One of my objectives in travelling to Tristan da Cunha was to follow in my Grandfather's footsteps. I wanted to walk where he went, and to see what he saw. When Grandad was first on Tristan in 1937 as part of the Norwegian Scientific Expedition one of his primary roles was to accurately map the island. This he did, and his chart was accepted by the British Admiralty as Chart No. 1769.
But in order to map Tristan, he had to set up survey beacons at strategic locations all over Tristan. We had heard that one of his survey beacons still survived on Herald Point, near the Settlement. We walked past Tristan's only golf course as we searched for the observation point. We were very happy when we found it, overgrown and tottering rather close to the edge of a cliff, but still in the same place as it was when Grandad mapped Tristan da Cunha! This is the view of Calshot Harbour as seen from the observation beacon.
The next day, Tuesday (17th September), we went out over the New Volcano to Pig Bite, east of the Settlement. We walked through the island's rubbish dump, known locally as Steven's Patch, before descending off the New Volcano's lava flow to the plateau at Pig Bite. Here we climbed up a steep slope and had a look at one of the old, now-disused, navigational beacons up on the hillside. My Grandfather was also involved in erecting these navigational aids in the old days. Now with modern radar and echo sounding, most vessels do not have to rely on these beacons to locate a safe anchorage. The photo here is looking back towards the New Volcano.
This rock on the stony beach looks like an abandoned lifeboat.
View towards Big Point. The navigational beacon is halfway up the hill slanting to the base.
Here's a closer view...
And an even closer view! This triangular beacon used to line up with one on the hill by the coast behind, to help ships locate a safe anchorage. The marker on the hill behind has long since disappeared over the cliff.
On Monday (16th September) we went out to the Potato Patches with some of our island friends. This is an area of fertile land some two miles or three kilometres from the village. It is here where the islanders farm potatoes, as well as some other vegetables. We were able to help in the farming process - and I even took my turn in covering the potatoes with soil! It reminded me of my time with Candace's family, when I helped plant corn in Indiana. There will be more photos of the Potato Patches in a future blog.
Fertiliser and potatoes together, before being covered with soil.
Planting potatoes involves the whole family on Tristan da Cunha.
Here are a few photos of the many shrubs, small plants, and flowers that grow on the slopes of Tristan da Cunha. I'm not a horticulturist and so I don't know the scientific names, but I hope you enjoy this small selection of photos!
Daisy-like flower on Pig Bite.
Cute little purple flowers near the Settlement.
Pretty pink flower on the way to the Potato Patches.
Tiny mushrooms pushing through the soil.
Very cool plant - like many inverted bells.
Many small ferns push through the grass.
This plant is abundant on Pig Bite. I believe it is the Island Berry plant.
Our first weekend on Tristan was an eventful one. We visited Hottentot Beach, pictured here, on Saturday. (14th September.) This is the closest beach to the Settlement of Edinburgh. Here we found many buoys and other objects cast up onto the beach by the ferocious waves. We also walked round to Calshot Harbour, where we saw the fishing boats laid up on the quayside. They were all neatly packed and ready for the next fishing day.
After church on Sunday we went out past the Potato Patches and marked lambs with the islanders. They mark lambs with a unique mark to determine ownership. We then decided to climb the New Volcano, towering above the village, in the afternoon. The New Volcano erupted close to the Settlement in 1961, resulting in the forced exile of the entire island population to the United Kingdom. After two years abroad, the islanders were allowed to return home to their peaceful home. The hike takes a little less than an hour and gives one a lovely view over Edinburgh and the surrounding fields.
Black, volcanic sand beaches are the norm on Tristan.
Lifeboats and other nautical debris near the harbour.
Nope, it's not a large lollipop - it's a large buoy on Hottentot Beach!
Baby crayfish washed up on the beach.
Marking lambs out past the Potato Patches.
Sheep graze on the slopes of the plateau.
The route to the New Volcano.
View of Edinburgh as we walk up the New Volcano.
The New Volcano is just above and to the left of the thatched house museum.
A large piece of lava landed in a position that makes it look like a Rockhopper Penguin!
With my parents near the summit.
Candace and I with Edinburgh below us.
We scrambled up a grass slope to get a better view of the New Volcano's crater!
There are two island churches on Tristan da Cunha: St Mary's Anglican Church and St Joseph's Catholic Church. Both of these buildings are beautiful, and St Joseph's has a unique stained glass window too. The lovely window is at right, and depicts the Virgin Mary with the island, an albatross, and a longboat behind. While we were on the island we attended the Anglican Church, and I even took a Bible reading on our final Sunday on Tristan. Both the Anglican and Catholic Churches do not have priests currently, and rely on lay ministers from the island population to take the services.
St Mary's Church has some lovely plaques inside, including one commemorating my Grandfather's years of service to Tristan. The island also has cemeteries down near the American Fence, close to where the school is located. Here we browsed through the island graves. It was interesting to see the graves of some of the earliest settlers of Tristan, dating back to the 1800s, as well as the more recent cemeteries nearby. The photo here shows some of the cemeteries, with the 1961 volcano behind.
St Mary's Anglican Church - the church bell is from the Mabel Clark, one of the many ships wrecked in Tristan waters.
The back of the Anglican Church.
The interior of St Mary's Church.
Standing next to Grandad's plaque.
St Joseph's Catholic Church.
It has a lovely whale wind vane!
Interior of St Joseph's Church.
Graves in the oldest Tristan cemetery. The grave at right is that of Corporal William Glass, one of the community's founders.
HMS Julia was a sloop that ran aground on Tristan in 1817.
I am a 32-year-old South African whose journey with Mercy Ships began in 2007 when I joined the M/V "Africa Mercy" in Liberia. I met my wife Candace in Sierra Leone in 2011 and together we served with Mercy Ships until December 2012. We worked with Mercy Vision in South Africa during 2013, and are now settling into a new life together in the USA.
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I served with Mercy Ships. Everything here, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.