The Pitcairn Islands. Easter Island. Niue. Tristan da Cunha. These are some of the most secluded inhabited islands in the world. It’s amazing that people can live so far from civilization. Then there are the uninhabited islands. They’re so isolated that they can’t sustain life, at least human life, for very long. These are the truly fascinating ones.
Bouvet Island is the single most remote island in the world. The 19-square-mile island sits in the South Atlantic Ocean between Antarctica and South Africa. Antarctica’s Queen Maud Land is 1,100 miles to the south. The South Sandwich Islands are almost 1,200 miles to the west. While real land, the African continent, is 1,600 miles to the northeast. There’s literally nothing around this island.
A French expedition first spotted Bouvet Island in 1739. It didn’t make landfall. It took another 70 years for the crew of a British whaling ship to set foot on the island. The Brits finally claimed it 17 years later. It was Norway that ultimately took control, though. They claimed the island in 1927, declared it a nature reserve in 1971, constructed a weather station in 1977, and established the Norwegian Polar Institute’s Norvegia Station in 1996. A handful of researchers now live on the island for two to four months each summer.
Those months aren’t easy. Nyrøysa, on the west coast, is the only landing spot on the island. The relatively flat area, where the weather station now stands, was created by a rock slide in the late 1950s. Ninety-three percent of Bouvet Island is covered by a glacier. Fungi and moss are the only things that can grow. Its highest peak, Olavtoppen, is the ice-filled crater of an inactive volcano. Most of the time, the island is obscured by heavy clouds and fog. Temperatures only rise into the low 30s. It’s no wonder fewer than 100 people have set foot here.
Animals are a different story. Bouvet Island is a breeding ground for seabirds and seals. Penguins are the rulers. More than 100,000 macaroni, chinstrap, and Adélie penguins call the island home. Antarctic prions, Cape petrels, and southern fulmars live here, too. So do Antarctic fur and southern elephant seals. While humpback and killer whales patrol the frigid surrounding waters.
It’s doubtful that you, or anyone you know, will ever get to visit this astonishing place. But the adventurous side of you can certainly dream.