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01 August 2005

Giant Mutant Carnivorous Mice 2: a little flavor of the most remote places on Earth

artist Frank Stella's rendition
of the Inaccessible Island rail,
the world's smallest flightless bird.

Okay ... Gough Island is the place with the giant mutant carnivorous predator mice. It belongs to a group of islands in the South Atlantic that are often called The Most Remote Places on Earth. And here's who first discovered them (and named one of them after himself, although he didn't set foot on it).
* * * * *

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition

Cunha, Tristão da

(trshtouN´ dä k´ny), c. 1460 - 1514?, Portuguese navigator [and Admiral]. His most important voyage was undertaken in 1506, when he set out with 15 ships for India.

He discovered three volcanic islands in the South Atlantic, one of which is named for him.

After taking Socotra off Arabia, in the hope of establishing control over the Red Sea, he went on to India, while Afonso de Albuquerque, under secret royal orders, detached part of the fleet. On his return to Portugal, Tristão da Cunha carried out a diplomatic mission at the papal court. A son, Nuno da Cunha, 1487 - 1539, was governor of India and captured Basra in 1529.

Copyright © 2001-05 Columbia University Press.


more from

The Head Heeb (Jonathan Edelstein) is a lawyer from New York; he acquired the nickname Head Heeb during his service with the New York State Army National Guard. When the Jewish chaplain retired, that made Edelstein the only Jew in his Army unit -- so the chaplain told him he was henceforth The Head Heeb.

But here's some filched stuff about a Tristan da Cunha school's voyage to an even more Remote Place.


May 04, 2004
Field trip

Where do students from the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha go for field trips? To an even more remote island, of course:

[Students] from St. Mary’s School in Edinburgh, Tristan da Cunha [...] have gone to the head of the class as far as landing on remote Islands. Nicole Glass, Kirsty Green, Glenda Swain and Sasha Green have stepped ashore on Inaccessible Island -- a place rarely visited by adults, let alone school children. As a matter of fact, it is a first ever landing on that island by students.

More pictures of the field trip (on which the students were chaperoned by a teacher and a concerned parent) can be found here. The attraction: the Inaccessible Island Rail -- "a flightless bird endemic to that island only."

Posted by jonathan at May 4, 2004 11:28 AM in World Affairs

What an adorable little endangered bird

Posted by: Norbizness at May 4, 2004 12:55 PM

Here's a more abstract interpretation. [see painting at top of this post]

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein at May 4, 2004 01:05 PM

You can't help but be be fascinated by an island with placenames such as "Where The Pig Fell Off".

The Inaccessible Island Rail as smallest flightless bird would have been edged out by the Stephens Island Wren, but for the light house keeper's cat.

Posted by: Tim at May 4, 2004 09:21 PM

You can't help but be be fascinated by an island with placenames such as "Where The Pig Fell Off."

There are also places on Tristan called Ridge where the Goat Jump Off and Where Times fell off Gulch (Times was a dog). Evidently, livestock doing high dives off plateaus are memorable events for Tristanians.

More Tristan geographic trivia: there's an East and West Jew's Point (named after a Jew rescued from a shipwrecked freighter in 1856) but no present-day Jewish community. This makes Tristan one of the few places with no Jews (St. Helena apparently has some); maybe I should emigrate there.

This site
has a glossary of Tristanian dialect and place-names. Reminds me quite a bit of Pitcairn.

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein at May 4, 2004 11:38 PM


Blogger Joana said...

Look what I found:


The August Home Page Photograph

shows an Atlantic Yellow-Nosed Albatross chick on its pedestal nest on the Tristan da Cunha mountain base. This chick is at its most vulnerable from its main natural predator, the Subantarctic Skua, as both parents are now soaring over the South Atlantic Ocean for squid and other marine food for their gowing offspring. But there are no records on Tristan da Cunha of attacks by mice or rats on fit chicks. Nevertheless breeding success rate for the species (based on laid eggs growing to healthy fledglings without the downy feathers shown here) has fallen from 50% in the 1984/5 season to approximately 30% in recent years.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

What a great website! And I want to go!

Did you click on my link of Tristan da Cunha's marvelous gorgeous beautiful postage stamps of all their rara aves???

These are the most gorgeous stamps I've ever seen! I've never collected stamps ... but these stamps are stirring something in my brain's New Hobby Center!

from your Tristan website:



Trips to the most isolated community in the world need to be well planned. Many would-be visitors have sailed to Tristan, but failed to land. This section seeks to provide potential visitors with the facts to make enquiries to enable them to set foot on Tristan da Cunha, and possibly one of the outlying islands, to enjoy this extra-ordinary place. With time and careful planning a stay on Tristan is achievable - but don't tell the travel agents!

Tristan's isolation in statistics:

Tristan to St Helena - 2173 kms-1350 miles (nearest community)
Tristan to Cape Town - 2810 kms-1750 miles (nearest mainland)
Tristan to Rio de Janeiro - 3360 kms-2088 miles
Tristan to Falklands - 4104 kms-2550 miles
Tristan to UK - 9600 kms- 6000 miles


This is a Great Place! How did Portugal ever give it up? Did you guys just get tired of trying to find it?

Blogger Joana said...

I frankly don't know.
Portugal is all ablaze, awful, we could hardly breathe here in Lisbon yesterday due to the fires in the neighboring woods.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Want to trade with the guy I just was talking to on the phone to resubscribe my Anti-Virus software? He's in Tamil Nadu ... far from Mumbai (Bombay), he said, but they got Big Floods in Mumbai.

Well, I wish you some of India's rain ... just enough to put out the fires.

I'm in love with Tristan da Cunha's Rockhopper Penguins!

Blogger Joana said...

yes they are indeed cute. It must be awesome to travel to those islands.
Did you see the pic of the local shopping mall?? And think, no Osama, no Bush...paradise!

Blogger Joana said...

Oh btw, speaking of stamps I just found my dad's stamp collection, it's lovely. Full of stamps from countries which no longer exist and from countries now «reborn» such as Montenegro. It must be a valuable collection as my dad kept them, during the war, in a safe in CH.

Blogger Sports Bettor said...

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