The largely untouched volcanic islands of Gough and Inaccessible in the southernmost part of the Atlantic Ocean are the habitat of one of the world’s largest sea bird colonies and the last untouched ecosystem in the cool, temperate climate zone.
Gough Island Game Reserve: Facts
|Official title:||Gough Island Game Reserve and Inaccessible Islands|
|Natural monument:||Part of Great Britain since 1938, nature reserve since 1976, land mass of 65 km², also bodies of water within 3 nautical miles; Heights up to 910 m; eroded part of a volcanic massif from the tertiary era|
|Location:||southeast of Tristan da Cunha in the southern Atlantic|
|Meaning:||the world’s most important seabird breeding colony and the last untouched island ecosystem in the cool climate zone|
|Flora and fauna:||12 plant species endemic and 49 only found on Gough Island and the islands of the Tristan group; Plants such as Spartina arundinacea, but also the species Blechnum palmiforme, which belongs to the rib fern family, and the species Phylica arborea, which belongs to the buckthorn family, and the two-case species Tetroncium magellanicium, which belongs to the trident family; 22 of 54 bird species breed here, 20 are sea bird species; Breeding area of 48% of the world population of the penguin species Eudyptes chrysocome moseleyi, important breeding area of the great shearwater and the wandering albatross as well as the southern giant petrel, also the Gough moorhen, which only lives here, and around 1000 pairs of the Gough bunting; among the mammals up to 200,000 southern fur seals and about 100 southern elephant seals|
Mountains in the sea
Anyone approaching the island from the sea for the first time will certainly never forget one impression: rocky cliffs that protrude vertically from the sea and enclose the rugged island. An unforgettable acoustic impression are the calls of countless seabirds, seemingly restlessly flying around, soaring into the sky and looking for solid ground under their feet. From a distance the island appears wrapped in a green cloak, woven from tussock, tree and other ferns. Narrow, jagged ridges, furrowed by mountain gorges, radiate out from Edinburgh Peak, the highest point on the island. The water cascades into the sea over a series of hanging valleys. According to extrareference, island fringes covered by boulders “huddle” under the cliffs.
Located in the so-called Roaring Forties of the South Atlantic, this island is one of the most remote spots on earth that we know: between the Cape of Good Hope and South America, which is almost as far away. Seemingly forgotten in the ocean, this island was discovered and explored late. It was Portuguese seafarers who, in the 16th century, were the first to visit this rocky island next to the neighboring islands of Tristan da Cunha and St. Helena – here the French Emperor Napoleon I involuntarily spent a part of his life. At first it was named after the captain of the flagship of Vasco da Gama’s sea voyage eastwards, but the name was changed to the current one after Captain Gough, who had been with the “Richmond” in the Atlantic in 1731, returned from discovering a new one Island had reported.
Seal hunters from Europe and America often landed on the island during the 18th and 19th centuries, pursued their bloody craft for some time and during this time ate fish, seabirds, eggs, wild plants and cultivated potatoes. Due to the ruthless slaughter of the seals, their number decreased year by year, so that Captain Heywood, who visited the island with his ship “Nereus” in 1811, found in his records that most of the seals had disappeared from the island. The last great slaughter took place in 1892. Today, however, thanks to strict environmental protection measures, one can happily encounter a large population of southern fur seals and a few dozen elephant seals, which give birth to their young on the coast of the island.
However, the island is known as a bird paradise, it is considered to be the world’s most important seabird territory in the South Atlantic. Almost half of all rockhopper penguins found worldwide are at home here. Petrels build their nests on the rock, which turn it into a “beehive”. In addition, Gough Island is the only place where both wandering albatross and southern giant petrel care for their offspring. Only on this South Atlantic rocky island do you come across the Gough bunting and the Gough moorhen.
Even if there have been numerous scientific research trips to this island in order to study flora and fauna more closely, the rock in the South Atlantic remained largely uninhabited, apart from a few South African weather researchers. In order to protect the unique flora and fauna, any free access to the island is prohibited unless you have a permit that you can get on Tristan da Cunha. Certainly one of the last largely unchanged ecosystems in the South Atlantic, Gough Island is invaluable to science, studying both endemism and genetic evolution. To ensure the integrity of this habitat, two-legged, featherless newcomers are carefully examined to prevent the introduction of foreign flora and fauna.