Some Really Obscure Islands

The other day I was surfing around Google Maps when I noticed two bits of land that I’d never seen before. The first is a small archipelago off the coast of Somalia. The main island of the group is called Socotra:

Socotra is one of the most isolated bits of land on Earth of continental origin (i.e., not of volcanic origin). The archipelago probably detached from Africa as a fault block during the Middle Pliocene (ca 6 million years ago), in the same set of rifting events that opened the Gulf of Aden to its northwest.

The archipelago consists of the main island of Socotra (3625 km² or 1400mi²), three smaller islands known collectively as “the Brothers” — Abd Al Kuri, Samha, Darsa — and other uninhabitable rock outcrops.

The second island is exceptionally remote, though it seems more famous. The Kerguelen Islands are truly in the middle of nowhere–deep in the south Atlantic near Antarctica:

Kerguelen has been used by a small number of science teams since 1949, with a population of 50-100 always present. There is also a satellite tracking station. The main island is also home to a well-established feral cat population descended from ships’ cats. They survive on sea birds and non-indigenous rabbits introduced to the islands. The islands are also known for the indigenous, edible Kerguelen cabbage.

Flickr, of course, has photos from both Socotra (which looks amazing) and Kerguelen.


  1. Here’s another wacky one — Johnston Atoll, about 700 miles southwest of Hawaii:,+169+30+W&ie=UTF8&z=6&ll=19.725342,-162.993164&spn=10.947615,20.830078&t=h&om=1

    Run by the U.S. Navy as a testing ground and, later, chemical weapons disposal site. The tiny original islands were augmented by dredging to make them big enough for a huge runway, large enough for jets, and rocket launch test platforms. It also had a bowling alley, outdoor movie theatre, and a golf course.

    Now it’s apparently for sale, after all the buildings were knocked down (except the concrete stuff that was too difficult) and returned to a relatively natural state, completed in 2004:

    Nice getaway, if you don’t mind a bit of plutonium contamination. And the occasional hurricane:

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