Tristan da Cunha

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Tristan da Cunha

Tristan da Cunha (trĭsˈtăn də ko͞oˈnə), group of volcanic islands in the S Atlantic, about midway between S Africa and S America, part of the British Saint Helena overseas territory. The only habitable island of the group is Tristan da Cunha (1999 pop. 286), formed by a volcano rising to c.6,760 ft (2,060 m). The other islands are Gough, Nightingale, and Inaccessible, the last being the home of the flightless rail, an almost extinct bird. The first inhabitants came from St. Helena in the 19th cent. Fishing is the chief industry.


The island group was discovered by the Portuguese in 1506 and was visited by whalers, seal hunters, and explorers. In 1816 it was annexed by Great Britain, and in 1938 it became a dependency of the colony of St. Helena. An important meteorological and radio base was set up in 1942. The volcano, long dormant, erupted in 1961; the population was evacuated and transported to England. In 1962, however, the islanders decided to leave England and return to Tristan da Cunha, which they did the following year.


See A. Falk-Rønne, Back to Tristan (1967).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tristan da Cunha


a British dependency consisting of four volcanic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean at 37°06’ S lat., 12°01’ W long. The islands were named for Tristäo da Cunha, the Portuguese navigator who discovered them.

Tristan da Cunha Island, the largest of the four islands, has an area of 117 sq km and a population of 271 (1969). The island is the cone of a volcano (elevation 2,060 m). Until 1961 the volcano seemed extinct; but in October of that year it erupted, and the entire population was evacuated. The inhabitants returned in 1963.

The economic activity of Tristan da Cunha includes fishing, the cultivation of vegetables, and seal and penguin hunting.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tristan da Cunha

a group of four small volcanic islands in the S Atlantic, about halfway between South Africa and South America: comprises the main island of Tristan and the uninhabited islands of Gough, Inaccessible, and Nightingale; discovered in 1506 by the Portuguese admiral Tristão da Cunha; annexed to Britain in 1816; whole population of Tristan evacuated for two years after the volcanic eruption of 1961. Pop.: 284 (2003 est.). Area: about 100 sq. km (40 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005