In his final short story in Collected Short Fiction, Gerald Murnane mentions Tristan da Cunha, one of the remotest places on this planet. I got to thinking about it and other distant and sometimes uninhabited areas and googled “remote places in the world” where I found several websites with names like “The 20 most isolated places on Earth”. I began researching and found it fascinating The better websites, like the cleverly named atlasandboots.com, included Tristan.
Atlasandboots reported that Tristan da Cunha is 1,491 miles from the nearest continent, Africa. The closest inhabited place to it is Saint Helena, the island that Napoleon Bonaparte was sent to after his 2nd attempt to conquer France and the world. After his first try he was sent to the island of Elba, which gave him a vacation instead of island fever. In the Mediterranean Sea, Elba is not too far from Napoleon’s birthplace on Corsica. The population of Tristan, according to atlasandboots is 297. Another website called Insider said that 258 humans live there. Atlasandboots also placed Pitcairn Island, the island where the mutineers from the Bounty settled, on its list. Pitcairn’s 56 residents are all descendants of the troubled Bligh supporters. Also on a and b’s list are Barrow, Alaska, and Easter Island. Both show up on a lot of remote compilations.
As I browsed, I began building my own list. Both Pitcairn and Tristan de Cunha are on it along with such distant islands as Kerguelen, Macquerie, South Georgia, and Cocos. Kerguelen, also known as Desolation Island, is in the Indian Ocean and close to Antarctica. It rains, sleets, and snows 300 days a year on the researchers working there. One website reported that there are 130 residents, but that was in 2012. Cocos has 600 residents and is 1,700 miles from Perth, Australia. Half way between Australia and Antarctica, Macquarie has no permanent residents other than penguins. South Georgia Island, which Kate Siber calls “The Last Godforsaken Place”, does have a settlement called Grytviken. This islands population is 32 in the summer and half that in winter for understandable reasons.
I have always thought that Murmansk, Russia, is the remotest big city in the world. The remotest place I aspire to seeing is the Faroe Islands. Probably the most isolated places I have been to are Coober Pedy in South Australia, Unalaska in The Aleutian Islands, and Argentina’s Valdés Peninsula. One time Ruth and I took a boat from Punta Arenas, Chile, to see a penguin colony. It took us 12 hours to get there and return and was strangely worth it.