Tristan da Cunha

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 37.092°S
  • 12.28°W

  • 2060 m
    6757 ft

  • 386010
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit

  • Volcano

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Basic Data

Volcano Number

Last Known Eruption



1962 CE

2060 m / 6757 ft


Volcano Types

Pyroclastic cone(s)
Lava dome(s)

Rock Types

Trachybasalt / Tephrite Basanite
Basalt / Picro-Basalt
Trachyandesite / Basaltic trachy-andesite
Trachyte / Trachyandesite

Tectonic Setting

Rift zone
Oceanic crust (< 15 km)


Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km

Geological Summary

Tristan da Cunha is a 13-km-wide island volcano lying about 500 km east of the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge just south of the latitudes of Buenos Aires and Cape Town. The 2060-m-high shield volcano is bounded on most sides by high cliffs. Lava flows dominate both the low-angle base and the steep upper flanks, although pyroclastic cones ringing the central cone are scattered around the lower flanks. Eruptions have occurred from the 300-m-wide summit crater, Queen Mary's Peak, which contains a small lake, and from numerous flank vents, some of which occurred from radial fissures. Radial dike swarms are prominently exposed on all sides of the island. Numerous strombolian cinder cones occur on the flanks of the volcano along both concentric ring structures and NNW- and ENE-trending radial fissures. The only historical eruption on Tristan da Cunha occurred during 1961 from a northshore vent and forced the evacuation of the island's only settlement.


The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography.

Baker P E, Gass I G, Harris P G, LeMaitre R W, 1964. Vulcanological report on the Royal Society expedition to Tristan de Cunha. Phil Trans Roy Soc London, 256: 439-578.

Chevallier L, Verwoerd W J, 1987. A dynamic interpretation of Tristan da Cunha volcano, South Atlantic Ocean. J Volc Geotherm Res, 34: 35-49.

IAVCEI, 1973-80. Post-Miocene Volcanoes of the World. IAVCEI Data Sheets, Rome: Internatl Assoc Volc Chemistry Earth's Interior..

Neumann van Padang M, Richards A F, Machado F, Bravo T, Baker P E, Le Maitre R W, 1967. Atlantic Ocean. Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World and Solfatara Fields, Rome: IAVCEI, 21: 1-128.

Eruptive History

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
1961 Oct 10 1962 Mar 15 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations North flank
1700 ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology South flank

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Big Green Hill Pyroclastic cone
Burnthill Pyroclastic cone
Cave Gulch Hill Pyroclastic cone
Hill Piece Tuff cone
Kipuka Hill Pyroclastic cone
Nellie's Hump Pyroclastic cone
Olaf Cone
Queen Mary Pyroclastic cone 2060 m 37° 5' 28" S 12° 17' 0" W
Stony Beach Hills Pyroclastic cone
Stony Hill Group Pyroclastic cone


Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Stony Hill Dome

Photo Gallery

The HMS Challenger lies off Tristan da Cunha island in this 1878 plate from "The Voyage of the Challenger." This converted military vessel was outfitted for scientific surveys and circumnavigated the globe during a three and half year journey. A central volcano rises above steep coastal cliffs that truncate lava flows. Pyroclastic cones dot the flanks of the volcano.

Plate from Thomson, 1878 (courtesy of NOAA Photo Library).
The SW side of Tristan da Cunha volcano rises above the southern Atlantic seas. The 2060-m-high summit cone towers above high cliffs that bound most sides of the 13-km-wide island. Lava flows dominate both the low-angle base and the steep upper flanks, although pyroclastic cones ringing the central cone are scattered around the lower flanks. The only historical eruption on Tristan da Cunha occurred during 1961 from a northshore vent and forced the evacuation of the island's only settlement.

Photo by Vicky Hards, 2004 (British Geological Survey, copyrighted NERC).
A lava flow extends to the sea from a small lava dome formed during the first historical eruption of Tristan da Cunha in 1961-1962. The flow is seen here from the SW with the island's only habited area, the village of Settlement (Edinburgh of the Seven Seas), in the foreground. The eruption began on October 10, 1961 and prompted the evacuation of the island's entire population to England. The eruption ended on March 15, 1962, and resettlement began in September of that year.

Photo by Vicky Hards, 2004 (British Geological Survey, copyrighted NERC).
This pumice block, with a one-pound coin for scale, was collected from the sea surface near Tristan da Cunha on August 3, 2004. An earthquake swarm lasting 6 hours beginning on July 29, 2004 was followed by the observation of large blocks of floating pumice. The event was considered to have originated from rising magma 25 km SE of Tristan.

Photo by Vicky Hards, 2004 (British Geological Survey, copyrighted NERC).

Smithsonian Sample Collections Database

The following 7 samples associated with this volcano can be found in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections. Catalog number links will open a window with more information.

Catalog Number Sample Description
NMNH 110014 Trachyandesite
NMNH 110015 Trachyandesite
NMNH 110016 Trachyandesite
NMNH 110017 Olivine-basalt
NMNH 110018 Olivine-basalt
NMNH 110019 Basalt
NMNH 110020 Basalt

Affiliated Sites

Large Eruptions of Tristan da Cunha Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
MODVOLC - HIGP MODIS Thermal Alert System Using infrared satellite Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data, scientists at the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai'i, developed an automated system called MODVOLC to map thermal hot-spots in near real time. For each MODIS image, the algorithm automatically scans each 1 km pixel within it to check for high-temperature hot-spots. When one is found the date, time, location, and intensity are recorded. MODIS looks at every square km of the Earth every 48 hours, once during the day and once during the night, and the presence of two MODIS sensors in space allows at least four hot-spot observations every two days. Each day updated global maps are compiled to display the locations of all hot spots detected in the previous 24 hours. There is a drop-down list with volcano names which allow users to 'zoom-in' and examine the distribution of hot-spots at a variety of spatial scales.
MIROVA Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity (MIROVA) is a near real time volcanic hot-spot detection system based on the analysis of MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) data. In particular, MIROVA uses the Middle InfraRed Radiation (MIR), measured over target volcanoes, in order to detect, locate and measure the heat radiation sourced from volcanic activity.