The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Tristan da Cunha

Tristan da Cunha is a remote island in the south Atlantic Ocean, at latitude 37°S, longitude 12°W. It is a dependency of St. Helena (United Kingdom), from which it is 2,000 km distant. In 1961, a volcanic eruption on the island resulted in the bulk of the population (a few hundred people) being evacuated to Britain, though most have since returned. It is extremely difficult to access the island, due to both its remoteness and the fact that the island is surrounded by cliffs over 600 metres (2000 feet) high.

Residents of the island are known as Tristanians.



The name 'Tristan da Cunha' is also used for the archipelago, which consists of

  • Tristan da Cunha, proper
  • Inaccessible Island
  • the remote Gough Island (also called Diego Alvarez), 350 km away
  • Nightingale Island
  • Middle Island
  • Stoltenhoff

The main island is quite mountainous; the only flat area contains the town of Edinburgh (sometimes known as "Edinburgh-on-the-Seven-Seas"). The highest point, The Peak (2010 m), is covered by snow in winter.

Tristan da Cunha is a nesting place of Wandering Albatrosses.


There are around 300 inhabitants, all carrying one of seven surnames, though surnames are not used in practice. They speak English and are Anglicans (there are two parishes). There are some 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. Almost all the inhabitants work for the local government. The islands are largely self-sufficient. A ship arrives every 3 or 4 months with supplies and news from the exterior.

There is no airport, and only a small fishing port.

There is no television, but TV sets are used to watch videotapes, though there is no video rental service. There are no newspapers.

There is one school, one hospital, one post office, one museum, one café, one pub and one swimming pool.

After the age of 16, those who wish to can continue studies in Britain.

As of 2003, there are no permissions for establishment of foreigners.

The archipelago's main source of foreign income is selling stamps to stamp collectors. For this reason, TA and TAA have an exceptional reservation under ISO 3166-1 on behalf of the UPU to represent Tristan da Cunha. Another source of income is the fishing of lobsters for export to Japan and the United States.

History of Tristan da Cunha

The archipelago was discovered in 1506 by a Portuguese mariner, Tristão da Cunha, who named the main island after himself. Ilha de Tristão da Cunha was later anglicised to Tristan da Cunha Island. He was unable to land.

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. However, the great wealth he earned selling elephant seal oil to passing ships is supposedly still hidden somewhere on Tristan da Cunha.

In 1815 the British formally annexed the islands, mostly as a measure to ensure that the French couldn't use the islands as a base for a rescue operation to free Napoleon Bonaparte from his prison on St Helena.

To this day, Tristanians remain proud members of the British Commonwealth.

External links

  • History
  • Visiting info put together by the former British administrator
  • Personal travelogue of a visit to Tristan
  • The Longboats of Tristan
  • Many photos
  • Tristan da Cunha image gallery
  • General background , some photos, great bibliography
  • an even more complete bibliography
  • The Tristan Yahoo! Group

Last updated: 02-05-2005 23:04:33
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55