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What Is the World's Most Isolated Inhabited Island?

Tristan da Cunha is the most remote inhabited island on the planet.
Saint Helena is the closest inhabited island to Tristan da Cunha.
Inhabitants of Tristan da Cunha make a living from fishing.
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  • Written By: Michael Anissimov
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  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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The world’s most isolated inhabited island is Tristan da Cunha, a dependency of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena. It is located far in the South Atlantic, roughly equidistant between Cape Town, South Africa and Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Tristan da Cunha is 1,750 miles (2,816 km) from South Africa and 2,088 miles (3,360 km) from South America, making it the most remote inhabited island on the planet. There are numerous islands in the central Pacific more distant from continental landmasses, but they are not inhabited. The closest inhabited island to Tristan da Cunha is Saint Helena, 1,350 miles (2,173 km) to the north. The world’s most isolated island in general, Bouvet Island, is located about 2,000 miles (3,218 km) to its southeast.

Tristan da Cunha is the largest island in an archipelago consisting of two other main islands and a couple tiny ones. In order of size, these are Inaccessible Island, Nightingale Island, Middle Island, and Stoltenhoff Island. They are all located about 20 miles (32 km) from one another, the arrangement of the largest three resembling an isosceles triangle pointing towards the northeast, with the largest, Tristan da Cunha, serving as the leading vertex. The two smallest are located right alongside Nightingale Island. Another, the uninhabited Gough Island, is located 245 miles (395 km) to the southeast.

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Tristan da Cunha itself has an area of 121 square miles (201 square km), similar to a large city such as Paris, although most of the island is mountainous and uninhabited. The only flat area is the location of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, the capital and only real city. Locally it is known as “the Settlement.” Tristan da Cunha has a population of about 272 people, with 80 families sharing just eight surnames. Due to the limited size of their gene pool, hereditary health problems, such as asthma and glaucoma are more common among the inhabitants.

The island’s inhabitants live off fishing and growing vegetables on small plots of land. Its economy is built around its canned crayfish factory and the exporting of distinctive stamps and coins. Due to the lack of an airstrip, transportation to and from Tristan da Cunha is difficult, and must be conducted by boat. The island lies near the trading path for ships traveling from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Cape Town in South Africa.

The highest point is a volcano, Queen Mary’s Peak, with an altitude of 6,765 ft (2,062 m). In 1961, it erupted, pouring lava down a side of the island and forcing the evacuation of all residents to the United Kingdom. Most of the residents returned in 1963 after a Royal Society expedition sent there to investigate reported little damage to the primary settlement.

In 1958, as a part of Operation Argus, the United States exploded an atomic bomb in the area. This was not made public until May 2006.

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anon338998
Post 13

Isolated, though. This seems to discount archipelagos. Most islands in the Pacific I can think of would qualify as such.

anon303944
Post 11

The Hawaiian islands are, in fact, the most remote inhabited islands on earth, with Kauai as its farthest point.

anon167215
Post 9

It all depends how you define it.

Bouvet island is the farthest from any other land or island, about 1270km from Antarctica.

Tristan da Cunha is too small and rocky for an airport, so can only be reached by boat. But, it is only 2800km from South Africa.

Rapa Nui is 2075km from its nearest inhabited neighbor, Pitcairn Island, and 3510km from South America.

The main eight (inhabited) islands of Hawaii are 3515km from the nearest island or land (California). Even if you include Kure Atoll (no inhabitants) as part of the Hawaiian islands, that part is still 4000km from Japan. So Hawaii and Rapa Nui are both pretty far from a continent, but Rapa Nui is not that far from another island (Pitcairn). But Hawaii has an airport and is quite populated, so can you call it isolated?

anon121532
Post 7

It's Easter Island. If you use "distance from another group of humans" as your metric, than your isolation ends if a cruise ship goes by within 1000 miles. An island is defined as being not part of a continent. Isolation = further from a continent. Easter beats Tristan by hundreds of miles. The metric you are using is actually "island that is farthest from both another human-inhabited island and a continent".

anon50449
Post 6

Pitcairn Islands are only 330 mile away from Mangareva in the Gambier Islands, which has an airport.

anon50446
Post 5

The closest inhabited island to Tristan da Cunha is Saint Helena, 2173 km (1350 miles) to the north.

Easter Island is 2,075 km (1289 mi) east of Pitcairn. You check *your* facts!

Hawaii is about 1,860 miles (3,000 km) from the nearest continent, but you could hardly call it "isolated" since more people go to Hawaii in a year than have ever been to Tristan. There is more to isolation than just distance from the next nearest land mass. Traveling traffic also plays a part.

anon42002
Post 4

What about Pitcairn Islands?

anon40952
Post 3

Easter Island is the most isolated inhabited island...check your facts

anon26634
Post 2

I was under the impression that the islands of Hawaii were the most isolated in the world as they are 2400 miles from California, 3800 miles from Japan and 2400mi from the Marquesas islands.

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