Tristan da Cunha is the most remote inhabited island on the planet lying 1,750 miles from Cape Town and 1,500 miles from St. Helena. The beacon which will be lit at 10pm is very special indeed - it is also sited on a lava bank formed when the island's volcano erupted in 1961 and very unusually the beacon is constructed out of local invasive plants.
Chief Islander Ian Lavarello, descended from a shipwrecked sailor, was involved in some of the early planning of the island's celebrations when in London last autumn for talks with other Overseas Territories leaders, UK Ministers and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials. He said: “We are thrilled and we're honoured that we can celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of our Queen here on our home, the most remote inhabited island on Earth.”
Tristan's Chief Executive Officer, Kobus Potgieter has been asked by the Pageantmaster for the The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Beacons (Mr Bruno Peak OBE MVO OPR) to have the Tristan beacon lit at 22.00 island time (and UK time).
He says: “During the day, we will hold a Service of Thanksgiving; there will be a flag parade with a 21-gun salute, a presentation of medals, a dance in the Prince Philip Hall and then the lighting of the Beacon”.
Tristan, its mountain (at 6,765 feet above sea level, it is correctly known as Queen Mary's Peak) and the outlying Inaccessible and Nightingale Islands, are landmarks for ships plying between South America and Southern Africa. To ensure their masters and crews are aware of the Beacon, the marine radio stations in South Africa and Uruguay have been asked to inform ships in Tristan waters about the Jubilee Beacon.
Why a beacon made of invasive species and not one of the Jubilee Gas Beacons for which so many British overseas territories have opted? More than 40% of the Tristan archipelago is conserved for rare birds, plants and other wildlife and two of its islands, Gough and Inaccessible are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Work to clear New Zealand flax, loganberry and other invasive plants is creating space for endemic species to return and the dead vegetation has to be destroyed, so the Island Council agreed this was a practical course of action.
Ian Lavarello said: “Living in such a remote place we never waste anything, so this seemed a very good way to let us be part of the world-wide lighting of the beacons and protect the very special environment of Tristan da Cunha”.