About Tristan

Tristan in South Atlantic Tristan da Cunha is located about 1,750 miles away from South Africa, and 1,500 miles away from the nearest land mass (Saint Helena). This means it is the remotest group of islands in the world. It is a British overseas territory and governed primarily by Saint Helena.

As a territory this group of islands consists of four main islands – Tristan da Cunha (the main island where Tristan’s citizens live), Inaccessible Island, Nightingale Island and Gough Island. Its overall area is about 80 square miles.

Tristão da Cunha was the first person to spot the islands (hence their name) in 1506, and the first official survey/mapping was made in 1767 by the French frigate L’Heure du Berger. The French frigate didn’t attempt to land. The first permanent settler was an American by the name of Jonathan Lambert, who arrived at the end of 1810. He named himself as ruler of the islands and re-named them Islands of Refreshment. However he died in a boating accident just two years later and the islands became known as Tristan da Cunha again.

Due to their strategic positioning, these remote islands have been important in various wars and were annexed by the United Kingdom in 1816. During World War II, the Royal Navy based a top secret weather and radio station on Tristan. Since currency wasn’t yet established on the islands (barter was used instead) naval supplies were given to Tristan’s citizens in payment. Since then the British Pound has become the currency. After the war, the island’s newspaper The Tristan Times was born and the first administrator (head of government in Tristan da Cunha, and representative of the Governor of Saint Helena) was appointed by the British Government.

The island’s population is just 275, and no new residents are allowed to settle on the island – hence this population number isn’t increasing or decreasing by much. The only religion is Christianity, mainly Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. Due to the small population, marriages between relatives (e.g. second cousins) has inevitably occurred – resulting in some minor health issues including asthma and glaucoma. The islanders are comprised of 80 families, with just 7 surnames: Glass, Green, Hagan, Lavarello, Repetto, Rogers and Swain.

Health care on the island is free, however Tristan da Cunha has just one resident doctor and five nurses, meaning that any serious injuries are treated in Cape Town (South Africa).

As previously mentioned, the islands are volcanic – it is thought that they were originally formed by a volcanic eruption on the Tristan hotspot. Plant life is mainly made up of species found on South American and African terrain, although certain species are shared with New Zealand (in the case of the Nertera depressa, a plant with inedible berries).