13 September 2012

Tristan da Cunha - No Place Like Home

"... to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive." — Robert Louis Stevenson
from Virginibus Puerisque (1881)

Val recently asked her friends what Island they would most like to visit.
For me that would be Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited island in the world.
(I was thrilled when I discovered that it was one of the islands mentioned
in my copy of Atlas of Remote Islands.) 
Letter from Shackleton-Rowett Expedition 1922 posted from Tristan da Cunha

In 1989, I watched a TRAVELS episode about John Hemingway's journey to the island
on a Mail packet boat. Ever since then I've been enthralled by the place.
The population is 275. It's a scant seven miles across.
There is no airstrip so you can only arrive by boat.
The nearest inhabited land mass is 1500 miles away.
The boat he travelled on made the trip once a year.  (That's ONCE a year.)
 Since then, more ships do travel there, although the schedule is still infrequent.
(Approximately nine times a year from St. Helena or Cape Town.)

Tristan da Cunha (Google Earth)
For much of his adult life my grandfather lived on an island that was barely five square miles, with a population of 80.  His son was a sea captain for nearly 50 years, gone from his family for three months at a time and plying each of the earth's waterways and seas. My own home has a shoreline that runs for 400 miles, in and out of bays, sounds, inlets, and coves. We tend to be people who seem to love—no, need—to stare for long hours into the face of the ocean, listening to the gulls cry, enjoying the scent of salt air. Eccentric loners, unafraid of solitude. And so rather than fearing the lack of society and the sameness of shore, sand and sea, Tristan da Cunha intrigues and seduces me.

"Tristan da Cunha... it's hardly a place. It's a destination of the mind." —John Hemingway


  1. I would lose my Vulcan mind! haha! I remember seeing Atlas of Remote Islands and loving the look of it. It's definitely for map lovers like us. But I have stayed long enough on no-where-near-as remote islands that could only be reached by boat, and know it's not for me. I go wind crazy for one. Lamu Island off the Kenyan Coast, Inishbofin Island off Galway, and Key Caulker, Belize.

    Staring out to sea I get. Solitude, yes. But I'd have to have a flea market! :o)

  2. Haha! I can see you waiting on the dock, Jacqueline, scanning the horizon for the used goods boat. :)

  3. Well, this is just wild. Have never heard of that island. Wonder what those 275 folks do when they get a tooth ache or appendicitis. Hope there's a few good doctors in that group of 275. And a lot of whiskey if surgery is needed. ;) I'm too big a chicken to live in that remote a place, although I could seriously do with less traffic. I'll have to google and read a bit more. Very intriquing.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Susan! If you watch that TRAVELS video link you'll see that one of the passengers going over on the boat with Hemingway is a dentist.... and he only got to the island every two years!!