Saturday, 30 November 2013

Rainbow and sunset on Tristan...

Our last sunset on Tristan was quite beautiful. It was hard to believe that our time on the island had gone so quickly. A few days earlier there was an amazing rainbow cresting the New Volcano. It made for a lovely photo opportunity.

View looking east towards the New Volcano. Note the little rainbow.
The full rainbow as seen from Brian and Peggy's house.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Three vessels off Tristan...

To have three vessels anchored off Tristan is quite a rare occurrence indeed. But this is what happened on October 3rd when the SA Agulhas II, a small single-manned yacht Zuli, and the fishing vessel Edinburgh, were all anchored off the Settlement of Edinburgh.

The SA Agulhas II returned to Tristan da Cunha on October 2nd, after three weeks doing atmospheric and oceanographic research in the vicinity of Gough Island. She also collected the returning South African weather team, and dropped off their replacements at Gough Island. The arrival of the Agulhas meant that our time on Tristan was running out. Later that same day (October 2nd) a solo yachtsman arrived in his yacht, Zuli, en-route from Brazil to Saldanha Bay, South Africa.

The following day, October 3rd, marked the fishing vessel Edinburgh's return to offload her catch of frozen fish. Barges and RIBs went to-and-fro between the three vessels, offloading fish, loading cargo, and ferrying visitors to the island. It was certainly a busy day in the waters off Tristan!

 Agulhas and Zuli off Tristan da Cunha.
Closer view of the two vessels.
Bell 212 helicopter flies over the yacht.
The helicopter flanked by the yacht and Agulhas.
Agulhas crash boat ferrying visitors to the island.
A rare sight indeed - three vessels at Tristan!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Trip to Nightingale Island...

We woke early on Friday, September 27th, with the news that we were heading to Nightingale Island, south-south-west of the Settlement of Edinburgh. It's a distance of some 26 miles or 42 kms across deep South Atlantic Ocean swells. It was going to be an adventure!

At 08h30 a group of some twenty tourists and islanders were assembled down at Calshot Harbour and shortly thereafter boarded into three boats: Wave Dancer (an enclosed fishery patrol boat), Arctic Tern (a Rigid-hulled Inflatable boat - henceforth RIB), and the boat that Candace and I went on, Svitzer (also a RIB). It was a very fast and bumpy trip across the open sea. We were lifting off the waves and getting huge airtime on the trip across, doing some 25 knots (46km/h or 28m/h) throughout the trip! Candace and I were clinging on quite literally for dear life - we were seated on the inflatable tubing on opposite sides of the boat. It was a rocky ride!

After an hour and fifteen minutes we had reached Nightingale Island, together with its smaller neighbouring islands of Middle and Stoltenhof. It was as we slowed down to answer a radio call that a wave crashed in on my side and semi-swamped us. Unbeknown to us, our vessel had been losing air throughout the trip, and where I had been sitting was particularly low in the water. This is why we had taken in so much water from one wave. Unfortunately my trusty Canon camera, which had faithfully served me throughout West Africa, was in the bottom of the boat and became a casualty well before I was able to reach it. I was very thankful Candace had brought along her camera as an afterthought. It certainly came in handy throughout the rest of the day!

We slowly navigated our way through the channel between the islands and then waited to transfer into a smaller rubber duck which would ferry us to the island. While we were waiting I was shown Spinners Point, where the bulk carrier MS Oliva ran ashore on Nightingale Island back in 2011. We soon transferred to the smaller craft and were landed at the secondary landing site, West Landing. We were met by many inquisitive fur seals, sunning on the rocks. From here we scrambled up a challenging cliff route to a lovely wide path above, surrounded by high island tussock. I was amazed to see many, many dead birds lying all along this path. I was told that all of these birds were killed by the larger aggressive skuas.

Candace and I were taken down to the huts, where we collected our bags and had a quick bite to eat. Islanders sometimes spend time living on Nightingale Island, and therefore have their own holiday huts here. We also saw skua eggs in a nest - pictured here - on the path (and the protective parent flying low overhead) and a small colony of Rockhopper Penguins near the huts.

The Head Islander, Ian Lavarello, then came back and we headed up the path and saw many threatened Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses sitting on their nests. We were also shown the other Rockhopper Penguin colony. The penguins nest in the thick island tussock, forming a natural barrier to predators.

With the weather deteriorating, we were loaded back on the boats by 14h00, after about three hours exploring Nightingale Island. We were happy to transfer our bags to the Wave Dancer to keep them dry. Shortly after departing Nightingale, Svitzer began to crash into huge waves and then drop heavily into the troughs between the swells. After several minutes of painfully slow progress, and after hitting waves that made our RIB shudder violently, we began to take on water. The inflatable tubing was evidently deflating again. Water kept coming into the boat and soon both our outboard motors failed, due to faulty (and quite possibly wet) spark plugs. We were sitting some 25 miles from Tristan, alone in the middle of the ocean. It was quite a thing to see the awesome power of the sea. It's a good reminder of how small we are in the vast scheme of things!

We radioed for assistance and the larger Wave Dancer returned to the scene. The decision was made to transfer all passengers from the Svitzer to the Wave Dancer. The crew would remain onboard the RIB and the Wave Dancer would tow it back to Tristan. We successfully did some risky transferring from our RIB to the bigger boat. It is in moments like these when you are glad that you are with people who know the ocean and can tell you when it is safe to jump from the one boat to the other! Photo here of Svitzer under tow thanks to Jennie Bancroft.

It was very rough heading back to Tristan, with a strong wind making the one to three-metre swells appear worse than they really were. Wave Dancer initially had ten people in her, but now with an additional eight people, things were a little cramped. A bucket was passed around, but I was thankful not to be sick. We towed Svitzer all the way back to Edinburgh at a speed of anything between four and seven knots. Over four hours after we departed Nightingale, we finally reached the safety of Calshot Harbour. Our arrival is seen here from Tristan: a barge is going out to meet us and take over towing the Svitzer. Photo thanks to my father, Martin Crawford.

Candace and I were both exhausted after our deep-sea rescue adventure, and were very thankful to be safely on dry land again. It was certainly a day to remember!

 Wave Dancer heads out to sea.
The two RIBs prepare to take on passengers.
Control panel of Svitzer.
Heading out to sea. The crayfish factory is visible in this photo.
Arctic Tern gets some airtime with Tristan behind.
Arrival at Nightingale. Wave Dancer with the smaller rubber duck.
The far point in the distance is Spinners Point, where the MS Oliva ran aground in 2011.
Inaccessible in the distance with Stoltenhof and Middle Island.
Welcome to Nightingale Island sign.
The huts are visible above this large rock.
The Landing Rock.
Northern Rockhopper Penguins below the huts.
Tristan to the north.
Skua parent guarding her nest.
Carnage caused by skuas.
Walking through tall island tussock.
Candace makes a friend.
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross.
Northern Rockhopper Penguin on its egg.
Tristan in the distance.
Clambering back down to the boats.
Wave Dancer with Inaccessible Island behind.
Problems at sea. Candace is in the light jacket second from left. I'm standing on the other side of the boat. You can see that we're losing air and sitting quite low in the water. Photo thanks to Jennie Bancroft.
Transferring across in high seas. Photo again thanks to Jennie Bancroft.
Testing Wave Dancer's steering prior to entering the safety of Calshot Harbour. Photo thanks to my Dad.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Walk to the Patches...

Candace and I took many leisurely strolls during our time on Tristan. We walked out to the Potato Patches on a few occasions, and the photos from this post were mainly taken on Thursday, September 26th. Some of the photos were also taken during our final week on the island when we drove out to the Patches. There is so much beauty on Tristan da Cunha!

This is an area known as Straight Bushes. Candace and I climbed up the low ridge on the right.
A solitary donkey lives in this area. Although he is separated from the other donkeys near the Patches, he seems happy enough grazing here.
The view from the ridge near Straight Bushes.
The Tristan bus taking people to the Patches. The eroding cliffs are visible here.
The old patches. The new patches are across the gully.
Potato Patches.
Potato plants growing in neat rows.
Areas of the Patches have different names. These are the Coolers.
Shy Border Collie peeps out from the back of this bakkie (pick-up truck).
Pretty little chicken.
A herd of donkeys graze near a small flock of sheep.
Islanders have camping huts near the Potato Patches.
Candace and I amongst the Patches.
Snow visible above the Wash Gulch - high above the Potato Patches.
Nothing beats a rugged Land Rover!
The Hardies off the Hill Piece as seen from near the Potato Patches.