If you wanted to get away from it all, where would you go? A few weeks ago Sometimes Interesting featured Bouvet Island, the most remote island in the world. Bouvet Island is not inhabitable, however, so what is the most remote inhabited location? Tristan da Cunha would fit the bill, a small island of 37.8 square miles located almost 3,000 miles away from the nearest land. Don’t think you’ll fly there, though, as there is no airstrip on the island – this one is accessed via boat.
Not as remote as Bouvet, but remote nonetheless, Tristan da Cunha is part of a volcanic archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean. It was discovered in 1506 by a Portuguese explorer named Tristão da Cunha. The first survey of the island was conducted in 1767, but the first permanent settlement didn’t occur until 1810.
By 1816 the United Kingdom formally annexed Tristan da Cunha to keep it away from the French and Americans, as its location proved to be a strategic asset. In 1867 the main settlement was given the name “Edinburgh of the Seven Seas,” named for the Duke of Edinburgh who had visited that year. Today most residents refer to it as “the settlement.”
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During World War II, Tristan da Cunha was used as a top secret Royal Navy weather and radio station. In the following years the little island had several newsworthy events: The United States tested an atomic bomb nearby in 1958, a volcanic eruption in 1961 forced an evacuation of the entire population for several years, and in 2001 the island was hit by a 120 mph cyclone.
Today, about 262 people reside on Tristan da Cunha. Mostly farmers and fishermen, the residents of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas live a quiet, peaceful life. There are 80 families living on the island, but they share only 8 surnames. Land ownership is communal and healthcare there is free, but limited. Tristan da Cunha didn’t have television until 2001, and they only recently received a postal code in 2005.