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Tristan da Cunha

Photo © Taffski

Travel Guide Africa Tristan da Cunha

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Introduction

The Sign says it all.

The Sign says it all.

© All Rights Reserved Taffski

The island of Tristan de Cunha lies in the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean, removed over 2,000 kilometres from the nearest major landmass (South Africa) and is the most isolated inhabited piece of land in the world. To add to the distance (psychologically speaking) is the fact that the island is only accessible by boat, a 6-day journey from Cape Town. Unsurprisingly, it is little inhabited and infrequently visited by tourists. Even the 300 inhabitants had to leave during the sixties when the island's volcanic peak erupted.

The island is the largest in an archipelago, also named Tristan da Cunha. The various islands, including the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Gough Island and Inaccessible Island, because of their remoteness, are virtually untouched by human hands. Due to this, they boast an impressive array of birdlife, including the Wandering Albatross, Flightless Rail and Petrels.

Tristan da Cunha is a dependency of Saint Helena.

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Brief History

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 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 first permanent settler was Jonathan Lambert, from Salem, Massachusetts, United States, who arrived at the islands in December 1810. He declared the islands his property and named them the Islands of Refreshment. Lambert's rule was short-lived, as he died in a boating accident in 1812. 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 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 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 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. On 12 January 1938 the islands were declared a dependency of Saint Helena. In 1961, a volcanic eruption forced the evacuation of the entire population to wooden huts in the disused Pendell Army Camp in Merstham, Surrey, England before moving to a more permanent site at a former Royal Air Force station in Calshot near Southampton, England. In 1962, a Royal Society expedition went to the islands to assess the damage, and reported that the settlement Edinburgh of the Seven Seas had been only marginally affected. Most families returned in 1963.

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Geography

The Tristan da Cunha Archipelago is situated about 2800 km west of Cape Town, South Africa. The archipelago includes a number of islands of which the main island Tristan da Cunha is the only one that is inhabited. All other islands, Inaccessible, Nightingale, Middle, Stoltenhoff, and Gough are uninhabited and even more difficult to reach. The latter has a manned weather station though.

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Regions/Islands

  • Tristan da Cunha is the main island and the only inhabited one.
  • Inaccessible Island
  • The Nightingale Islands include Nightingale Island, Middle Island and Stoltenhoff Island
  • Gough Island], 395 kilometres south east of the main island, is also part of the territory.

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Cities/Towns

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Sights and Activities

Gough and Inaccessible Island

Gough and Inaccessible Island are of the more remote islands of this already remote archipelago. Especially Gough Island is far south, almost 400 kilometres from the main island of Tristan da Cunha. Together the island form a site on the Unesco World Heritage List and home to many rare bird species.

Queen Mary's Peak

The dramatic volcano crowning the island of Tristan Da Cunha, 2062 metres (6760 feet) above sea level.

Edinburgh of the Seven Seas

The world's most isolated settlement, permanently inhabited since the early 19th Century.

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Weather

Climate on Tristan da Cunha and neighbouring islands is marine subtropical with relatively cool weather and high rainfall, but rarely extremely cold or hot. Average rainfall is between 1500 and 2000 mm a year and average temperatures around 15 °C, but with some variations between the islands. November to March is summer, June to September the coolest period, though differences between months are generally not very high. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year.

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Getting there

By Boat

It is not possible to get to Tristan da Cunha by plane, so you will need to take the boat, most likely from Cape Town or sometimes from Walvis Bay in Namibia. As there are only about 10 ships making the trip a year, it requires special planning if you want to travel there by yourself. Most places on board are booked months if not a year in advance, mainly for locals returning to their island. If you are lucky enough though, the trip takes 5 or 6 days and will mean you have to spend months on the island. Tickets roughly cost about US$800 for a return trip on one of the fishing vessels and around $1,000 to $1,200 on the Agulhas ship. It's best to check the Tristan da Cunha website for details about schedules and prices. Also, contact them at their website for permission to visit the island and arrange accommodation and possible trips on Tristan da Cunha and surrounding islands.

Otherwise, if you want to visit for a brief periode of time, it is best to join a tour with boats (mainly sailing ships) between Antarctica and Europe for example. Pricey, but priceless!

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Getting Around

By Car

As there is no insurance available for people who want to drive a car by themselves, there are taxis available with a driver to explore the main island, Tristan da Cunha. Tours can be organised in the capital Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.

By Boat

There are boats for hire for trips around Tristan da Cunha island or even to Nightingale Island. Also, there are cruise trips to Nightingale Island and Inaccessible Island, mostly including Zodiac trips. Gough Island is the least visited of the islands. You need to arrange things with the local government and rates include permits and local guides.

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Red Tape

All travellers wishing to visit the remote island of Tristan da Cunha must ask for special permission from the Tristan Government. You have to book everything in advance and specifically tell your purpose, lenght of stay and place to stay.

In general, a few of the requirements that also apply for Saint Helena, apply here as well. Meaning a valid passport and proof of onward or return transport.

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Money

See also Money Matters

Tristan da Cunha is one of just a few of the UK overseas territories that doesn't have its own currency. Both the British Pound Sterling as well as the Saint Helena pound, which is tagged 1:1 with the UK Sterling, are valid.

Notes come in denominations of £20, £10 and £5, and coins are £2, £1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1pence.

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Health

See also Travel Health

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

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Quick Facts

Tristan da Cunha flag

Map of Tristan da Cunha

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Capital
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas
Population
300
Government
Dependency of St Helena
Religions
Christianity
Languages
English
Calling Code
+290
Nationality
Local name

Contributors

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This is version 26. Last edited at 11:45 on Oct 18, 11 by Utrecht. 13 articles link to this page.

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