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Monday, May 17, 2010

Gough Island

Gough Island is a volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a dependency of Tristan da Cunha and part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. It is uninhabited except for the personnel of a weather station which the South African National Antarctic Programme has maintained continually on the island since 1956. It is one of the most remote places with a constant human presence. Gough Island is an UNESCO world heritage site is explained in world tour guides below.

Gough IslandGough Island rises to heights of over 900 m or 2950 ft above sea level. Its area is 35 square miles 91 km2 according to the South African Antarctic Programme. The Topographic features include the highest Peak, Edinburgh Peak, Hags Tooth, Mount Rowett, Sea Elephant Bay, Quest Bay, and Hawkins Bay.

It includes small satellite islands and rocks such as Southwest Island, Saddle Island on South, Tristiana Rock, Isolda Rock West, Round Island, Cone Island, Lot's Wife, Church Rock or North, Penguin Island on Northeast, and The Admirals on East. It is a remote and lonely place, about 400 kilometres or 250 mi southeast of the other islands in the Tristan da Cunha group, 2,700 kilometres or 1,700 mi from Cape Town, and over 3,200 kilometres or 2,000 mi from the nearest point of South America.

Gough Island was discovered in 1505 or 1506 by the Portuguese seaman Goncalo Alvares, and named after him, as witnessed by every world map printed during the first three centuries of its history. In some more recent maps, however, after the island had been rechristened to its current name, a faulty variation of his name, viz. Diego Alvarez, has been mistakenly used as an alternate denomination. According to some historians the English merchant Anthony de la Roche was the first to land on the island, in April 1675. The Island got its present name in association with Charles Gough, who fancied having rediscovered it in 1731.

It was named Goncalo Alvarez, after the captain of Vasco da Gamas flagship on his epic voyage to the east, and under this name it was marked with reasonable accuracy on the charts of the South Atlantic during the following 250 years. Then, in 1731, Captain Gough of the British ship Richmond reported the discovery of a new island, which he placed 400 miles to the east of Goncalo Alvarez. Fifty years later cartographers realized that the two islands were the same and despite the priority of the Portuguese discovery, and the greater accuracy of the position given by them, "Gough's Island" was the name adopted.

Gough and Inaccessible Island are a protected wildlife reserve, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It has been described as one of the least disrupted ecosystems of its kind and one of the best shelters for nesting seabirds in the Atlantic. In particular, it is host to almost the entire world population of the Tristan Albatross and the Atlantic Petrel. However, this status is now in doubt as in April 2007 researchers published evidence that predation by introduced house mice on seabird chicks is occurring at levels that might drive the Tristan Albatross and the Atlantic Petrel to extinction. The island is also home to the almost flightless Gough Island Moorhen and the critically endangered Gough Bunting.

Gough IslandGough IslandThe Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has since been awarded £62,000 by the UK government's Overseas Territories Environment Programme to fund additional research on the Gough Island mice and a feasibility study of how best to deal with them. The grant will also pay for the assessment of a rat problem on Tristan da Cunha island.

The weather station on Gough Island is operated as part of the network of the South African Weather Service. Because cold fronts approach South Africa from the south-west, the Gough station is particularly important in forecasting winter weather.The Gough Island teams consist of a senior meteorologist, two junior meteorologists, a radio technician, a medic, a diesel mechanic and biologists.

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