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The World's Most Mountainous Islands

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By Edited Oct 3, 2014 0 0

Some of the world's islands are utterly flat, so flat those who live on them fear they'll lose their homes because of rising sea levels if predictions of climate change come true. Other islands are the opposite, and boast dramatic mountains which soar upwards almost from the water's edge. Which islands are the world's most mountainous? Here are five candidates.

1. Greenland



The world's largest island is also one of the world's most mountainous landmasses. Greenland covers 2.1 million square kilometers, not including some minor offshore islands that are part of the political entity (all of which falls under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark). Of that total, more than four fifths is covered by a massive ice sheet (pictured above). The coast is ice-free, however; this where almost all the 57,000 human inhabitants live. Surprisingly, this is also where Greenland's tallest mountain ranges are found, because the interior ice sheet is so heavy is has worn and depressed the land over the past millions of years. The highest point of land is Gunnbjørn Fjeld (elevation: 3,700m or 12,139 feet), near which there are several other peaks above 3,000m (9,843 feet). Greenland's no. 1 peak is named for Gunnbjorn Ulfsson, a Viking and the first European to make landfall on Greenland, sometime in the early 9th century AD.

2. New Guinea

The island of New Guinea is the second-largest anywhere on Earth, covering 785,753 square kilometers, or almost four times the land area of Great Britain. It's politically divided between Papua New Guinea (an independent country and member of the United Nations since 1975) in the east, and two provinces of Indonesia, Papua and West Papua (formerly called Irian Jaya, and before 1962 a Dutch colony). New Guinea's Central Cordillera runs east-west across almost the entire island. In Papua New Guinea, the highest point is Mount Wilhelm (4,509m or 14,793 feet). The mountain got its German moniker because a German reporter climbing in the area in 1888 decided to name four peaks he saw in the distance but didn't conquer after the children of the German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. In the Indonesian half, there are even higher peaks which are snowcapped throughout the year, among them Puncak Jaya (the main peak of Mount Carstensz) at 4,884m or 16,023 feet), and the slightly lower Puncak Mandala and Puncak Trikora.


3. Taiwan

Taiwan is better known for its high-tech products and a ongoing political standoff with China, yet it's also a biodiversity hotspot of global significance and a stunningly mountainous island. About two-thirds of Taiwan's land area (just 35,883 square kilometers, meaning it's less than half the size of Ireland, and only slightly larger than the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) is highlands. Almost a third of Taiwan is 1,000m above sea level or higher, while a tenth of its land area reaches 2,500m. Of the 258 named peaks taller than 3,000m, the highest is Mount Jade (sometimes called Yushan; 3,952m or 12,966 feet). It's often described as the highest peak in northeast Asia because it's taller than Mount Fuji in Japan or any peak in Korea. Another is Taguanshan (3,222m or 10,571 feet), pictured above. There are five major mountain chains, the youngest in geological terms being the Coastal Mountain Range on the east coast, and most of these uplands are covered with dense forest.

4. Corsica

Part of France since 1768 and the birthplace of Napoleon, the island of Corsica is 183km long and up to 83km wide. Like Taiwan, it is two-thirds mountains, but unlike Taiwan is has just one mountain range and relatively little woodland. The tallest point is the summit of Monte Cinto (2,706m or 8,878 feet). Twenty other peaks exceed 2,000m (6,562 feet), and amid the mountains there are lakes fed by melting snow, granite precipices and soaring cliffs.

5. St Lucia

Land is in short supply in St Lucia (population just 174,000), the Caribbean's most mountainous island. The former British colony measures just 27km from north to south, and much of it is occupied by the remnants of volcanoes, the tallest of which is Mount Gimie (958m or 3,143 feet). St Lucia's volcanic past means its soils are very fertile; bananas and cocoa grow well, although financial services contribute far more to the economy than agriculture. Among the tourists who visit St Lucia in considerable numbers (more than 300,000 per year), two other mountains are actually better known than Mount Gimie: The volcanic spire of Gros Piton (786m or 2,619 feet), and the pyramid-shaped Petit Piton (739 m or 2,461 feet). Gros Piton can be climbed in a few hours; neither special equipment nor technical skills are needed, but hiring a guide is advisable.

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