Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Forgotten Islands of the Atlantic

Ascension Island

By Aussiegirl

A while ago Tim Birdnow over at Birdblog published a marvelous long post about all the relatively unknown islands in the Atlantic, and produced a relaxing tour of some exotic places, just the thing to, at least for a little while, forget about Iranian madmen and Hispanic illegals. I'ved only included two of the islands to whet your appetite. Nothing like a vicarious vacation in the midst of the silly season in Washington.

Birdblog: Forgotten Islands of the AtlanticForgotten Islands of the Atlantic

This is going to be a different type of post, and it may bore the daylights out of many of you. This won`t be about politics, or current events, nor will it be about science or philosophy. I`m going to talk about lost places; islands in the Atlantic Ocean which have been largely forgotten.

I had a bad week. I was ready to jump on a plane by Wednesday, and ready to jump on a rusty cargo ship by Friday. By the end of the business day on Friday I was in full fantasy-mode. I visualized myself buying a one-way ticket to Port Stanley, or to Eddington-On-The-Seven-Seas, or even to Grtvyken, where I would pass the rest of my days in blissful isolation. Peace! No problems, no headaches, no worries! I could eat penguins and seals, lamb or fish, live in a little cottage and let the world go to Helena (but please stay away from St. Helena!)

Most people dream of tropical volcanic islands in the Pacific, or perhaps even something in the Caribbean; I`ve always feared that these would quickly grow too crowded. I can just see myself settling peacefully on some atoll, only to have the Walmart Corporation descend upon me with a South-Sea distribution center, or Disney opening a South Sea theme park (to show what the ``real`` island life is like-complete with robot islanders and artificial beaches), or have the Environmental Protection Agency kick me off so they can establish a wildlife sanctuary. I want to go someplace where I can be left ALONE! I don`t really like nice weather, either, and would enjoy a cold, stormy wilderness. Fortunately for me, there are many tiny places in the Atlantic which will serve my purposes quite well!

Most people aren`t even aware that there are islands in the Atlantic outside of the European and Caribbean archipelagoes. Most of the islands which would suit our purposes lie in the South, and many have isolated communities which have very little contact with the outside world (or didn`t used to until the internet and other modern tools came along). I`m not interested in the settled places like the Azores, or Canaries, or Cape Verde islands; I`m interested in those places forgotten by time and Man, those Lilliputian rocks in the middle of nowhere. Most of them are relics of the once mighty British Empire, now forgotten. Let`s look at a few:


St. Helena doesn`t really serve my purposes, since it is grossly overpopulated (any place with over a thousand people is elbow to elbow, as far as I`m concerned) and tropical to boot. St. Helena`s claim to fame is that it served as the ``Empire`` of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was exiled to this ignominious spec of land after his defeat at the hands of Wellington at Waterloo. The British, fearing to execute a king-even a pretender king-and realizing that his first exile on Elba was a mistake, since he was too close to the center of power, shipped his sorry carcass way out into the middle of the Atlantic. His dominion was unhappy, as the British Governor hated him and made his life miserable. Napoleon died in 1821 (about 6 years after coming to this place), and it has often been speculated that he was poisoned.

At any rate, St. Helena was your classic tropical plantation type island, with former slaves imported from Africa to work the fields. You may as well stay in the West Indies (unless you are a Napoleon buff.)


This is, essentially, a rock in the Atlantic. Discovered in 1501, it served no Earthly purpose until the British exiled Napoleon. They occupied it to prevent the rescue of the Little General, actually impressing the poor place into the British Navy as HMS Ascension Island! (The British sometimes classed islands as ships.)

Ascension Island is practically uninhabitable, but does have a small, temporary settlement and air strip. It boasts the longest staircase in the world called ``Jacob`s Ladder``. Not my first choice.


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