Tristan da Cunha
Learn more about Tristan da Cunha
|Motto: Our faith is our strength|
|Anthem: God Save the Queen|
|Image:Tristan da Cunha location.JPG|
|Capital||Edinburgh of the Seven Seas|
|Status||Dependency of Saint Helena|
|Currency||Saint Helenian pound (SHP) at parity with the UK Pound Sterling (GBP)|
|Time zone||UTC +0|
Tristan da Cunha is a group of remote islands in the south Atlantic Ocean, 2816 km (1750 miles) from South Africa and 3360 km (2088 miles) from South America. It is a dependency of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, 2161 km (1350 miles) to the north. The territory consists of the main island, Tristan da Cunha (98 km²), as well as several uninhabited islands: Inaccessible Island and the Nightingale Islands. Gough Island, situated 395 km south east of the main island, is also part of the territory.
The territory is considered one of the most remote human settlements in the world.
The islands were first sighted in 1506 by a Portuguese mariner, Tristão da Cunha, although he did not land. He named the main island after himself, Ilha de Tristão da Cunha, which was later anglicised to Tristan da Cunha Island. The first survey of the archipelago was made by the French frigate L'Heure du Berger in 1767. Soundings were taken and a rough survey of the coastline was made. The presence of water at the large waterfall of Big Watron and in a lake on the north coast were noted, and the results of the survey were published by a Royal Navy hydrographer in 1781. The first permanent settler was Jonathan Lambert, from Salem, Massachusetts, who arrived at the islands in 1810. He declared the islands his property and named them the Islands of Refreshment. His rule was short lived, as he died in a boating accident in 1812.
In 1815 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 not be able 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 as a base, as they had during the War of 1812. Attempts to colonise Inaccessible Island failed.
The islands were occupied by a British military garrison, 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 move from sailing ships to coal fired steam ships, saw the increased isolation of the islands, as they were no longer needed as a stopping port for journeys from Europe to the Far East.
In 1867, The Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria visited the island. The main settlement, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas was named in honour of his visit. A second Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, visited the islands in 1957 as part of a world tour onboard the royal yacht Britannia. Lewis Carroll's youngest brother, the Rev. Edwin H. Dodgson, served as an Anglican missionary and school teacher in Tristan da Cunha in the 1880s.
During World War II the islands were used as a Royal Navy station. Atlantic Isle was established to monitor German shipping movements in the South Atlantic Ocean. The first Administrator was appointed by the British Government during this time.
In 1961, a volcanic eruption forced the evacuation of the entire population to a former RAF station in Calshot near Southampton, England, living mainly in a road called Tristan Close. In 1962, a Royal Society expedition went to the island to assess the damage reporting that the settlement Edinburgh of the Seven Seas had only been marginally affected. Most families returned in 1963 led by Willie Repetto (head of the 10-strong island council) and Allan Crawford (the former island welfare officer).
 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 Island Council, made up of eight elected and three appointed members.
Tristan da Cunha has its own legislation, but the law of Saint Helena applies to the extent that it is not inconsistent with local law, in so far as it is suitable for local circumstances and subject to such modifications as local circumstances make necessary.
The name "Tristan da Cunha" is also used for the archipelago, which consists of the following islands (areas given in km2):
- the main island Tristan da Cunha and its surrounding islands
- Gough Island ( ) (Diego Alvarez) (91 km2)
The main island is quite mountainous; the only flat area is the location of the capital, Edinburgh on the Northwestern coast (sometimes known as "Edinburgh-on-the-Seven-Seas"). The highest point is a volcano called Queen Mary's Peak (2010 m); it is covered by snow in winter.
The other islands of the group are uninhabited, except for Gough Island Weather Station on the namesake 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 islands’ main source of foreign income is the lobster factory and the sale of stamps 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.
The 1961 volcanic eruption destroyed the Tristan da Cunha canned crayfish factory, which was rebuilt a short time later. The crayfish farmers work for the South African company Ovenstone which has an exclusive contract to sell crayfish to the USA and Japan. Even though Tristan da Cunha is a UK overseas territory, it is not permitted directed access to EU markets. Recently the decline in interest in Tristan crayfish in the USA has meant that the islanders have had to borrow from their reserves. They are trying to open up the market in the Far East. The islands' financial problems may cause delays in updating communication equipment and improving education on the island.
The islands have a population of 269 people.
The main settlement is Edinburgh of the Seven Seas (known locally as "The Settlement"). The main religion is Christianity, with denominations of Anglican and Roman Catholic. There are incidences of health problems because of endogamy, including asthma and glaucoma, largely due to the inevitable marriages among distantly related couples, for example marriages between second degree cousins, that comes with having such a small gene pool.
The remote location of the islands makes transport to the outside world difficult. There is no airport, and the islands can only be reached by boat. Fishing boats from South Africa regularly service the islands, and the RMS Saint Helena connects the islands to Saint Helena and Ascension Island.
Young people generally would like to stay on the island but they are often concerned about finding a spouse. Some move abroad, marry and hope to return.
On Tristan da Cunha the 269 people share seven surnames.
Health care is free but with just one resident doctor from South Africa and five nurses, the delivery and surgery are limited and serious injury can mean sending signals to passing fishing vessels so that the person can be transferred to Cape Town.
Education is rudimentary; children leave school at fifteen and although it is possible to take GCSEs a year later, results are poor. <ref>Crossan, Rob 'Return to the Last Outpost' Telegraph Magazine 11/11/02</ref>
 External links
- Tristan da Cunha Official Website
- Tristan Times
- Visiting information – Put together by the former British administrator
- The Longboats of Tristan
- Tristan da Cunha image gallery
- Contains bibliography
- The Tristan Yahoo! Group
- First postcode for remote UK isle – BBC News
- The Utmost Parts of the Earth, by William F. Taylor – Account of the island from 1856
- Marooned on Tristan
- Travel Log
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|Tristan da Cunha | Inaccessible Island | Nightingale Islands (Nightingale Island | Middle Island | Stoltenhoff Island) | Gough Island|