Tristan d'Acunha is one of five islands in the Tristan
d'Acunha Archipelago of the South Atlantic Ocean. It was discovered in 1506
(not 1530 as Matkin mistakenly relates) by a Portuguese explorer of the
same name. The main settlement is named Edinburgh, and some of the place
names are unusually explanatory, including 'Pigbite,' 'Down-where-the-minister-land-his-things'
and 'Ridge-where-the-goat-jump-off.' Challenger calls at Tristan d'Acunha
and describes the settlers they encounter there.
yesterday morning (sic) the Peak of Tristan d'Acunha, hove in sight
being a mass of snow & ice, rising 8,300 feet above the level
of the sea....The island was discovered in, I believe, the year
1530, by a Portuguese Navigator named Tristan da Canta; but owing
to its isolated position in the midst of an unsheltered and stormy
ocean, no one ever thought of settling on it until the year 1812—a
few English, Scotch, & American families settled there, &
have themselves and their children remained ever since.
The inhabitants are very primitive & sociable
in their habits, living almost like one family. The profits derived
from bartering &c with ships are placed in a common fund, &
equally divided among the children when they are sent out int he
world to shift for themselves. The island will not support many,
and as the population gets too numerous, some of the children are
sent away to the Cape in passing vessels. Only 3 men of war have
been here during the last 8 years, the last one in 1867, was the
"Galatea" under the Duke of Edinburgh, she took some of
the children to the Cape & her Captain baptized all the children,
& married what eligible couples there were, for no clergyman
Captain Nares is happy to conduct all the usual services
and ceremonies afforded these isolated settlers, but balks at an unusual
request by the settlement's leadership.
as we anchored the whole male population came off in their boats,
bringing with them potatoes, albatrosses eggs, &c. They were
dressed in various costumes, & all wore sealskin shoes, and
wove worsted stockings; they were a fine healthy looking lot of
men, some of them born on the island, & never having once left
it. The women had a gipsy looking appearance, several of them were
Creoles from the Cape, & S. Helena, but the native born children
were very handsome. There are no marriageable couples—or our
Captain would have conducted the ceremony, for as many as wished.
The chief man went by the name of Mr. Green, he is over 60, and
has his mother living with him—aged 91—to whom he wanted
our Captain to give a passage to the Cape, at the old lady's request,
but he declined fearing that she might die on the way.
Preparing to depart Tristan dAcunha, they first hear rumors
of voyagers stranded somewhere in this remote archipelago:
The present season is early spring here, but the
snow is plentiful on the hill tops; the time is almost the same
as in England, but we gain 16 minutes per day when under sail, as
our course is due East. The men here report that on one of the other
islands, 22 miles from here, there are two German seamen, who have
lived there two years. We are are just leaving Tristan, to sound
&c, round the other 2 islands, & may hear or see someting
of the "German Crusoes".