Sedef Adası, meaning "Father-of-Pearl Island" in Turkish, is one of the nine islands constituting the Princes' Islands in the Marmara Sea near Istanbul. It is the smallest island of the group and is open to settlement. The old name of the island was “Tavşanadası” which causes confusion with another island called “Neandros” which is also known as “Tavşanadası.” It lies just 1.1 km east of the Büyükada. Its length is 1.3 km and its width is 1.1 km. Another of the island’s name is Turpitude, which means “turpentine” suggesting a significant presence of turpentine trees or terebinth in earlier times.
The island has been beautifully decorated with festoons of flowers during previous periods. When it was seen from a distance, it looked like a pearlescent and is called “Sedefadası” as such. The native flora of the island has decreased significantly due to the effects of wind erosion, and the island’s rocky ground has come into view over the course of time. There are some monasteries located on the island like the other islands of Istanbul. Many people were also sent into exile on the island. The first monastery was built during the time of the Patriarch Leonidas. In 857 CE, Patriarch Ignatios of Constantinople was sent into exile on the island where he was imprisoned for 10 years before being re-elected as Patriarch in 867 CE.
Evliya Chelebi (1611-1684), the famous 17th centruy Ottoman traveler and writer, refer to the island as “Rabbit Island” because it was populated with countless rabits as well as goats which were brought from the other islands to graze at that time. In 1850, Sedefa Adası was owned by Damat Fethi Paşa (general of the army), during which olive tree saplings and vegetables were planted on the island. After his death, the island itself was left in a bad state, and all of the olive trees were cut down during World War I. In addition, during the occupation of Istanbul, the battlecruiser “Yavuz” was anchored offshore close to the island by occupation forces. After the difficult years of the war, the island fell into a heavy silence, which was broken only by seagulls and waves for a while. During the Republic period, the ownership of the island passed to Yegane Hanım, the wife of a poet named Hüseyin Cahit in the period of Fecr-i Ati, and after her death, it passed to her son, Şehsuvar Menemencioğlu, and to her daughter, Reyhan Şehsuvaroğlu. This family, who held ownership of the island, established a building society in 1956. It was turned into a level residential area on which 60 to 70 villas were built through the active work of the building society. While continuing to build villas, ferry services began to run between the island and Istanbul in 1958. Therefore, the island began to be excessively peopled during summer time and holidays.
Translated by Mr. Irfan KOKSAL