Edinburgh Village Commonwealth Walkway

Tristan da Cunha / Africa

Tristan da Cunha is a group of volcanic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.  It is the remotest inhabited archipelago in the world, lying approximately 1,732 miles off the coast of Cape Town in South Africa.  The territory consists of the inhabited island Tristan da Cunha, the wildlife reserves of Gough Island and Inaccessible Island, and the smaller uninhabited Nightingale Islands.  As of October 2018, the main island has 250 permanent inhabitants who all carry British Overseas Territories citizenship.  Tristan da Cunha is a British Overseas Territory with its own constitution.  There is no airstrip on the main island, with the only way of access via boat – a six-day trip from South Africa and these only run a few times each year. The islands were first recorded in 1506 by Portuguese explorer Tristão da Cunha (1460-1507), though rough seas prevented him from landing.  He named the main island after himself, Ilha de Tristão da Cunha.  It was later anglicised from its earliest mention on British Admiralty charts to Tristan da Cunha Island.   Some sources state that the Portuguese made the first landing in 1520 when the Lás Rafael captained by Ruy Vaz Pereira called at Tristan for water.  However, the first undisputed landing was made on 7 February 1643 by the crew of the Dutch East India Company ship Heemstede which was captained by Claes Gerritsz Bierenbroodspot (1579-1650).  The island is mountainous, with the summit of the volcano Queen Mary’s Peak having the greatest elevation of 6765 feet.  At this height, the volcano is often covered in snow in the cold winter season.  There are no political parties or trade unions.  Executive authority is vested in The Queen, who is represented in the territory by the Governor of Saint Helena.  As the Governor resides permanently in Saint Helena, an Administrator is appointed to represent him on the islands.  He is a career civil servant in the Foreign Office selected by London and acts as the local head of government, taking advice from the Tristan da Cunha Island Council.  Since 1998 each Administrator has served a three-year term.  Fiona Kilpatrick and Stephen Townsend are exceptions to this rule, having taken up their job-share office in January 2020. One visitor wrote that Tristan da Cunha looked ‘solitary and lost, like an iceberg adrift.’ Fun Facts: 
  • Tristan da Cunha is a hotspot volcano that last erupted in 1961 and 1962, with the islanders being evacuated to England.  
  • The island also has a population of fewer than 300 people.  
  • The local currency is the British pound sterling.  
  • All financial transactions must be in cash as the island does not facilitate card transactions. 
Edinburgh Village: Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is the main settlement of Tristan da Cunha and is referred to as The Settlement or The Village.  Edinburgh Village is regarded as the most remote permanent settlement on Earth, as it is over 1,500 miles from the nearest human settlement on Saint Helena.  The village is named after HRH The Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (1844-1900), the second son of Queen Victoria, in honour of his visit to the island in 1867. The settlement was founded on the island of Tristan da Cunha in 1816 by Sergeant William Glass (1786-1853) from Kelso.  A military garrison was maintained on the islands as a guard against any French attempts to rescue Napoleon who was imprisoned on Saint Helena.  The military garrison remained until the end of World War II.  Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is the only major settlement of Tristan da Cunha and contains a small port, the Administrator's residence, and a post office.  It was damaged in a volcanic eruption on the island in 1961 which forced the entire population to abandon the settlement and evacuate to Calshot, Hampshire in the UK.  The eruption destroyed the settlement's crayfish factory.  After the return of most of the islanders in 1963, the settlement was rebuilt.  The harbour at Edinburgh was named Calshot Harbour after their temporary home during the eruption.

1.9 miles / 3.1 kilometres

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