3 of 4

Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha

An oblique view of rugged Ascension Island, which is is barren in many places and has no indigenous human population. Instead the residents of the island are there because of Ascension's main industry: communications. The island has a long history as a communications hub for telephone and radio communications and as a base for satellite tracking stations, including a NASA station built in the 1960s that no longer operates. The European Space Agency operates a tracking station for its Ariane spacecraft on the eastern side of the island.

Ascension Island is one of the most important breeding grounds for seabirds in the tropical Atlantic Ocean. The population of seabirds has been under threat since the first humans sailed up to the island in the 1500s. The ships accidentally introduced black rats, which overran the island, until cats were introduced to curb the rat population. The feral cats have decimated the bird populations, and in fact, are probably responsible for the extinction of two of the islands native land birds. A restoration project is underway to control the cat population and revive the seabirds. Image courtesy of NASA.