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Bouvet Island

Related subjects: Antarctica

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Bouvet Island
Native name: Bouvetøya
Location South-Atlantic Ocean
Coordinates 54°26′S 3°24′E
Area 49  km², (93% glaciated)
Highest elevation 780  m (2,559  ft)
Highest point Olavtoppen
Population 0

Bouvet Island ( Norwegian: Bouvetøya, also historically known as Liverpool Island or Lindsay Island) is an uninhabited sub-antarctic volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean, south-southwest of the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa). It is a dependent area of Norway and is not subject to the Antarctic Treaty.


Bouvet Island is located at 54°26′S 3°24′E. It is 49  km² in area, 93% of which is covered by glaciers which block the south and east coasts.

Bouvet Island is the most remote island in the world. The nearest land is Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, over 1,600 km (1,000 miles) away to the south, which is itself uninhabited.

It has no ports or harbours, only offshore anchorages, and is therefore difficult to approach. The waves have created a very steep coast. The easiest way to access the island is with a helicopter from a ship. The glaciers form a thick ice layer falling in high cliffs into the sea or onto the black beaches of volcanic sand. The 29.6  km (18.4  miles) of coastline are often surrounded by an ice pack. The highest point on the island is called Olavtoppen, whose peak is 780  m (2,559  ft) above sea level. A lava shelf on the island's west coast, which appeared between 1955 and 1958, provides a nesting site for birds.

Because of the harsh climate and ice-bound terrain, vegetation is limited to lichens and mosses. Seals, seabirds and penguins are the only fauna.

Despite being uninhabited, Bouvet Island has the Internet country code top-level domain ( ccTLD) .bv, though it is not used. A handful of amateur radio expeditions have gone to this remote location ( call signs used here begin with 3Y). There is no telephone country code or area code, and no telephone connection (except by satellite, but there is nothing installed). There is no postal code and no postal distribution. Ships approaching the Bouvet Island fall within the UTC Z time zone. There is a Norwegian law saying that the time zone of Norwegian territory is UTC+1, except for a part of year (daylight saving time) . This means that the legal time zone is UTC+1 for the Bouvet Island, like Jan Mayen which is located in the UTC-1 nautical time zone, but also has UTC+1.

Southeast coast of Bouvet Island, 1898
Aerial photo


Bouvet Island was discovered on January 1, 1739, by Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier, who commanded the French ships Aigle and Marie. However, the island's position was not accurately fixed having been placed eight degrees to the east, and Bouvet did not circumnavigate his discovery, so it remained unclear whether it was an island or part of a continent.

In 1772, Captain James Cook left South Africa on a mission to find the island. However, when arriving at 54°S, 11°E where Bouvet had said he sighted the island, nothing was to be seen. Captain Cook assumed that Bouvet had taken an iceberg for an island, and he abandoned the search.

The island was not sighted again until 1808, when it was spotted by James Lindsay, the captain of the Enderby Company whaler Snow Swan. Though he didn't land, he was the first to correctly fix the island's position. During this time the island was sometimes referred to as Lindsay Island, though it was not then completely certain that it was the same island as Bouvet had sighted.

The first successful landfall dates to December 1822, when Captain Benjamin Morrell of the sealer Wasp landed, hunting for seals. He took several seal skins.

On December 10, 1825, Captain Norris, master of the Enderby Company whalers Sprightly and Lively, landed on the island, named it Liverpool Island, and claimed it for the British Crown. Again, it was not known with certainty at the time that this was the same island found previously. He also reported sighting a second island nearby, which he named Thompson Island. No trace of this island now remains.

In 1898, the German Valdivia expedition of Carl Chun visited the island but did not land.

The first extended stay on the island was in 1927, when the Norwegian "Norvegia" crew stayed for about a month; this is the basis for the claim by "Norvegia" expedition leader Lars Christensen on behalf of Norway, who have named the island Bouvet Island (Bouvetøya in Norwegian). The island was annexed on December 1 1927, and by a Royal Norwegian Decree of January 23 1928, Bouvetøya became a Norwegian Territory. The United Kingdom waived its claim in favour of Norway the following year. In 1930 a Norwegian act was passed that made the island a dependent area subject to the sovereignty of the Kingdom (but not a part of the Kingdom).

In 1964, an abandoned lifeboat was discovered on the island, along with various supplies; however, the lifeboat's passengers were never found.

In 1971, Bouvet Island and the adjacent territorial waters were designated a nature reserve. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was some interest from South Africa to establish a weather station, but conditions were deemed to be too hostile. The island remains uninhabited, although an automated weather station was set up there in 1977 by the Norwegians.

On September 22, 1979, a satellite recorded a flash of light (which was later interpreted as having been caused by a nuclear bomb explosion or natural event such as a meteor) in a stretch of the southern Indian Ocean between Bouvet Island and Prince Edward Islands. This flash, since dubbed the Vela Incident, is still not completely resolved.

On October 19, 2007, the Norwegian Institute of Polar Research announced that satellite photos no longer show the research station built on the island in 1994. It is believed that the uninhabited station has been blown out to sea by the wind. An earthquake in the area in 2006 supposedly weakened the building's base, and is believed to have made it more exposed to the powerful winter storms in the area. An unmanned weather station on the island is reportedly still intact.

Bouvet Island in fiction

  • Bouvet is the setting of the 2004 movie Alien vs. Predator, in which it is referred to using its Norwegian name "Bouvetøya" even though in the unrated edition of the film, a satellite focuses in on the island which is geographically situated in the approximate location of Peter I Island.
  • The island figures prominently in the book A Grue of Ice (also published as "The Disappearing Island") by Geoffrey Jenkins. It also features in "Warhead" by Andy Remic.
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