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Gough Island Ramsar Site, Wetland of International Importance

Gough Island, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan Da Cunha


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Gough Island /ˈɡɒf/, also known historically as Gonçalo Álvares (after the Portuguese explorer) or mistakenly as Diego Alvarez, is a volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a dependency of Tristan da Cunha and part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. It is uninhabited except for the personnel of a weather station (usually six people) which the South African National Antarctic Programme has maintained continually on the island since 1956. It is one of the most remote places with a constant human presence.

The island was first named Ilha de Gonçalo Álvares on Portuguese maps (Spanish Isla de Gonzalo Álvarez). It was named Gough Island after Captain Charles Gough of the Richmond who sighted the island in 1732. Confusion of the unusual Portuguese saint name Gonçalo with Spanish Diego led to the misnomer "Diego Alvarez island" in English sources from 1800s to 1930s.

Gough Island is roughly rectangular with a length of 13 km (8.1 mi) and a width of 7 kilometres (4.3 mi). It has an area of 91 km2 (35 sq mi) and rises to heights of over 900 m (3,000 ft) above sea level. Topographic features include the highest Peak, Edinburgh Peak, Hags Tooth, Mount Rowett, Sea Elephant Bay, Quest Bay, and Hawkins Bay.

It includes small satellite islands and rocks such as Southwest Island, Saddle Island (South), Tristiana Rock, Isolda Rock (West), Round Island, Cone Island, Lot's Wife, Church Rock (North), Penguin Island (Northeast), and The Admirals (East). It is a remote, rugged and lonely place, about 400 km (250 mi) south-east of the other islands in the Tristan da Cunha group, 2,700 km (1,700 mi) from Cape Town, and over 3,200 km (2,000 mi) from the nearest point of South America.

The details of the discovery of Gough Island are unclear, but the most likely occasion is July 1505 by the Portuguese explorer Gonçalo Álvares. Maps during the next three centuries named the island after him. On some later maps, this was erroneously given as Diego Alvarez.

According to some historians, the English merchant Anthony de la Roché was the first to land on the island, in Spring 1675.

Charles Gough rediscovered the island on 3 March 1732, thinking it was Gonçalo Alvares.

In the early 19th Century, sealers sometimes briefly inhabited the island. The earliest known example is a sealing gang from the US ship Amethyst which remained on the island in 1806–1807.

Gough Island was claimed only in 1938, for Britain, during a visit by HMS Milford of the Royal Navy.

Gough and Inaccessible Island are a protected wildlife reserve, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It has been described as one of the least disrupted ecosystems of its kind and one of the best shelters for nesting seabirds in the Atlantic. In particular, it is host to almost the entire world population of the Tristan Albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) and the Atlantic Petrel (Pterodroma incerta). However, this status is now in doubt as in April 2007 researchers published evidence that predation by introduced house mice on seabird chicks is occurring at levels that might drive the Tristan Albatross and the Atlantic Petrel to extinction. The island is also home to the almost flightless Gough Island Moorhen, and the critically endangered Gough Bunting.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has since been awarded £62,000 by the UK government's Overseas Territories Environment Programme to fund additional research on the Gough Island mice and a feasibility study of how best to deal with them. The grant will also pay for the assessment of a rat problem on Tristan da Cunha island.

The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International for its endemic landbirds and as a breeding site for seabirds. Birds for which the IBA has conservation significance include Northern Rockhopper Penguins (144,000 breeding pairs), Tristan Albatrosses (1000–1500 pairs), Sooty Albatrosses (5000 pairs), Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses (5000 pairs), Broad-billed Prions (100,000 pairs), Kerguelen Petrels (20,000 pairs), Soft-plumaged Petrels (50,000 pairs), Atlantic Petrels (20,000 pairs), Great-winged Petrels (5000 pairs), Grey Petrels (10,000 pairs), Great Shearwaters (100,000 pairs), Little Shearwaters (10,000 pairs), Grey-backed Storm Petrels (10,000 pairs), White-faced Storm Petrels (10,000 pairs), White-bellied Storm Petrels (10,000 pairs), Antarctic Terns (500 pairs), Southern Skuas (500 pairs), Gough Moorhens (2500 pairs) and Gough Buntings (3000 individuals).

The weather station on Gough Island is operated as part of the network of the South African Weather Service. Because cold fronts approach South Africa from the south-west, the Gough station is particularly important in forecasting winter weather.

The Gough Island teams consist of:

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Coordinates: 40°19′05″S 9°56′07″W / 40.3181°S 9.9353°W / -40.3181; -9.9353

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Official Record

  • WDPA ID478034
  • NameGough Island
  • Original NameGough Island
  • Country / TerritorySHN
  • Sub locationNot Reported
  • IUCN CategoryNot ApplicableWhat is this?
  • English DesignationRamsar Site, Wetland of International Importance
  • Designation TypeInternational
  • StatusDesignated
  • Status Year2008
  • Reported Area km22298.11
  • Marinetrue
  • Reported Marine Area km2Unknown
  • No TakeNot Reported
  • No Take Area km20.0
  • Governance TypeNot Reported
  • International CriteriaNot Reported
  • Management AuthorityNot Reported
  • Management Plan URLNot Reported




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Ramsar Secretariat (2011)

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