Want a job on the most remote inhabited island on...
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Feb 20, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Want a job on the most remote inhabited island on Earth?

If you’re an expert in agriculture, the 267 souls eking out a living on windswept Tristan da Cunha could use your help

OurWindsor.Ca

Tristan da Cunha is a tiny overseas territory of the United Kingdom, smack in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. It is searching for an “agricultural adviser,” someone to help it “avoid insolvency” by reducing its costly reliance on imported foods, according to the island’s want ad. More than expertise is required. “You have to have a very resilient nature,” says administrator Alex Mitham, the island’s top official.

The stark facts: To the east, Tristan is about 2,800 kilometres from Cape Town, South Africa; to the west, Rio de Janeiro is 3,340 kilometres away. The nearest inhabited island is Saint Helena, 2,430 kilometres to the north.

The island has no airport. The only regular transportation is an old fishing trawler from Cape Town that makes the trip — it takes seven days, one-way — maybe eight times a year. And rough seas means the harbour is open only 60 or 70 days a year. Even emergency medical evacuation can take months, Mitham says. “In a world where you can fly anywhere within 24 hours, this is significantly a step beyond.”

Best to forget about the Internet: the island’s residents share only half a megabyte of bandwidth. “We can just about send an email, if we’re lucky,” Mitham says. The only TV channels — all three of them — are provided by the British Forces Broadcasting Services. “You do have to appreciate that you are really stepping back maybe 100 years to maybe a quieter and easier time,” Mitham adds over the phone from his Tristan office.

Nature is the big attraction. A volcano dominates the island, rising to more than 2,000 metres. There are yellow-nosed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins. The fishing is great, and the only village on the island has a pub (the residents are, after all, British). There’s also a golf course that doubles as a cattle pasture. “Local hazards include a lack of greens,” the golf club notes on its web page, “exposure to gales and rounded volcanic boulders which, if hit, will project balls randomly, often into the sea!”

The island is also looking for an educational adviser and a mechanic. The job ads describe locals as fun-loving and friendly. Mitham notes they rise before dawn to tend to potato patches and livestock — a total of 300 cattle and 500 sheep on 400 hectares of poor grazing land. Some also work for a lobster company responsible for 80 per cent of the island’s economy. All land is communally owned. “It’s a harsh climate,” Mitham says. “If you don’t work, you don’t survive.”

The island is named after Portuguese admiral Tristao da Cunha, who landed in 1506. The British military established a garrison in 1816 and left a year later. A Scot named William Glass stayed. He was later joined by settlers from England, Holland and the United States. Two Italian families arrived, via shipwreck, in 1892. Today, all of Tristan’s permanent residents are descendents of seven families who arrived during those 76 years.

In 2008, the island’s then administrator warned in a radio broadcast of impending bankruptcy, noting a $3-million debt. Income taxes were introduced for the first time: 10 per cent for those making more than $3,000 a year and 13 per cent — the highest rate — for anyone making more than $6,000. Mitham has produced a 10-year plan to make the island largely self-sufficient in food and energy, most of which are now imported.

Islanders want a U.K.-trained agricultural adviser who can plant and sustain fruit orchards while improving the health of animals. The job comes with free accommodation and travel, a negotiable salary (they wouldn’t tell us a range) and a minimum commitment of two years, although the job ad notes the time frame is largely “dependent on the shipping schedule.” They don’t call it the most remote inhabited island for nothing.

Toronto Star

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