Tristan da Cunha Today

Tristan da Cunha is now a British Overseas Territory. This status is used for former colonies which have not voted for independence and wish to retain their links with the UK. For Tristan da Cunha, the links with the UK date back to 1816 when British soldiers - including one Corporal William Glass - set up a garrison on the island. Great Britain, through the Territory's Governor (appointed by and representing The Queen), retains total responsibility for external relations, internal security, defense and the Tristan public service.

Tristan da Cunha in the 21st Century

The arrival of the 21st Century has, unfortunately, not stopped nature regularly testing the resilience of the community on Tristan da Cunha.

On May 23rd 2001 the island found itself in the path of an extraordinary storm with winds up 120 mph. Numerous homes and buildings were badly damaged and livestock losses were widespread. Emergency aid from the British government was made available to help rebuild, repair and restock. British Army Royal Engineers arrived to carry out emergency works on Calshot Harbour.

Calshot Harbour Tristan da Cunha
Calshot Harbour - Tristan da Cunha

In 2005 Tristan da Cunha was allocated the UK postcode TDCU 1ZZ to overcome problems the islanders were experiencing when trying to buy items online.

The next natural challenge for islanders came in December 2007 when a severe flu virus took hold. The lack of a suitable vaccine combined with island's limited medical supplies made a grim situation all the more dangerous for the isolated community. The British coastguard managed to organise urgent medical supplies to combat the virus but, once again, the hardy islanders had largely overcome the virus by the time the RFA ship Gold Rover arrived with the required medical supplies.

On February 13th 2008 a fire destroyed the fish factory along with the island's main electricity generators although backup generators were able to keep the hospital working. It took a month to get new generators installed and full power restored. The fire was was a severe blow to the island's economy as crawfish fishing is a key income earner.

On September 1st 2009 the St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Constitution Order came into force. This new Constitution made important changes. A Bill of Rights was established, the Governor's powers were reduced, confirmed the future independence of the judiciary and public services. The Governor of St Helena is now also the Governor for Ascension and Tristan da Cunha although the status of being a dependency of St Helena was ended for both Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

On March 16th 2011 an environmental disaster loomed when the Maltese freighter MS Oliva ran aground on Nightingale Island causing a high volume of fuel oil to spill. The entire crew were rescued but the ship broke up leaving a massive oil slick that threatened its rockhopper penguin colony. Many penguins were taken to Tristan da Cunha for cleaning and MS Oliva crew helped until they could be taken off the island.

Tristan da Cunha first stamp 1952
Tristan da Cunha first issued its own stamps in 1952

Tristan da Cunha's economy is more diverse now than it has ever been but the island's revenue has declined lately. If this website can do one thing, it is encourage people to show an interest in the community and its amazing history and consider, perhaps, starting a collection of Tristan da Cunha's stamps or coins. You will form a tangible asset for you and your family to enjoy while, at the same time, support the islanders at minimal cost.

Most islanders today are employed by farming and fishing to provide themselves with food. The island now has a very small sheltered harbour and much needed income to fund imports and services comes from the commercial exploitation of Tristan's crawfish and the sale of their popular postage stamps and coins to enthusiastic collectors worldwide. There is a very small income from tourism which includes accommodation, island guides and the sale of handicraft and souvenirs to visitors or by mail order.

It is the income from foreign revenue earners like tourism, stamps, coins and crawfish that enables Tristan to access services like health and education.