In 1506, Portuguese explorer Tristão da Cunha sighted the remote South Atlantic islands now anglicized as Tristan da Cunha. Because of bad sea conditions, he was unable to land, but, before sailing away, named the largest island after himself. Almost immediately, European maps began to include the archipelago under the Portuguese explorer’s (English) name. In 1643, the Dutch made landfall and the French were the first to chart the archipelago in 1767. In 1810, an American from Salem, Massachusetts, Jonathan Lambert, arrived with two other men (and were later joined by a fourth) and he claimed the island for himself. He re-named the chain the “Islands of Refreshment.” Before long, four men were reduced to one—and the lone American remained living on the island, farming.
During the War of 1812, the United States used the island as a naval base. On this day in 1816, wishing to preempt an American return, the English annexed the island chain for themselves. This also prevented the French from seizing the island as a base from which they might try to free Napoleon Bonaparte (imprisoned on Saint Helena, some 1200 miles away). They administered the island chain from Cape Colony—Cape Town in present-day South Africa.
Despite all the comings and goings, not many people ever lived on the island. As of the 2015 census, 259 called Tristan da Cunha home. Far more plentiful is the wide array of seabirds which live on the island chain, including a variety of penguin called Northern Rockhoppers.
The crystal penguin, shown above, comes from another island-nation: Venice. Made by Oggetti (associated with Murano), he was made in the 1970’s, some 470 years after brave Tristão named the island after his favorite explorer.