Island Extremes: The Smallest Islands with Permanent Populations

An Introduction to Island Extremes

The world is an exciting place, filled with remarkable and unusual landscapes. Some of the most striking of these are islands, particularly the smallest ones with permanent populations. These tiny islands, often less than a square mile in area, are home to communities of people who have adapted to life in isolation, amidst the vast expanse of oceans.

While the thought of living on a compact, remote island might seem unthinkable to some, for others it is an everyday reality. These small islands may lack certain amenities and pose unique challenges, but they also offer unparalleled beauty, tranquility, and a strong sense of community. Let's take a virtual journey to some of the smallest islands with permanent populations around the globe.

Bishop Rock: The Smallest Island with a Building

First on our tour is Bishop Rock, an incredibly small, rocky ledge jutting out of the Atlantic Ocean in the Isles of Scilly, UK. The island, if we can call it that, is so small that it only has enough space for a single building – a lighthouse.

Despite its lack of habitable land, Bishop Rock holds a Guinness World Record as the world’s smallest island with a building. The lighthouse, built in 1858, stands 49 meters high and was manned until 1992, when it was fully automated. While no one lives on Bishop Rock permanently now, it was once home to a small team of lighthouse keepers who lived and worked in the isolated and often stormy conditions.

Pitcairn Island: The Smallest Island with a Government

Next, let's head to the Pacific Ocean to visit Pitcairn Island, the smallest island with its own government. This British Overseas Territory, located halfway between New Zealand and Peru, has a total area of just 18 square miles and a population of around 50 people.

Pitcairn Island has a fascinating and somewhat dark history. It was settled in 1790 by mutineers from the British naval ship HMS Bounty, who famously set their captain and loyal crew adrift in a small boat. Today, most of the island's residents are direct descendants of the mutineers and their Tahitian companions.

Migingo Island: The Most Densely Populated Island

Our journey continues to Lake Victoria, where we find Migingo Island. This tiny, 0.0008 square miles island is home to around 131 people, making it the most densely populated island in the world.

Migingo Island is subject to a territorial dispute between Kenya and Uganda, with both claiming ownership. The population exploded after the discovery of lucrative fish stocks in the surrounding waters. Despite its small size and ongoing disputes, Migingo Island has a bar, beauty salon, and several hotels.

Monuriki: The Smallest Island with Big Screen Fame

Our final stop is Monuriki, a tiny, uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean. While technically this island doesn’t house a permanent population, it deserves a mention because it served as the film location for the movie "Cast Away," starring Tom Hanks.

Monuriki is part of the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji. While it's uninhabited, it's frequently visited by tourists and day-trippers who come to see the "Cast Away" filming location and experience the stunning natural beauty.

Final Thoughts

Life on these extreme islands is certainly not for everyone. It requires resilience, adaptability, and a certain love for solitude. Yet, these smallest islands with permanent populations remind us of the incredible diversity of human experiences and the myriad ways in which we adapt to the environments around us. They show us that even in the most remote and challenging of places, communities can, and do, thrive.