Remote Islands of the World

Some basic information on islands of the world you may or may not have heard of.

Tristan da Cunha

Tristan da Cunha is an island located in the South Atlantic Ocean and is the most remote on the planet. The island lies roughly half way between South America and the southern tip of Africa, and is just over two hundred square kilometres in size.

The island contains a population of two hundred and sixty four based on a 2010 census, with the first inhabitants dating back to 1810.

Reaching the island is particularly difficult as waves can be particularly ferocious due to the lack of large land masses in the way which helps to reduce their size. The island has temperatures ranging between five and twenty-five degrees, however it has heavy rainfalls and little sunshine due to the western winds.

Inaccessible Island

Inaccessible Island is a fourteen square kilometre island in the South Atlantic Ocean. The island is formed by an extinct volcano with the peak rising to four hundred and forty nine metres above sea level.

The source of the name is disputed with two explanations. The first relates to the thousand foot cliffs which surround the island making access beyond the beach extremely difficult. The second relates to a particular expedition by a French crew which was unable to land at all.

The island, along with Gough Island, make up a protected wildlife reserve which features a number of birds and plants.

There are no inhabitants of the island, however the island is used by residents of Tristan da Cunha for some economic purposes such as fishing and collection of bird eggs.

Nightingale Island

Nightingale Island is one of the three which resides near Tristan da Cunha and Inaccessible Island. It is also the largest of the Inaccessible Island Group, which also contains Middle Island and Stoltenhoff Island. All three of the islands have no inhabitants, however they are used for scientific research with visits made regularly.

The island contains two peaks on the north side, with the tallest reaching three hundred and thirty seven metres. The remainder of the island is ringed by cliffs.

The island is actually a volcano, which last erupted in 2004 preceded by a six hour earthquake swarm. The last eruption prior to 2004 was thought to be around 39,000 years ago. Weather conditions on the island can also be severe with conservation workers’ sheds being destroyed in a cyclone in 2001, where windspeeds reached up to one hundred and twenty miles per hour.

While Gough Island, which is also a part of the Tristan da Cunha group of islands, and Inaccessible Islands are unable to be visited by tourists, Nightingale Island is open to viewing with frequent visitors to Tristan da Cunha visiting the island when weather permits.

Gough Island

Gough Island is located in the Atlantic Ocean and is a dependency of Tristan da Cunha, although it lies alone, some two hundred and fifty miles from Tristan da Cunha.

It is inhabited by only the six or so staff of a weather station run by the South African National Antarctic Programme, which has been operational since 1956.

Along with Inaccessible Island, Gough Island is a protected nature reserve and is one of the least disrupted ecosystems left on Earth. Many birds nest on the island including Albatross, Petrel, and Terns along with mammals such as the subantarctic fur seal. There are however two invasive species which are House Mice and the plant, Pearlwort.

Prince Edward Islands

The Prince Edward Islands are made up of two individual islands located in the subantarctic Indian Ocean. They are considered a part of South Africa, with the smallest island being named Prince Edward Island and the larger island known as Marion Island.

The islands are designated as protected wildlife areas and as such, activity on the island is limited to research and conservation. A small number of inhabitants on the island work at the weather station located on Marion Island.

Located just over nine hundred and fifty nautical miles from Port Elizabeth in South Africa, the islands are exposed to eastward-moving depressions which gives them a cool and windy climate, with strong winds blowing on most days of the year. It also rains on average three hundred and twenty days a year, and the islands are also some of the cloudiest in the world. On the wetter western sides of the island, one can expect around eight hundred hours of sunshine per year, whereas the eastern side it may be as much as 1300 hours.

Saint Helena

The island of Saint Helena lies in the South Atlantic Ocean and is volcanic in origin. It measures sixteen by ten kilometres, and hosts a population of over 4,250 people.

It was discovered in 1502, and for a long time was used as a stopover for ships travelling between Europe and Southern Africa. Although the island is considered a part of the group of islands including Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island, Ascension Island still lies 1,300 kilometres away.

Even though the island is relatively small, the eight hundred and eighteen metres Diana’s Peak caused a number of weather conditions. The town of Jamestown on the northern island receives little rainfall compared to the higher, centre and southern parts of the island, where it is also noticeably cloudier. The trade winds also blow continuously.

Ascension Island

Ascension Island is another British Overseas Territory and lies roughly halfway between Africa and South America in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is commonly grouped in with the similar island group Tristan da Cunha, however this actually lies over 3,700 kilometres away to the south.

Around eight hundred and eighty people live on the island, with Jamestown being the most populous town on the island.

The climate of the island is tropical with temperatures ranging between 22°C and 31°C. Humidity also reaches the seventy percent mark.

Geography on the island was formed by the volcanic eruptions of the volcano, with the peak at the centre of the island reaching eight hundred and fifty nine metres. Much of the remainder of the island is a wasteland of lava flows and cinder cones. The introduction of non-native species in the 1500s decimated the native plant life on the island, however a forest planted by the British is gradually expanding.

Easter Island

Easter Island is probably the most famous island listed here due to the prominent features that are the giant heads, which were constructed by the Rapa Nui people. Initially, the people settled well on the island with 15,000 inhabitants. Deforestation, lack of resources and introduction of rats had caused the population to drop to around 3,000 by the time Europeans arrived. Further population drops occurred with the introduction of European disease meaning that only one hundred and eleven people survived by 1877.

Today the island is administered by Chile, with the 2012 census reporting that around 5,800 people reside on the island.

The island is another which is to be considered as the most remote in the world, with the closest inhabited location being the Pitcairn Islands. Chile lies over 3,500 kilometres away.

The island, along with nearby Motu Nui and Motu Iti form the summit of a large volcanic mountain rising from the sea. The last volcanic activity however occurred around 10,000 years ago, however steam was reported to be escaping in the early twentieth century.

Pitcairn Islands

The Pitcairn Islands is made up of four separate islands (Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, Oeno). Pitcairn is actually the second largest island and is the last one to be uninhabited.

Henderson Island is by far the largest island at over thirty seven square kilometres and was formed by an uplifted coral island. The island of Pitcairn was formed by a volcano with the two remaining islands classed as atolls.

Temperatures in the summer range from 25°C to 35°C, however the humidity can exceed ninety five percent.

The population of the island peaked at two hundred and thirty seven in 1937, however has fallen to fifty six with the 2013 census. With the small population, the island is the worlds smallest democracy.

Bouvet Island

Bouvet Island is located around half way between the tips of Africa and South America, and the Antarctic continent. It is over 1,700 kilometres from the nearest main land making it the most remote island in the world.

The size of the island is forty-nine kilometres square, however ninety three percent is covered by glacier with the centre of the island featuring the ice-filled crater of an inactive volcano.

While the island is uninhabited, it does feature a weather station. Landing on the island is notoriously difficult due to regular high seas, fog and heavy clouds. The mean temperature sits just below zero degrees, with a peak temperature of 14°C recorded in 1980.

The wildlife on the island is limited by the harsh weather such as fungi and plants such as moss and liverworts. The island is designated as an important reservation for birds, such as penguins, Terns, Petrel and Gulls. Seals also visit the island to breed, while whales have frequented the seas nearby.

Antipodes Islands

The Antipodes Islands are an inhospitable group of volcanic islands located more than five hundred miles south of New Zealand.

Antipode Island is the main, larger island with a size of around twenty square kilometres and a smaller island lies to the north known as Bollons Island. A number of stacks and islets make up the group.

The make-up of the islands is steep, with cliffs and rocky reefs surrounding the island. Mount Galloway is the tallest peak on the main island at 366 metres, however Mount Waterhouse to the south west reaches 360 metres. Several other points reach over two hundred metres and much the same geography can be found on the northern island.

A number of shipwrecks have hit the islands, with the sixteen crew of the Spirit of the Dawn ship having to spend three months on the island in 1893. The island features a castaway shed on the northern side of Antipode Island, however those landing on the southern side of the island face a tough task to reach it. The last shipwreck was in 1999 with the yacht Totorore , which resulted in two deaths.

North Sentinel Island

Geographically, North Sentinel Island isn’t particularly remote as in the case of Tristan da Cunha, however the inhabitants of the island are. The Sentinelese people are thought to be the last uncontacted island tribe on the planet, and they violently resist outside contact.

The island is located in the Andaman Sea, two thirds of the way between India and Burma. The size of the land is around twenty-eight square miles and the number of inhabitants is unknown. Generally, it is thought there are around two hundred and fifty people living there but calculations suggest the island can support up to four hundred. The island is also covered by dense vegetation concealing locations were the inhabitants may live.

In 1981, a ship grounded on a reef surrounding the island. The crew thought a rescue party was on the way however they soon noticed that members of the tribe gathering with weapons on the beach however heavy seas prevented the tribe from boarding. Fortunately, after a week the crew were rescued by helicopter. In 2006 however, two men were killed by tribesmen when their boat drifted too close to the island. Another man was killed in 2018 when he trespassed on the island.

The island was also affected by the 2004 earthquake in the region, which caused some of the reef to tilt up from the sea, expanding the island by as much as 1km in some directions.

Savage Islands

The Savage Islands are located between Madeira and the Canary Islands, and are governed by Portugal. The islands are specially protected as a nature reserve and home to a wide species of birds, and with little fresh water and being surrounded by reefs, the islands are also particularly difficult to reach. The few visitors each year are made up of wardens and those conducting scientific research.

The largest island, close to two square kilometres in size, lies nine miles north of another cluster of islands making up the Savage Islands. The group was formed through volcanic and mountainous geology around sixty or seventy million years ago.

Strong winds blow across the islands which reduce precipitation to less than 500mm annually. The on-land temperature remains fairly constant between 17°C and 19°C, while the sea temperature also remains stable.

The islands are also disputed between the Spanish and Portuguese governments. The Portuguese place their border south of the islands, while the Spanish believe that due to the islands retaining no residents, the border should be drawn halfway between Madeira and the Canaries.