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The remotest place on earth and how it survives on fish and stamps
An archipelago of 270 residents, Tristan da Cunha, is the remotest spot and island on earth. It is 2,800 kms South-West from the nearest mainland, which is the cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Officially, it is classified as a United Kingdom Overseas territory, and all its residents are British citizens. Despite being thousands of kms away from 'civilization', its residents are happy.

BARELY 78 sq kms in area, Tristan da Cunha receives written mail once a year, and Tristian is the only inhabited island in the archipelago, and has a volcanic peak that rises to 6,594 feet. The residents of Tristan da Cunha share a sum total of eight surnames. The island has a hospital, school, museum, craft shop, swimming pool, post office, cafe, a village hall and a school.


Tristan, which is in the middle of the vast South Atlantic ocean, is financially self-sufficient and residents earn through fishing and sale of postage stamps, which are bought by stamp collectors from across the world. The waters around Tristan are rich in fish, especially crawfish, which is exported via South Africa to Japan and the US. Once a year, a dentist and an optician are sent from the UK to the island. There is no airport but sometimes cruise ships visit the island, and crawfish trawlers from Cape Town reach Tristan about six times in a year, as per the website thecommonwealth.

How Tristan came to be inhabited is an interesting story. Tristan and its islands were discovered by Tristao da Cunha - a Portuguese explorer who was on an expedition to the Cape of Good Hope in 1506. Since the waters were stormy Tristao could not land.

As per official records, in 1643 the first crew landed on the islands - comprising of a Dutch seaman who wanted to stock up on supplies. In 1650 and later in 1669, the Dutch wanted to make it as a base but backtracked as there was no safe harbour. But in the 17th and 18th centuries, the archipelago of Tristan became a popular martime route to the Cape of Good Hope and the Indian Ocean. Soon enough, the Americans tried to convert Tristan as their base and trading port in 18th and 19th centuries to ward off British attacks.

Given the series of inhabitants through the centries, Tristan came to be populated by colonizers who stayed behind and people who survived shipwrecks. Today's small population's ancestors are Dutch, American, English, Italian and mulattos. Presently, nobody bothers or knows about Tristan and its remote islands - and politically, Tristan is a non-entity.

But why Tristan does not figure among the happiest places on earth is a mystery as it has very strong family loyalties and moral standards. The people are warm and generous and support each other - and residents pay less than one pound per year as taxes. Serious crime has almost never been reported, and nobody knows the definition of unemployment. Perhaps the people are happy to keep living on the island because there is no 'government', no political leaders, no bureacracy, no borders, no rat race, and no western power meddling its nose in the affairs of Tristan.

There was a bit of drama in 1961 when a volcanic eruption led to evacuation of the entire island - and people were taken to what they were told was 'civilisation'. Having seen 'civilization', almost all returned to the island after the eruption ended.

Prior to 1961, the most famous incident recorded in the brief history of Tristan was in the early 1800s. The British took possession of Tristan on August 14, 1816 to stop the French using the islands to mount an operation to rescue Napolean who had been imprisoned on St. Helena island, which is about 2,000 kms from Tristan.


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