Five of the World’s Most Interesting Remote Islands

Five of the world’s most interesting remote islands

The small ships that are integral to expedition cruising allow us access to parts of the world that few people tread. Narrow straits, secluded bays and small ports to name but a few. This also includes some of the world’s most remote islands, located so far away from other landmasses that their existence is often forgotten.

Some of these islands are home to tiny communities that, against the odds, have carved out a living in the unlikeliest of places. Others preserve relics of a long-forgotten past. Biodiversity and island ecosystems go hand in hand. With hundreds and often thousands of species evolving out of sight of the rest of the world, some of the planet’s rarest wildlife awaits only the most intrepid of travellers. You can visit these islands on our Caribbean and North Brazil Discovery cruise and on the South America East Coast Discovery cruise.

Pitcairn Islands

Officially the least populated territory in the world, and the last British Overseas Territory in the Pacific, the Pitcairn Islands are located almost 5,000km from the nearest continent. The group consists of four remote islands, the namesake Pitcairn itself plus the uninhabited Oeno, Henderson and Ducie.

Only 50 people now call the rocky cliffs of Pitcairn Island home. All residents are directly descended from the famous HMS Bounty mutineers. In 1790 several of the ship’s British sailors and their Tahitian shipmates seized control of the vessel from their captain and set the rest of the crew adrift. The island’s inaccessibility and steep-sided shores made for a perfect hideaway.

The islanders now enjoy welcoming the adventurous explorers who venture this far, including the guests on our French Polynesia & South Pacific Discover cruise. Peruse local crafts, view the HMS Bounty’s surviving anchor and cannon and make sure you don’t leave without a pot of Pitcairn Island honey.

Easter Island

Located over 3,700km from Chile, Easter Island (Rapa Nui to the native Polynesian inhabitants) is not only famously far away from just about everywhere, the island is also home to the renowned moai statues. For centuries, the mystical pull of this enigmatic land has captivated tourists and academics alike. The 600 plus mysterious moai, with their giant faces and squatting bodies, are dotted around the island. They are thought to have been erected between 1500-1700AD; the intended purpose of the monoliths is still the subject of much debate by academics and islanders.

Although this wind-swept barren island doesn’t look like your typical Polynesian paradise, the natural environment here has plenty to offer. Take a tour of the moai quarry, which sits at the highest point on the island. Hike the island’s volcanoes, spend some time with the locals in Hanga Roa, the main town, or explore the island by bike or horseback.

Robinson Crusoe Island

The largest of the Juan Fernandez islands, Robinson Crusoe Island (formerly Más a Tierra) is located over 600km from the Chilean coast. The ordeal of a former marooned resident is said to be the inspiration behind Daniel Defoe’s famous Robinson Crusoe novel. In 1966 the Chilean Government renamed the island in honour of this literary association.

In 1704 a British buccaneer ship called in at the island badly leaking and with a sickly crew. One of the sailors, a young Scottish man called Alexander Selkirk, had a disagreement with the captain as he didn’t think that the ship was safe enough to keep sailing. This disagreement either resulted in Selkirk being forced off the ship or refusing to join the crew. Either way, he was left marooned on the island for the next four and a half years. Surviving on fish, berries, and wild goats he was eventually discovered in 1709 when another British ship passed.

Unlike the sun-drenched Caribbean paradise with sandy beaches and palm trees depicted in Defoe’s book, the real Robinson Crusoe Island is a rocky outcrop that is frequently shrouded in mist. Over 900 residents live on the island today, most of whom reside in the main settlement of San Juan Daurisa. The island is also home to some of the most highly endemic species in the world including the Juan Fernandez fur seal, which recently recovered from near extinction.

Visit both Easter Island and Robinson Crusoe Island on our Moais Mythology & Castaways: Easter Island to Valparaiso.

Alexandra Land

Located 1,000km from the North Pole, Alexandra Land is the gateway to the Russian High Arctic. This remote wilderness is the westernmost island within the Franz Josef Land archipelago. The region is so remote that it can only be accessed by icebreaker. Despite its hostile climate and inaccessibility, Alexandra Land has an interesting military and political history.

The remote airstrip at Nagurskoye airbase recently gained notoriety when Russian scientists discovered a secret Nazi military base said to have stored some of Hitler’s looted gold. The site was constructed in 1942, a year after Adolf Hitler invaded Russia. It was codenamed ‘Schatzgraber’ or ‘Treasure Hunter’ by the Germans and was primarily used as a tactical weather station. The scientists stationed at the base had to be evacuated in 1944 after being poisoned by polar bear meat. The discovery unearthed over 500 well-preserved objects including a set of wartime documents.

Polar bears, walruses and bowhead whales can all be spotted on a visit to Alexandra Land on Swan Hellenic’s Arctic Discovery cruise.

St Kilda

Storm-lashed by the brutal Atlantic Ocean, the isle of St Kilda’s high cliffs and towering sea stacks are exposed to some of the biggest waves and strongest winds in Europe. Located 240km northwest of mainland Scotland, the geography of the island offers the perfect home for the one million-strong seabird population, including the UK’s largest colony of puffins. However, this unforgiving land does seem like an unlikely choice for human habitation.

Despite the harsh conditions, a community thrived here for at least 4,000 years, relying on the dense colonies of gannets, fulmars and puffins for food, feathers, and oil. The unique and hardy Kildians thrived in their self-sufficiency until they were forced to evacuate the island in 1930. Dwindling winter food stores further damaged by a particularly bad winter threatened the community with starvation and other health issues. The village left behind by the island’s last residents is still largely intact and can be explored by visitors.

Join us on a tour of the abandoned village and visit the gannet colonies and puffin rookeries on our Islands of Scotland’ cruise.

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