Tavolara Island

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Tavolara is a small island off the northeast coast of Sardinia, Italy. The island is a limestone massif 5 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide, with steep cliffs except at its ends. Its highest point, Monte Cannone, is 565 metres above sea level. A cove and beach can be found at each end of the island, Spalmatore di Fuori at the northeast, and Spalmatore di Terra at the southwest. Currently, the island is inhabited by only a handful of families, and has a small cemetery and summer restaurant. The water around the island is a popular spot for scuba diving.

The nearest sizable town is Olbia, and the small fishing village of Porto San Paolo is directly across a small strait. The islands of Molara and Molarotto are nearby.

Most of the population of the island was displaced in 1962 when a NATO radiogoniometric station was constructed on the eastern half of the island. The aerials from the station can be seen from quite a distance, and that entire half of the island is restricted to military personnel.

Tavolara is also home of the VLF-transmitter ICV, which works on 20.27 kHz and 20.76 kHz and which is used for transmitting messages to submarines. It can also be received (but not decoded) by PCs with a coil antenna at the soundcard entrance and FFT-analysis software.

The island and the surrounding waters are part of the Tavolara and Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Preserve created in 1997. The environmental protections placed on the park have added restrictions to the use of the area for tourism.

A natural column of rock on the island's coast resembles a human figure and is known as "the Stone Sentry" or "Pope's Rock."[1] Other stone formations include "Ulysses' Bow" (a natural arch) and the "Grotta del Papa" (a cave accessible by sea and boasting Neolithic cave paintings).


Flora and fauna

A rare species of thorny knapweed, Centaurea horrida, is endemic only to Tavolara and a few other fringe areas of northern Sardinia. In his Natural History of Sardinia (1774), Francesco Cetti reported huge rats inhabiting Tavolara, but these were probably the now-extinct Sardinian pika. In the 18th century, Sardinian lore claimed the wild goats of Tavolara had gold teeth.[2] The goat herds were moved to Sardinia when the NATO station was built and there are no longer any goats on the island. The critically endangered monk seal had a breeding colony here until the 1960s. Once the home of a thriving lobster industry, Tavolara now attracts divers who come to view the coral, sponges, sea anemones, bottlenose dolphins, and even a few specimens of Pinna nobilis, the rare giant clam whose byssus fibers were formerly used in the manufacture of sea silk for royal garments.

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