Ascension Island is an extremely small isle situated in the Atlantic Ocean about halfway between Brazil and Africa. It is a relatively recent addition to Earth’s geography, breaking through the surface of the ocean only about one million years ago. The island is the peak of a growing undersea volcano. Being small in size and relatively young, Ascension has limited plant and animal diversity. Early settlers brought many of the plants and animals the island enjoys today to the region, beginning in the 1500s.
This self-governing British territory is only about 35 square miles and has fewer than one thousand residents. Most of the island’s residents are government workers, military personnel or their families. Despite a corporate population, there is still much to enjoy on the island. Visitors can enjoy hikes up one of Ascension’s many volcanic peaks, none of which have erupted in the last 700 years, or go scuba diving.
- The residents of Ascension Island are technically not true residents since the British government does not allow permanent inhabitation of the island.
- When the Portuguese first brought goats to the island in the 1500s, the goats ate the few native species that existed there to extinction.
- Ascension was once so barren that no one ever tried to colonize it. It was artificially made habitable for humans in the 1800s when a man named John Hooker decided to plant acres of trees and grass for cattle across the island.
- Most residents on the island came from an adjacent isle called St. Helena, which is also a British territory.
- The United States has a significant military presence on the island, which they established during World War II. The American military presence on Ascension Island is now used as a spying base for NSA operations.
- The island has a two-mile runway that was once the longest in the world. It is now an emergency landing spot for American spacecraft.