If we’re honest, most of us would have to admit dreaming of a remote tropical island at one point or other in our lives. But could we city dwellers really deal with island fever – seeing the same faces every day (if at all), watching the same TV channel day in day out and using the phone maybe once a week? There is fresh air, stunning scenery and wildlife on the plus side though. See for yourself what life on a remote island would be like…
Image: Ben Tullis
1. Ascencion Island
Ascenion Islands’s Comfortless Cove – blue skies, white beaches and clear blue water.
Ascencion Island is a 91-square-kilometre volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean that belongs to the territory of Saint Helena. It is 2,250 km (1,400 miles) away from the South American east coast and 1,600 km (990 miles) from Africa’s western shores. The island has no indigenous human population and was first recorded by the Portuguese navigator Alfoso of Albuquerque on Ascencion Day in 1503 – the Catholic holiday he named the island after.
Though ships frequently stopped by to hunt the seabirds and enormous green turtles the island had in abundance, it wasn’t until Napoleon was exiled in neighbouring Saint Helena in 1815 – if one can call an island that’s 2,300 km away neighbouring – that Ascencion Island got populated. It was garrisoned by the British as a precaution.
Ascencion Island as seen from space.
Communications later on became the island’s main trade: First it was a hub for telephone and radio communication, now it has satellite tracking stations and one of the ground antennas that assist the Global Positioning System (GPS).
The island also hosts Wideawake Airfield, a joint military facility of the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force. It was used as a stopping point for those crossing the Atlantic during WWII and was also extensively by the British military during the Falklands War.
There are five settlements on Ascencion Island, with Georgetown the capital, and a population of 940 people, mainly military and civilian contractors. An employment contract is required for staying on the island as there is no permanent residency. Limited civilian air travel, made available in recent years, has brought some tourism to the island. Sport fishing and bird watching are popular activities, and the island also boasts owning the world’s worst golf course. There’s also one bank branch on the island and about 40 kilometres of roads.