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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 15:17 GMT
The quiet life: Tristan da Cunha

Welcome sign
The island boasts a population of 271 people

A call for extra medical aid to combat a flu-type outbreak on the volcanic island of Tristan da Cunha in the south Atlantic has thrust the remote territory back into the news headlines.

Tristan da Cunha, named after the Portuguese explorer who discovered it, lies 1,743 miles (2,805km) from the nearest mainland of Cape Town in South Africa.

It has a population of 271 and is known as the world's remotest settlement.

Getting there is not easy as there is no landing strip and visitors can spend days at sea - provided there is space on the ship from South Africa.

"It's no cruise," explained Chris Bates who spent three weeks on the island last year.

Incoming mail was very emotional as I sat and read family news. I remember being allowed a 100-word-a-month telegram allowance
Richard Grundy
School teacher

"We flew to Cape Town and then waited to see if there was space on the ship."

He spent six days aboard the SA Agulhas, a ship carrying contractors, returning islanders and meteorologists.

Even if there is space on board, you cannot turn up unannounced.

Visitors are warned they need to plan at least a year in advance and then they may only "pencil in" the trip because they also need permission from the island's administrator.

Secondary school teacher Richard Grundy arrived on Tristan after responding to a job advertisement.

"I was looking for a job abroad, interviewed for ones in Peru and Singapore but got this one," he told us.

He found himself living on an extremely isolated island with very limited contact with the outside world.

Warmth and kindness

"Then we had no TV and there was weak BBC World Service reception."

Since then the island has become more high tech. There are two television channels, telephone lines and internet access.

A map showing Tristan da Cunha

Post arrives ten times a year from Cape Town aboard the SA Agulhas or the MV Edinburgh or MV Kelso.

"Incoming mail was very emotional as I sat and read family news. I remember being allowed a 100-word a month telegram allowance," said Mr Grundy.

But islanders make up for the isolation with their hospitality. Both Chris Bates and Richard Grundy spoke of the warmth and kindness of the residents.

Mr Grundy said, "When my housekeeper had an explosion in her kitchen, there was a queue of islanders with cash, materials and offers of labour. Who needs house insurance with friends like that?"


The whole population could fit into four double-decker buses yet it does not seem as if there is anything they cannot turn their hand to.

Aerial picture of Tristan da Cunha
The island has no airstrip

Chris Bates believes the concept of "multi-skilling" was invented on Tristan.

He said it was quite feasible to come across the same person working at the post office, the cafe, the pub and the fish factory in the space of a day.

"And if you go to church the next day, you might see the same person playing the organ," he added.

After a period in the spotlight, once again, islanders have returned to normality.

But such has been the price of fame this week, the island's website crashed when it received 21,000 hits.

Atlantic island devastated
05 Jun 01 |  Latest News

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