Environment Forum

Building on world’s most remote island “gone with the wind”

October 19, 2007

Bouvet island station — photo by Oystein Mikelborg, Norwegian Polar InstituteThe most welcoming place on the world’s most remote island has vanished.

Most people would know if their house blew away but scientists have only just noticed that a grey container-sized research station on Norway’s barren Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic, previously tied down with thick wires, has disappeared, apparently blown into the ocean by a storm.

The 36 sq metre (390 sq ft) station was there the last time anyone visited, in 2006. But shocked scientists say the building, set up 13 years ago, is no longer visible on satellite photographs.

After the last visit, a 5.5 magnitude earthquake jolted the steep volcanic island, which is about five miles (8 km) across and mostly covered by ice. Scientists sometimes pay visits to study seals and penguins and there is also a weather station on the island.

“It is possible that the earthquake damaged the wires and the foundations of the station, and that extreme winter storms have blown the container building into the sea,” the Norwegian Polar Institute said on Friday.

Bouvet, known as Bouvetoya in Norwegian, is reckoned to be the most isolated island on earth, the Norwegian Polar Institute says. Antarctica is more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km away) and the nearest inhabited land is Tristan da Cunha archipelago, almost 2,300 km away.

So if you were planning a vacation in the South Atlantic, Bouvet is no longer the place to go.

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