The Geo Quiz on PRI’s “The World,” an hour long radio newsmagazine show, asked listeners to identify a place that is often called “the most remote inhabited island on earth.” Broadcast weekdays by over 250 radio stations in the U.S., “The World,” for Wednesday, October 28, described the mystery island as being 1700 miles off the coast of Africa, about halfway between South Africa and Argentina.
The answer, revealed about five minutes later, is Tristan da Cunha. The announcer tells us that the island is so remote, it is already too late to get a Christmas card there in time for the holiday. The deadline was in September. (She did not mention that Tristan now has Internet service, so an e-card could be send up until the last minute—but that would have disrupted the theme of the story.) Two MP3s narrate the opening quiz part and the closing, more substantial, answer segment.
The substantial part of the program includes an audio postcard sent from Tristan, which contains interviews with two Tristan Islanders. Ches Lavarello is a 66 year old lobster fisherman. It is interesting to hear him speak. He describes the lobsters he catches, his ancestry, and, best of all, what he calls the freedom of the island. “The main thing on Tristan, why the people like it here, is the freedom, because there’s nowhere in the world where you can get freedom like you can on Tristan,” he says.
He goes on to explain that people live without fear; they can go anywhere, day or night, and not worry about danger. “You can go do what you like anytime you like and there’s no problem. And that’s the reason freedom is the main thing,” he concludes. It’s a worthwhile definition.
The other interview was with Iris Green, the postmistress on the island. She indicates that mail may get there in a month, or perhaps three months, depending on the arrival of ships. She describes the scenes portrayed on a recent issue of Tristan stamps, which are very popular with collectors.
The four stamps show the sheep shearing tradition of the Islanders, a holiday during which they kill rats, longboats sailing to the nearby Nightingale Island, and the festival of Old Year’s Night. Ms. Green chuckles as she describes the “okalolies,” men who dress up and celebrate midsummer on the island by trying to scare the women and children.
Andy Isaacson, the correspondent who sent the interviews to PRI, has evidently prepared an article about Tristan da Cunha which will soon appear in the National Geographic Traveler magazine.