Inaccessible Island

Inaccessible Island

INACCESSIBLE ISLAND is 14 sq.kms in area, rising out of the South Atlantic Ocean, 28 miles south-west of Tristan da Cunha, is an extinct volcano (last active 6 million years ago).  It is part of the Archipelago of Tristan da Cunha which is part of the overseas territory of the UK known as Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.  Along with Gough Island, Inaccessible Island is a protected wildlife reserve and both make up the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE of Gough and Inaccessible Island.
Inaccessible Island was discovered in January 1956 during a voyage by a Dutch ship under the command of Jan Jacobszoon, 146 years after Tristan da Cunha was 1st sighted by Portuguese sailors.  Jacobszoon originally named it “NACHTGLAS” Island.
There are 2 explanations for the name “Inaccessible” Island.  One is that on maps, the newly-found island was referred to as “Inaccessible”, because the Dutch crew who landed were not able to get further inland than the beach., as they were blocked by 1000-ft high cliffs.  The other claims that the French Captain d’Etcheverry renamed the island in 1778 after not being able to land.  In 1803, US sailors, led by Amasa Delano, made landfall on the island.


In 1816, Corporal William Glass and his family settled on the island and they brought domestic animals with them.  Then, the Stoltenhoff brothers, who arrived on Inaccessible Island, from Germany in 1871, lived there for several years intending to make a living, sealing ad selling their wares to passing traders (forgetting how infrequently Inaccessible had visitors).  However, due to scarcity of food, they were “overjoyed” to be rescued in 1873 during HMS Challenger’s visit to examine the flora and fauna there.  The nearby Stoltenhoff Island is named after the brothers.


In 1922, the Norwegian Scientific Expedition spent 3 weeks on the island, during which time they managed to gain access to the plateau and extensively catalogued plants, birds and rocks. Another attempt was made during the Royal Society’s expedition of 1962 to Tristan da Cunha, which took scientists to Inaccessible Island.  Like many other explorers before them the scientists before them were not able to reach the interior of the island.
In a 1982 expedition (16/10/1982 — 10/02/1983) students and faculty of Denstone College made detailed maps of the island, studied its flora, fauna and geology and carried out a marking programme on more 3,000 birds.
inaccessible Island-mapIn 1997, Inaccessible Island’s territorial waters, out to 22km, were declared a nature reserve under the Tristan da Cunha Conservation Ordinance of 1976.  Currently, only guides from Tristan are allowed to take visiting cruise ships to Inaccessible Island, and most trips to the island are now made at the request of expatriates.
No land mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies or snails have recently been found at Inaccessible.  The Island does have 64 native plant species, including 20 types  of flowering plants and 17 species of ferns.  In addition, 48 invertebrate species exist on the island, 10 of which were introduced..  Sub-Antarctic fur seals and southern elephant seals have also been seen at the island. in increasing numbers and cetaceans live in the surrounding waters, most notably southern right whale and resident population of dusky dolphins.  Inaccessible is perhaps best known for the elusive Inaccessible “rail’, the world’s smallest living flightless bird. ———- The Island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International as a breeding site for seabirds and its endemic landbirds.  Birds for which the IBA is significant include northern rock-hopper penguins, Tristan albatrosses, soft-plumaged petrels, great shear-waters, broad-billed prions, white-faced storm-petrels, Antarctic terns, Tristan thrushes and Inaccessible “rails”.


Inaccessible Island has been used by the islanders of Tristan da Cunha for several economic purposes.  The island has “guano” deposits and eggs, but due to the difficulty of travelling about the island, the islanders have generally chosen to go to Nightingale Island instead.  However, 3 company ships fish off the coast of Inaccessible Island.  They are permitted by the Tristan da Cunha Annex Penumbra of 1945 to fish up to 3,000mts from the shore.


In 2004, Inaccessible Island was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Gough Island to create a new site of Gough and Inaccessible Islands.

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