Inaccessible island

Inaccessible Island, in the south Atlantic, is surrounded by steep sea cliffs that make landing and entering the interior nearly impossible.

Inaccessible Island
Brian Gratwicke from DC, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Inaccessible Island, one of the Tristan da Cunha volcanic islands, is far away from almost everything else in the South Atlantic. And almost any other people too: one of the other islands has a town that is the most remote permanent settlement in the world. The closest town to Edinburgh of the Seas (aka “The Settlement”) is a whopping 2,173km away. But Inaccessible Island is not truly inaccessible: it’s just really hard to get to.

The edges of the island are all vertiginous sea cliffs like the ones pictured above – picture the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride and you’re not too far off. (Fast fact: the real Cliffs of Insanity are the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, which top out at 214 metres. The sea cliffs of Inaccessible Island are higher.) The centre of the island is a plateau covered in scrubby tussocky terrain. There are a few small stony beaches that you can land at, but only if you’re brave and lucky. Various attempts have been made to establish a permanent settlement on Inaccessible Island, with absolutely no success. Pigs were introduced to the island, but they all died – one of the cliffs is in fact named Where-the-Pig-Fell-Off.

So what is on this island? No lizards, turtles, snakes, frogs, toads, tortoises, snails, butterflies, or land mammals at all; Inaccessible Island is dominated by birds. One particular species deserves special mention: the Inaccessible Island rail. It’s flightless, and (of course) found nowhere else on Earth. This rail is in fact the smallest flightless bird in existence, a tiny wee brown bird with a short beak and an average weight of around 40 grams:

Inaccessible Island Rail
Brian Gratwicke, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I swear that it’s a secret Pokemon.

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