An extinct volcano that is a great challenge for those who decide to explore it

The Inaccessible Island, a remote place in the middle of the Atlantic that lives up to its name

When naming many places, reference is usually made to some of their characteristics, for lack of better ideas.

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That is the case of an uninhabited island in the middle of the South Atlantic: the Inaccessible Island. With an area of 12.65 square kilometers, its highest point, Cairn Peak, reaches 449 meters. The island is an extinct volcano, which has been inactive for 6 million years. Its most notable characteristic is what its name indicates: there is only one pebble beach in the northwest and almost every island is surrounded by cliffs up to 300 meters high, so you can access its interior it's a big challenge.

The location of the Inaccessible Island (Source: Google Maps).

This island is about 40 kilometers from Tristan da Cunha, an island discovered in 1506 by the Portuguese navigator Tristão da Cunha and which was not inhabited until the 19th century, when the United Kingdom took possession of it. Beyond Tristan da Cunha, which has less than 300 inhabitants, the closest cities are Cape Town (about 2,830 km) and Rio de Janeiro (about 3,315 km). To say that the Inaccessible Island is in the middle of nowhere is not an exaggeration.

Satellite image of the Inaccessible Island (Source: Google Maps).

The Inaccessible Island was discovered in 1656 by the Dutch navigator Jan Jacobszoon, of the Dutch East India Company, who was the first to land on this island. It was not he who gave it its current name, since initially he baptized it as "Nachtglas Eijland" (Island of the Crystal Night, in Dutch), a name that is due to the galley ship "Nachtglas", who captained Jacobszoon on that voyage, which began on November 22, 1655 in Cape Town.

In 1767, the French frigate "l'Etoile du Matin" (The Morning Star) arrived at this island. Its crew was unable to disembark on the island, so the ship's commander, Frigate Lieutenant d'Etcheverry, was the one who baptized it with its current name, according to some sources.

A panoramic photo of the Inaccessible Island (Photo: Brian Gratwicke).

A few decades later, in 1803, an American ship, the "Perseverance", managed to arrive at the island. The ship was captained by Amasa Delano, who in 1817 recounted his travels in the book "A Narrative of Voyages and Travels in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres", devoting a paragraph to the Inaccessible Island (pages 426 and 427):

We circumnavigated a great part of Inaccessible Island, near to land; but found it to be very difficult of access on all sides; we at length however landed at its south west part, and could not pass along the beach more than one or two hundred yards before we came to a square bulk head of rocks projecting into the sea, which stopped us. Twenty or thirty feet above the rocks where we landed, it-was as perpendicular as the side of a house, and many hundred feet bigh. There did not appear to be any thing to be obtained on or ahout this island, except a few seals, and it was next to impossible to get them. We caught a plenty of fine fish here, in twenty five and thirty fathoms water.

One of the most famous events on the Inaccessible Island was carried out by two German brothers, Friedrich and Gustav Stoltenhoff, who arrived there in November 1871, after fighting in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). The Stoltenhoffs intended to be the first inhabitants of the island and establish a business hunting seals and penguins. To the bad relationship they had with the inhabitants of Tristán da Cunha, who visited them every few months to make their lives impossible, another misfortune was added: they lost their boat.

The Stoltenhoff brothers with some of the crew of HMS Challenger (Photo: John Hynes/Royal Museums Greenwich).

On October 16, 1873, the British ship HMS Challenger, captained by George Nares, arrived at the island and rescued the two brothers, who had lived there for two terrible years, due to their inexperience in life. seal hunting and the poor preparation of their trip to that remote place. They managed to survive thanks to the descendants of the pigs and goats introduced to the Inaccessible Island by William Glass and his family, the first inhabitants of Tristan da Cunha.

A northern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi) photographed on Inaccessible Island in 2012 (Photo: Brian Gratwicke).

As a curiosity, the Stoltenhoffs were the ones who introduced dogs to the Inaccessible Island, but they fled and ran into the wild. In memory of that experience, a small hitherto unnamed island in the nearby Nightingale Islands (located about 18 km southeast of Inaccessible Island and currently uninhabited) was named Stoltenhoff Island..

In May 1922, the British ship "Quest" arrived at Inaccessible Island during the expedition to Antarctica organized by Sir Ernest Shackleton. During this visit, the crew of the "Quest" only made some brief landings on the island, discovering a bird, the Wilkins' finch, which is only found on that island and on the Nightingale Islands.

The only beach on the Inaccessible Island (Photo: Brian Gratwicke).

One of the most fruitful visits to the Inaccessible Island in its entire history came in 1938 and was carried out by the Norwegian Scientific Expedition to Tristan da Cunha, aboard the ships "Solglimt" and "Thorshammer". This expedition spent 17 days on the Inaccessible Island, managing to reach its interior and publishing abundant information about its flora, fauna and geography. The expedition, financed by the Nansen Foundation and other Norwegian institutions, produced 50 scientific articles as a result of that visit, a quantity not reached by any other scientific expedition on that island carried out between 1873 and 1990.

This only beach on Isla Inaccessible is made up of pebbles and boulders (Photo: Brian Gratwicke).

What remained of the foreign fauna introduced to the island was completely removed in 1950 and in 1976 the Inaccessible Island was declared a natural reserve, a reserve that was extended in 1997 to the territorial waters of the island up to a distance of 22 km from its coasts. Between 1982 and 1983, Denstone College in England carried out the longest scientific expedition to date on the island, with a three-month stay in which the flora and fauna were studied, studies were carried out geological and maps of the island were drawn up.

The only building on Inaccessible Island is in the northwest, a small research hut used by scientists (Photo: El-Waleed Abdel-Samed/Panoramio).

In 2004, the Inaccessible Island was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Nowadays visits to the island are very restricted and can only be carried out with the accompaniment of two guides from Tristán da Cunha. Today, the island remains under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, forming part of the British Overseas Territories as a dependency of Saint Helena, like Tristan da Cunha. On its entire surface there is only one construction: a small research cabin, next to its beach, used by scientists who risk traveling there, because due to the terrible weather, it is only safe to disembark for a brief period in the southern summer.


Main photo: Brian Gratwicke.

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