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Tristan da Cunha

As we wake up after a longer night sleep, with the watch system stopping at 23:00h, Tristan da Cunha shows spectacularly in front of us.

Europa looks for her anchor spot in front of the settlement, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, on a long gentle swell. The Portuguese Admiral Tristao da Cunha already discovered Tristan in 1506 during a voyage to India. Later on several countries trading over the Atlantic tried to use the island as a supply base but the swell, weather conditions and lack of proper anchorage made them abandon the plan. Sealers on their trips to the South Atlantic also used Tristan. The remarkable history of human colonization of the island started on 1810, with the first settlers, William Glass and his wife Maria Magdalena Leenders, rising a family o 1816. Others joined them over the next few years. By 1820 5 bachelors were living in Tristan, and they arranged 5 wives to come from Sta Helena. Their dreams came reality on 1827 and the community began to increase to the eight family names and the around 270 inhabitants present on Tristan da Cunha nowadays.

Checking the weather forecast for the next days, it was decided to speed up a bit our progress during yesterday and last night, as our possibilities to land today are forecasted to be the best for the rest of the week. The island received us with its intense green colours, due to the vegetation covered steep landscape, under a light cloud cover, announcing a good day to go ashore. The swell, main issue that can cause problems to operate our zodiacs here, looked pretty good to attempt a landfall. The last sails set are taken down and furled once we drop anchor, close to the supply ship that today is also here.

While we have breakfast and have the chance to pack some lunch, Harko, Sarah and Jordi went ashore to clear the ship with the port authorities, being welcomed at the pier by the Harbour Master and Dawn Repetto (the Head of Tourism activities on the island). After this bureaucratic operation was completed, we were granted to land in Tristan and soon afterwards we could start the boat operations, and so we all got ready to go ashore in this warm day, and even with relatively calm sea conditions. It feels really good to set foot after all the past days at sea, and even more if its here, on the remotest inhabited island in the world. During the last days, as Europa was approaching Tristan da Cunha, Dawn has been in contact with the ship trying to put together a good activity program for our visit. Receiving a ship involves a great change on the lives of the local community, and all depends on weather and local guides availability. They are practically self-sufficient and they work hard on the fields, with the cattle and fishing every day.

Dawn, Sarah and Jordi were waiting for us at the small pier where we disembarked and from there we headed towards the Tourist-Bar-Post Office. This place will be the Centre of Operations for all activities and plans ashore. We were introduced to the different activities and schedule for the day, and still got time to have a local delicacy at the café like their homemade cakes and the island’s famous Crayfish sandwiches, send some postcards or buy a souvenir. Some people decided just to wander around in the Settlement on their own town. Others took the organised guided tours to the 1961 Volcano, the Potato Patches and traditional Thatched House, St. Mary’s School, the fish factory or played Golf on the remotest golf court in the world. The latest ones just got to be careful not to swing their clubs and hit the ball onto any of the several cows grazing on the same field.

We started the organized tours with the couple of hours walk to the most recent volcanic eruption in the island. It started as the lava surfaced producing first earthquakes and landslides directly behind the settlement during August and September 1961, followed by the formation of a small volcanic cone. The decision was taken to evacuate the population, first to spend the night at their huts in the Potato Patches, then to Nightingale Island and from there to Cape Town. After a short period the Islanders decided to go onwards to Southampton, England. Where they were supposed to re-settle. But by the end of 1963 almost all he islanders, inhabitants of the world’s most isolated community, decided to return to their Settlement, rejecting the thriving society of England’s sixties. This interesting walk marked the beginning of our day in Tristan da Cunha. Besides joining the other activities, also we all had time enough to visit the souvenir shop, supermarket and have a beer on the Albatross Pub, known to be the most remote bar in the world… as everything on this amazing island.

We had a splendid day ashore, and many of the permanent crewmembers also enjoyed a while in town. Even the Captain and Rensje could be seen walking around allowing themselves a while of relaxation, enjoying the fair weather and walking on the grass, after long time at sea. By 16:15h, we started to walk downhill to the jetty of Tristan. Soon the zodiacs were called to embark the ship as the Tristan Harbour Master informed us that the port was closing at 17:00h. Boats came to pick us up on deteriorating weather, increasing winds and rising swell, bringing back some local visitors that came on board earlier, amazed by our beautiful sailing ship. We waved goodbye to the islanders, still leaving chances open for trying another landfall during the next couple of days. Going ashore in Tristan depends a lot on the swell conditions, and the forecast for tomorrow does not looks favourable, but maybe day after. With this idea in mind we plan to spend a night at anchor. Soon dinner was served while the sun was setting in a gorgeous evening, and the streetlights of the settlement Edinburgh of the Seven Seas were gradually turned on.

After our daily eight o’clockie meeting with the Captain and the Guides where they explain the possibilities for the next days and the weather forecast. Sara had prepared a full presentation of the pictures participating on the Europa’s Antarctica Photo Competition and the winners were also announced: On the category “Europa”, Robbie won. Colin made the “Wildlife” winning picture. The other winners were Wej, Malcom, Sharyn on the respective categories “People”, “Landscape” and “Free”. Voluntary anchor watches were set, but it wasn’t easy tonight as the wind continue to increase together with the swell, making the Europa drag and re-anchor. Today, besides enjoying the town and its amenities, quite a lot of Tristan’s wildlife could be seen. A few Yellow-nosed and Sooty albatross flying around over our heads while we walked around the coast line and the ever-present Antarctic Terns, those ones being a Tristan endemic subspecies.

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