made the first recorded landing.
The first survey of the archipelago was made by the French frigate L'Heure du Berger in 1767.
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 Tommaso Corri) remained as a farmer on the island.
In 1816, the United Kingdom 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.
From December, 1937 to March, 1938 a Norwegian party made the first ever scientific expedition to Tristan da Cunha. During their stay, the expeditionary party carried out observations and made recordings of the topography of the island, its people and how they lived and worked and the flora and fauna that inhabited the island.
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.
During World War II, the islands were used as a top secret Royal Navy weather and radio station codenamed HMSÂ 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, Surgeon Lieutenant Commander E.J.S. Woolley, was appointed by the British government during this time.
The second Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, visited the islands in 1957 as part of a world tour on board the royal yacht Britannia.
In 1958 as part of an experiment, Operation Argus, the United States Navy detonated an atomic bomb 160 kilometres (100Â mi) high in the upper atmosphere about 175 kilometres (109Â 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 190 kilometres per hour (120Â 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. While a new factory was being planned and built, M/V Kelso came to the island and acted as a factory ship, with island fishermen based on board for stints normally of one week. The new facility was ready in July 2009, for the start of the 2009â"10 fishing season.
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.
On November 2011, the sailing boat Puma's Mar Mostro participant in Volvo Ocean Race arrived to the island after her mast broke in the first leg from Alicante and Cape Town. This event made the island, its inhabitants and lifestyle known worldwide thanks to the media reports.
A total solar eclipse will pass over the island on 5 December 2048. The island is to be on the centre line for nearly three and a half minutes of totality.
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 (37.8Â sqÂ mi), (37Â°6â²44â³S 12Â°16â²56â³W)
- Inaccessible Island, area: 14 square kilometres (5.4Â sqÂ mi)
- Nightingale Islands, area: 3.4 square kilometres (1.3Â sqÂ mi)
- Nightingale Island, area: 3.2 square kilometres (1.2Â sqÂ mi)
- Middle Island, area: 0.1 square kilometres (24.7 acres)
- Stoltenhoff Island, area: 0.1 square kilometres (24.7 acres)
- Gough Island (Diego Alvarez), area: 68 square kilometres (26.3Â sqÂ mi)
Inaccessible Island and the Nightingale Islands are 35 kilometres (21.7Â mi) SW by W and SSW of the main island respectively, whereas Gough Island is 395 kilometres (245.4Â mi) SSE.
The main island is generally mountainous. The only flat area is on the north-west coast, which is the location of the only settlement, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. The highest point is a volcano called Queen Mary's Peak 2,062 metres (6,765.1Â ft), which is covered by snow in winter. The other islands of the group are uninhabited, except for a weather station with a staff of six on Gough Island, which has been operated by South Africa since 1956 (since 1963 at its present location at Transvaal Bay on the south-east coast).
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, 20Â° further from the equator. Frost is unknown below elevations of 500 metres (1,600Â ft) and summer temperatures are similarly mild, never reaching 25Â Â°C (77Â Â°F).
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 (Pterodroma incerta; IUCN status EN). Inaccessible Island is also the only known breeding ground of the Spectacled Petrel (Procellaria conspicillata; IUCN Vulnerable). The Tristan albatross (IUCN status CR) is known to breed only on Gough and Inaccessible Islands: all nest on Gough except for one or two pairs who nest on Inaccessible Island.
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 found only on Inaccessible Island. In 1956 eight Gough moorhens were released at Sandy Point on Tristan, and have subsequently colonised the island.
Various species of whales and dolphins can be seen around Tristan from time to time with increasing sighting rate.
The island's unique social and economic organization has evolved over the years, but is based on the principles set out by William Glass in 1817 when he established a settlement based on equality. All Tristan families are farmers, owning their own stock and/or fishing. All land is communally owned. All households have plots of land at The Patches on which they grow potatoes. 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. All people â" including children and pensioners â" are involved in farming, while adults additionally have salaried jobs working either for the Government, or, a small number in domestic service, and many of the men are involved in the fishing industry, going to sea in good weather. The nominal fishing season lasts 90 days; however during the 2013 fishing season â" 1 July through 30 September â" there were only 10 days suitable for fishing.
Valuable foreign earnings come from the royalties from the commercial crawfish or Tristan rock lobster (Jasus) industry and the sale of postage stamps and coins, especially to collectors worldwide. Limited revenue from tourism includes providing accommodation, guides and sales of handicrafts and souvenirs to visitors and by mail order. It is the income from foreign revenue earners that enables Tristan to run Government services, especially health and education.
The 1961 volcanic eruption destroyed the Tristan da Cunha canned crawfish factory, which was rebuilt a short time later. The crawfish catchers and processors work for the South African company Ovenstone, which has an exclusive contract to sell crawfish 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 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) 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.
The island is located in the South Atlantic Anomaly, an area of the Earth with an abnormally weak magnetic field. On November 14, 2008 a geomagnetic observatory was inaugurated on the island as part of a joint venture between the Danish Meteorological Institute and DTU Space.
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 done so only 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, named after the place in Hampshire where the islanders temporarily stayed during the volcanic eruption.
Although Tristan da Cunha shares the +290 code with St Helena, residents have access to 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. From 1998 to 2006, internet was available in Tristan da Cunha but its expensive cost made it almost unaffordable for the local population, who primarily only used it to send email. The connection was also extremely unreliable, connecting through a 64 kbit/s satellite phone connection provided by Inmarsat. From 2006, a very-small-aperture terminal provides 3072 kbit/s of publicly-accessible bandwidth via an internet cafe.
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 is a career civil servant in the Foreign Office and is selected by London. Since 1998, each Administrator has served a single, three-year term (which begins in September, upon arrival of the supply ship from Cape Town.) The Administrator acts as the local head of government, and takes advice from the Tristan da Cunha Island Council. Alex Mitham was appointed Tristan da Cunhaâs 22nd Administrator and arrived, with his wife Hasene, to take over from Sean Burns in September 2013. The Island Council is made up of eight elected and three appointed members, who serve a 3-year term which begins in February (or March).
Chief Islander: From amongst the 8 elected councillors, the one receiving the most votes is named "Chief Islander" and serves as Acting Administrator when that official is off the island: Ian Lavorello was elected, unopposed, for a second consecutive 3-year term in February 2013. As "Chief Islander" he lit the island's beacon celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
The Administrator and Island Council work from the Government Building, which is the only two-storey building on the island: the lower floor houses the Police Department. It is sometimes referred to as "Whitehall" or the "H'admin Building" and contains the Administrator's Office, Treasury Department, Administration Offices and the Council Chamber where Island Council meetings are held.
There are no political parties or trade unions on Tristan. 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).
The islands have a population of 297. 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, belonging to 3 Y-haplogroups: I (M170), R-SRY10831.2 and R (M207) (xSRY10831.2) and share just eight surnames: Glass, Green, Hagan, Lavarello, Patterson, Repetto, Rogers, and Swain. There are 80 families on the island. Tristan da Cunha's isolation has led to an unusual, patois-like dialect of English described by the writer Simon Winchester as "a sonorous amalgam of Home Counties lockjaw and nineteenth century idiom, Afrikaans slang and Italian." Bill Bryson documents some examples of the island's dialect in his book, The Mother Tongue.
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. It opened in 1975 and has five classrooms, a kitchen, a stage, a computer room, and a craft and science room.
The Tristan Song Project was a collaboration between St Mary's School and amateur composers in England, led by music teacher Tony Triggs. It began in 2010 and involved 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. In 2014 the Project broadened its scope and continues as the International Song Project.
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.
Local television began in 1984 using taped programming on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings. Live 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.
According to the island's January 2014 newsletter, the summer season gets underway with Sheep Shearing Day held on a Saturday in mid-December. Almost the entire population gathers on the far end of Patches Plain where the sheep pens are sited. Hand-clippers are used in the shearing and the wool is later carded, spun and hand-knitted into garments, some of which are sold under the name "37 Degrees South Knitwear Range".
There is an annual break from government and factory work which begins before Christmas and lasts for 3 weeks. Break-Up Day is usually marked with parties at various work "departments". Break-Up includes the Island Store, which means that families must be organized to have a full larder of provisions during the period. In 2013, the Island Store closed a week earlier than usual to conduct a comprehensive inventory, and all purchases had to be made by Friday 13 December as the shop did not open again until a month later.
The January 2014 New Year Message from Administrator Alex Mitham announced that, in 2013, the Island Council recognized there was no national holiday that specifically celebrates Tristan's heritage and culture, 'So I am pleased to announce that the Council have agreed that a new national holiday called Longboat Day that will be instated in 2015, and the traditional longboats race brought back. There was no immediate indication of which date would be selected for the new holiday.
Tristan da Cunha in popular culture
- 37Â°4 S, a short film about two teenagers who live on the island.
- Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838), Chapter 15, has a detailed history and description.
- 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.
- The South African poet Roy Campbell wrote an elegiac poem dedicated to the isle of Tristan de Cunha in 1927.
- 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.
- HervÃ© Bazin's novel Les Bienheureux de la DÃ©solation (1970) describes the 1961 forced exile of the population to England, and their subsequent return.
- In Primo Levi's The Periodic Table (1975) one of the fictional short stories, "Mercurio", is set on Tristan da Cunha, named "Desolation Island".
- In Patrick O'Brian's The Thirteen-Gun Salute (1991) the ship Dianne is nearly wrecked on Inaccessible Island.
- Robert A. Heinlein's book Tramp Royale (about a world trip in 1953â"54, unpublished until 1992) devoted an entire chapter to his (almost) visit to Tristan da Cunha. He talked to islanders but could not go ashore owing to the uncertain weather.
- 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 HÃ¤lfte der Erde (2003) is almost entirely set on Tristan da Cunha and Gough islands, and chronicles the history of the archipelago.
- Frank T. Bullen provides details of visiting the island in the 1870s in his book The Cruise of the Cachalot first published in 1898.
- Raymond Rallier du Baty describes the people and the island ca 1908 in his book 15 000 Miles in a Ketch (1915)
- In Shackleton's Last Voyage by Captain Frank Wild (1923), several chapters (with photographs) are dedicated to island during the Shackletonâ"Rowett Expedition in May 1922.
- An account by Rose Annie Rogers, an American missionary's wife about life on the island, called The Lonely Island was published in 1927
- Katherine Mary Barrow Three Years in Tristan Da Cunha published in 1910 is a 'simple and true description of daily life among a very small community cut off from the rest of the world.' based on entries to her diaries and letters written during the period to her sister.
- In Wim Wenders Wings of Desire a dying man recollecting the things that have apparently meant most to him mentions "Tristan da Cunha"
- Simon Winchester's, Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire, (1985, reprinted in 2003), devotes a chapter to the island which he visited in the mid-1980s. In the foreword to the reprint, the author states that he has been banned from Tristan da Cunha because of his writing about the war-time romance of a local woman. He published a longer account of his banishment in Latham's Quarterly.
- In 2005, the first book about the island written by an Islander, Rockhopper Copper, was published. It was written by Conrad Glass, Tristan da Cunha's longtime Police and Conservation officer.
- The DJ ATB recorded a number "Tristan Da Cunha", inspired by the island, in the music album "Trilogy".
- The Norwegian experimental musician Deathprod released the album "Imaginary Songs from Tristan da Cunha" in 1996 on dBUT records. In 2004 it was re-released as part of the Deathprod box set on the label Rune Grammofon.
- Outline of Tristan da Cunha
Notes and references
- 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).
- Three Years in Tristan da Cunha by Katherine Mary Barrow (1910, Skeffington & Son, 200 pages, with 37 photographs).
- Tristan da Cunha
- Tristan Times
- TRISTAN DA CUNHA (spanish)
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 â" Life on the island in 1963 (1963).
- TRISTAN DA CUNHA â" Life of an islander in 1963 (1963).