These are the islands in our dreams. The dots on our globe that we know nothing about. Each has its own bizarre story of isolation, adventure and discovery. Inspired by Judith Schalansky’s book Atlas of Remote Islands we have put together the “Top 10 Most Remotely Inhabited Islands of our World”.
Amsterdam Island, France.
Population: 25 (Researchers)
Nearest populated land mass: 2,094 miles (3,370km) from Australia.
The nearest land mass to Amsterdam Island with any population is Perth, Australia. Amsterdam Island is an active volcano that last erupted in 1792. In 1871 an attempt was made to settle the island by Heurtin from Reunion Island. They gave it a try for seven mouths to grow crops and raise cattle before abandoning the idea and leaving the five heads of cattle on the island. By 2008 the population of Amsterdam Island Cattle had grown to over 2,000. The cattle had seriously damaged the ecosystem, and after a series of different strategies to contain the wild cattle they were all slaughtered by 2010.
St. Helena, UK.
Nearest populated land mass: 1,150 miles (1,850km) to Angola
If getting away from the world is your thing, you will find it in Saint Helena. It is a volcanic island over 2,500 miles (4,000km) from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and 1,150 miles (1,850km) from the African coast. When it was discovered in 1502 by the Spanish it had no inhabitants. Today it is administered by Britain along with the Islands Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. For hundreds of years the island has been an important port of call for ships sailing between Europe and Asia. It is most famous for being the location of Napoleon’s imprisonment as he was exiled to St. Helena in 1815. He lived in Longwood for six years before dying of stomach cancer in 1821 at the age of 51. It is believed that St. Helena is home to 400 different invertebrates that exist nowhere else on earth.
Source: St. Helena Tourism.
Nearest populated land mass: Located 600 miles (950km) from north of Norway.
Svalbard (formerly known as Spitsbergen) is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. During the 17th and 18th centuries the islands were used as whaling bases, and in the Second World War the Nazis built a weather station on the islands. Today, the islands are most famous for the Global Seed Vault, a structure that houses almost 1 million seed samples from all over the world. The Seed Vault’s mission is to provide a safety net against accidental loss of diversity on the planet and acts as a backup to the 1,750 other global seed banks.
Diego Garcia, UK
Nearest populated land mass: Located 1,116 miles (1,796km) south of India.
Diego Garcia is a coral atoll near the equator in the Indian Ocean. By the 1960s Diego Garcia was home to over 1,500 Chagossians. The Chagossians were people who lived on Diego Garcia since the 1700s and had come from French African colonies. They brought with them a unique language that is Chagossian Creole a French based language that incorporates various African and Asian languages. In 1968 the British forcibly evicted all of the Chagossians so the islands could serve as a United States military base. A 45-year legal dispute was finally settled in 2016 with the British courts denying the rights of the Chagossians to return. The US military base is named Camp Justice.
Île de la Possession, France
Nearest populated land mass: Located 1,472 miles (2,370km) to Madagascar.
The Crozet Islands are part of a French-owned archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean. In September of 1887 a man walking on a beach in Fremantle, Australia discovered a dead Albatross with a rusty tin can wrapped around its neck. Pinned to the tin-can neckless was a note that read “13 shipwrecked refugees are on the Crozet islands, 4 August, 1887.” In 48 days the bird had flown 3,480 miles (5,600km). The note started a search with a French boat called La Meurthe from Madagascar looking for the survivors. The Meurthe scoured the islands and found a letter on the uninhabited Pig Island. The letter stated that 13 shipwrecked men from the ship Tamaris, having exhausted their provisions, had left the small island on 13 September to head to the larger Possession Island in a man-made boat. No trace was ever found of them on Possession and they are presumed to have drowned en route.
Laurie, Islands. Antarctica
Nearest populated land mass: 795 miles (1,280km) to the Falkland Islands.
This remote island that lies 933 miles (1,502km) from the nearest port at Ushuaia, Argentina, is home to the world’s oldest Antarctic weather station. Named Orcadas Weather station, It has been in continued existence since 1903. The station was created during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration by the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition. The station sits in the shadows of Mt Ramsey (537 feet or 164 metres in height) which was named after Allan George Ramsey the Chief Engineer of the SNAE. On the outward voyage from Scotland, Ramsay began to suffer from a heart condition, but made no mention of it for fear he would be left off the ship at the next port of call. It was his dream to see the ice of Antarctica. Upon landing in Laurie Island his condition worsened, and after several months he died of a heart attack. He was buried on Laurie Island in 1903.
Raoul Island, NZ
Nearest populated land mass: Is 608 miles (980km) from New Zealand.
Once called Sunday Island, it lies 680 miles (1,100km) north of New Zealand. Raoul is a very active volcanic island, and is hit frequently by earthquakes. In 2006, a team of three researchers were at the crater lake taking water temperatures when a volcanic eruption took place. The 40 second long volcanic eruption emitted over 200 tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the air and lake. The researchers were forced to turn back and ultimately evacuated the island. A search took place for one of the researchers, a 33-year old named Mark Kearney who was in an area where 20 feet (6m) of ash fell. His body has never been found.
Source: New Zealand Herald
Trindade Island, Brazil
Nearest populated land mass: Located 730 miles (1,170km) from Brazil.
This remote island was discovered by Vasco De Gama’s cousin Estêvão in 1502 and has been part of Portugal and now Brazil since then (with the exception of a two year period where it was owned by Great Britain). Trindade’s lone occupants for the last 100 years have been at the Brazilian Navy base. The island and Navy base became a national sensation in 1958 when photographer Almiro Baraúna photographed a UFO off of the islands coast. Baraúna was stationed on board the boat named Almirante Saldanha with a crew of 48 naval officers. The entire garrison witnessed a number of strange sightings of a UFO near the island. In the middle of the day on January 16th, 1958 Baraúna took this image of what was believed to be a UFO. It became a sensation in Brazil, with the government requesting an inquest into the story.
Sources: UFO Evidence
Tristan da Cunha, UK.
Nearest populated land mass: Is 1,500 miles (2,400km) from South Africa
Named after the Portuguese explorer who discovered the island in 1506, Tristan da Cunha is an active volcano and is the most remote inhabited archipelago
in the world. It is 1,500 miles (2,400km) from the nearest continental land in South Africa. In 1961 the eruption of Queen Mary’s Peak forced the entire island population of 264 to evacuate. People took to the water in open boats and sailed to Nightingale Island where they were picked up by a ship and taken to Britain (via Cape Town). Two years later most families returned to the capital city of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.
Pitcairn Island, UK
Nearest populated land mass: 1,317 miles (2,120km) to Tahiti.
This remote island is most famous for the home of the Bounty Mutineers. After a successful mutiny on board the HMS Bounty, the ring leader (a man named Fletcher Christian) , eight other male mutineers and eighteen (male/female) Tahitians settled on Pitcarin Island. They burned the ship in Bounty Bay, and set out to create a new civilization on the then inhabited island. It would be 18 years (1808) before they would receive their first visitor, American Boat Captain Folger on the Topaz. It would be six more years (1814) before the British would arrive. By this time there as only one man still alive with thirty other women and children. It was learned that the initial settlement was marked by serious tensions among the group; alcoholism, murder, disease and other ills took the lives of most mutineers and Tahitian men. The last remaining mutineer, John Adams was granted amnesty for his part in the mutiny in 1814. The mutineers legacy is still seen today on the island with many still bearing their surnames; Christian, Adams, Quintal, and Young. The island today has just 49 people and its future is uncertain.
Sources: Government of Pitcairn Island
Click on the markers to see details about the remote islands.
This article and video were inspired by the book Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky. Judith commented that she grew up in East Germany and often stared with wonder at the remote islands on the globe. I did the very same thing and I want to thank Judith for her beautiful book. We highly recommend it.
Know of a place that should make it into this list? Let us know in the comments below.