The inhabited island of Tristan da Cunha is seven miles by seven (37.8 square miles) rising dramatically from the South Atlantic Ocean 1,750 miles from Cape Town in South Africa, 1,510 miles from St Helena and about 2,200 miles from Montevideo in Uruguay at 37°6′ 44″ S and 12°16′ 44″ W. The nearest airport is in Cape Town and transport is provided by an annual sailing of the South African Antarctic Research vessel S.A. Agulhas II and around seven annual sailings of the fishing vessel MFV Edinburgh and three voyages of the freighter MS Baltic Trader, which transport fuel, mail, food, freight, vehicles and limited numbers of passengers. Ships must anchor at sea and transfer passengers and goods via pontoons or RIBS to the small island harbour.
Tristan da Cunha is part of the UK Overseas Territory of St. Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. The Governor (HE Lisa Phillips) is based in St. Helena and an Administrator (HH Sean Burns) based in the Tristan Settlement of Edinburgh-of-the-Seven-Seas, works with the elected Tristan Island Council and the Chief Islander (The Hon. Ian Lavarello) to run the island.
Islanders grow their own vegetables at The Patches, connected to the Settlement three miles away by the island’s only road and the world’s most remote timetabled bus service. The Camogli Hospital on the island provides medical and dental services, but serious medical cases (including at the moment, expectant mothers) must travel for one week by ship to Cape Town. Education for around 30 pupils aged 5-16 is provided at St Mary’s School and students wishing to go on to higher education may study from age 14 in Cape Town, supported by the Tristan Education Trust Fund, a registered charity. There is one Anglican church, one Roman Catholic church, a police station with one full time officer, a combined tourism centre and post office, a swimming pool, an internet café and a café, one supermarket and the world’s most remote pub (the Albatross) in the Prince Philip Hall.
The landscape is dominated by the volcanic St Mary’s Peak which rises to more than two miles in height, with a heart-shaped lake at the summit: the volcano is classed as “active” and has vented out at sea since its last eruption in 1961, which compelled the islanders to flee and take refuge in the UK until it was deemed safe enough for them to return two years later. A Volcano Park and a replica stone Pioneers’ Cottage (showing how the first settlers lived after their arrival in 1816 as a garrison to prevent the French from attempting to free Napoleon from exile on St Helena), as well as hand knitted “37 Degrees South” branded clothing, sold via the island website www.tristandc.com, are among successful local initiatives to diversify the economy.
It is possible to visit the island with permission from the Island Council and when berths are available; cruise ships and yachts are encouraged to call and stamps, first day covers, books and souvenirs are also available through the site, which is run in partnership with the Tristan da Cunha Association. Donations through the site to the Education Fund and other island charities, and membership applications for the Association, are welcomed.