The Atlas of Remote Islands revisited, post 3 of 4

Part three of a deep dive into Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands, ‘Fifty Islands I have not visited and never will’ (part 1, part 2). To begin. Macquarie Island is where steam digesters once gobbled up royal penguins, 3,500 at a time, with each bird rendered down into just a pint of oil. King of the renders was one Joseph Hatch, a New Zealander. People like penguins – there have been penguins at London Zoo since 1865, although the iconic Ove Arup and Tecton-designed pool opened in 1934 – and eventually the combination of expeditions to the region and a growing interest in ecology increased public opposition to the idea of rendering these cute, waddling birds down into oil. Douglas Mawson, who led the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911, was one of those calling for an end to penguin crushing. In 1933, Macquarie Island became a wildlife sanctuary. The penguin-rendering site, at the Nuggets, survives today // Napuka is one of the so-called ‘Disappointment Islands’, a name that reflects the less than thrilled reaction of its indigenous peoples to being ‘discovered’ in the 18th century. The namer, John Byron, the poet’s grandfather, was apt to be a bit pessimistic. ‘He was known as ‘Foul-weather Jack’ because of his frequent encounters with bad weather at sea.’


Norfolk Island is the original home of the eponymous pine tree, now available to buy in garden centres around the world. Here’s the island’s phone book and nearly 1500 photographs from Tripadvisor // Pagan Island is one of those sad stories of colonisation and evacuation, this time due to volcanic activity back in the 80s. The islanders haven’t returned, and the US sneakily suggested turning the island into a live-fire training range. Our Islands are Sacred was the retort. The debate is ongoing, with the Pentagon deploying a thicket of acronyms in an attempt to wear everyone down: the DOD started a NEPA process to produce an EIS/OEIS on the CJMT in the CNMI (Department of Defense; National Environmental Policy Act; Environmental Impact Statement; Overseas Environmental Impact Statement; CNMI Joint Military Training; Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). Got that? // Peter I Island is a Norwegian dependency, way down in Antarctica. Humans have only set foot on the island within the past century: setting foot on Peter 1.


Pingelap is the only place on Earth where you’ll hear Pingelapese spoken. The island was referenced by Oliver Sacks: The Island of the Colorblind. Around 10% of the population are colourblind // the Pitcairn Islands, ‘the least populous national jurisdiction in the world’. There are dark undercurrents to this remote, historic place: Pitcairn in ‘last chance saloon’ // Île de la Possession in the Crozet Islands, home to the Alfred Faure Research Station and lots and lots of birds // Pukapuka was once known as Danger Island, another of Captain John Byron’s imaginative additions to the atlas. The island also has a unique language and its fair share of shipwreck and cyclone tales. Read the Cook Island News and marvel at how it is still described as the island of beautiful girls // Raoul Island, what it is like to live and work there. The ‘job’ is conservation – weeding alien plants – and involves a competitive interview // Rapa Iti, in French Polynesia, ravaged by slavers and smallpox and liquor since the arrival of ‘explorers’. In modern times, the National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project made a visit to the island // Robinson Crusoe Island was where the brutish Alexander Selkirk unwittingly made his home for four years and four months. It was re-named by the Chilean government in 1966 to cash in on Selkirk’s fictionalised alter ego // Rudolf Island is bleak and windswept, covered by a glacier. Here are two flickr sets of the place: one and two. Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi, lost two fingers to frostbite here in 1899. Two years earlier, he had gone in search of the Silent City of Alaska, which turned out to be a postcard of Bristol.

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