Explore “Bouvet Island,” The Loneliest Place on Earth

Bouvet Island, a Norwegian uninhabited island in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Bouvet Island, a Norwegian uninhabited island in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Bouvet Island in South Atlantic Ocean.

Standing at the southernmost tip of Africa, it is easy to think there is nothing in the great blue beyond until Antarctica. However, halfway between these continents lies Bouvet Island, an uninhabited landmass so remote it has earned the unofficial nickname of “The Loneliest Place on Earth.

This small piece of Norwegian land is located in the far South Atlantic Ocean, 1,615 miles (2,600 km) from the nearest humans – the people who live on the Agulhas Peninsula of South Africa. In addition to its isolation, it is known for being difficult to access and important for scientific research.

It is believed that the island was discovered in 1739 by French sailor Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier. However, the position was recorded incorrectly, and the island was not seen again until 1808 when James Lindsay rediscovered it. It was discovered yet again in 1825 and claimed for the British Crown by a whaler named Captain Norris. One hundred two years later, it changed hands again when the Norwegians landed and claimed it after a monthlong stay.

Massive glacial cliffs surround the volcanic island. Only lichens and mosses grow on the mostly barren and frozen landscape; however, the island is home to a variety of wildlife. Fur seals, chinstrap and macaroni penguins, orcas, humpback whales, snow petrels, black-browed albatrosses, Antarctic prions and more call the island home.

Bouvet Island
Bouvet Island in South Atlantic Ocean. Photo Credit: Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon/NASA Earth Observatory

It is possible to access the island by helicopter from a nearby ship or on the Northwestern section that has a weather station, but Bouvet Island is not likely to become a tourist hot spot anytime soon. Instead, most visitors are there for scientific purposes. Scientists studying whale migrations are the island’s primary visitors. There used to be a field station on the island, but an earthquake destroyed it.

If you are a nonscientist who wants to experience the most extreme escape from modern life possible, look for companies that have ships that travel to the Antarctic, sub-Antarctic and Arctic.