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Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the South Atlantic Ocean, around 1,600 kilometres (1,000 mi) from the coast of Africa and 2,250 kilometres (1,400 mi) from the coast of South America, which is roughly midway between the horn of South America and Africa. It is governed as part of the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, of which the main island, Saint Helena, is around 1,300 kilometres (800 mi) to the southeast, and the territory also includes the "remotest populated archipelago" on earth, the sparsely populated Tristan da Cunha archipelago some thirty degrees farther south–about half the way to the Antarctic Circle.
The Island is named after the day of its recorded discovery, Ascension Day, and is located at 7°56′S 14°22′WCoordinates: 7°56′S 14°22′W, about as far south of the equator as tropical Venezuela is to its north. Historically, it has played a role as an important safe haven and coaling station to mariners and for commercial airliners during the days of international air travel by flying boats and during World War II was an important naval and air station, especially providing antisubmarine warfare bases in the Battle of the Atlantic and throughout the war.Ascension Island was garrisoned by the British Admiralty from 22 October 1815 to 1922.
The island is the location of RAF Ascension Island, which is a Royal Air Force station with a United States Air Force presence, a European Space Agency rocket tracking station, and the BBC World Service Atlantic Relay Station. The island was used extensively by the British military during the Falklands War. Ascension Island hosts one of five ground antennae (others are on Kwajalein Island, Diego Garcia, Colorado Springs and Hawaii) that assist in the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigational system.
Ascension Island, as a part of the wider overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, does not yet have its own flag or coat of arms. The Union Flag and Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom are used instead.
The main island has an area of approximately 91 km2. A volcanic peak rising from just west of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, much of the island is a wasteland of lava flows and cinder cones; no fewer than forty-four distinct dormant craters have been identified.
The island originally had its own native flora until Portuguese explorers released goats in the 1500s which ate much of it. The later introduction of rabbits, sheep, rats and donkeys, and over 200 imported species further marginalized the original flora. By 1843 the island was barren with few plants. However, due to the introduction of species by the British, Ascension Island's Green Mountain is now one of the few large-scale planned forests, and is gradually growing with each year. Its highest point is at 2,817 feet (859 m).
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