The British territory of Ascension Island in the central Atlantic Ocean is one of the strangest places in the world. Nothing makes sense there. Originally discovered by the Portuguese, the island was deemed unsuitable for permanent human settlement due to its lack of food and fresh water. Nearly every action taken by humans to make the island habitable – some even sanctioned by famous naturalist Charles Darwin – has destroyed the ecosystem beyond repair. First, the Portuguese introduced goats, which wiped out nearly all local species. Then, the British introduced trees, which encroached on local ferns and nearly wiped them out. Passing sailors even used to take the island’s massive turtles aboard and use them for making soups on the long transoceanic journeys. After realizing the true extent of environmental destruction wreaked on this bizarre island, efforts are now underway to reverse the negative effects.
Ecosystem aside, Ascension Island still doesn’t make sense. It could easily claim a host of titles, such as having the only golf course (often referred to as “the worst golf course in the world”) on a volcano; or, being a British territory with an airstrip built by and still regulated by the Americans (who grant limited access and whom have denied access to the Brits in the past). Though it won’t make any more sense after reading, check out these facts about Ascension Island in our list of 25 reasons this island is a beautiful geographical logic fail.
Small island, big climate
Few, if any, places in the world have the bizarre capability to be both hot and cold – at the same time. Enter Ascension: a tiny hunk of volcanic rock atop a mid-Atlantic undersea volcano which rose from the ocean about a million years ago – child’s play, geologically speaking. Average temperatures at sea level average 72-88°F (22 to 31°C) and the average mercury at the highest point ranges from 9-11°F (-11 to -13°C).
The food source wipes out its food source
Aiming to make the island useful to passing mariners, the Portuguese (the first to discover the island) released goats around the island. When they came back, they found the goats had eaten many of the local species to extinction.
Ascension is technically a territory of the United Kingdom. When the Brits landed on the island in 1815, it was uninhabited. The island may not have been settled due to its geographical remoteness and its volcanic activity, expected as recently as the 1500’s.
The Brits defend the rescue of Napoleon
Napoleon Bonaparte was famously exiled to the nearby island of St. Helena, 700 miles (1,127 kms) to the southeast. To prevent the French from rescuing him, the British built a fort on Ascension in 1815.
The longest runway in the world
Ascension’s runway was formerly the longest in the world, made to fit a potential emergency landing of the now-decommissioned space shuttles. The runway is still operated by the U.S. Air Force and access is only granted in limited circumstances to Great Britain.