Overnight, we sailed towards Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, reaching the bay that marks the entrance to the unique settlement of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas at Tristan. We reached the proximity of the harbour at 03:35, time at which we dropped anchor with 4 shackles of chain. Early in the morning when our voyage crewmembers started to show on deck just after having their breakfasts, Tristan da Cunha received us with grey clouds and a strong swell.
Surrounded by a mysterious mist, we called the port authorities and by 08:00, Eric our captain and Jordi our expedition leader, went ashore to clear the ship with the port authorities. After this bureaucratic operation was completed, we were granted permission to land at 08:30. By 09:15 all the voyage crew were ashore at the so named Calshot Harbour, just usable by small boats and the local longboats. Soon everybody made their way to the Tourist Office/Café/Post Office and Souvenir Shop (all at the same location). There we were greeted by Dawn, the head of the tourist office at Tristan. She welcomed us officially and proceeded to mention the different activities planned for our visit that varied in their scope.
Many took the organized tours to the Potato Patches, the Lobster Factory, the St. Mary's School, or enjoyed a Golf Match at the remotest Gulf Course in the world, doing their swings avoiding the hens and chicken spread over the field. A few ones decided to walk on their own and some were seeing visiting the volcano of 1961, the area where the most recent volcanic eruption in the island happened. 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. Others chose just to wander around in the Settlement as the Tristanians call their own town with pride. Some of us stayed at the souvenir shop and later went to do some shopping at the only supermarket to proceed afterwards to have a beer at probably the remotest bar in the world, the Albatross Pub.
There was time enough to enjoy the steady ground after the rolling ship, the lush vegetation and to know some of the local inhabitants, although many of them were busy today harvesting on the Potato patches. Nowadays the island counts a total of eight family names and a fluctuating population of around 300 people. But it wasn’t always like this. The remarkable history of human colonization of the island started on 1810, with the first settlers, William Glass and his wife Maria Magdalena Leenders, raising a family in 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 St. Helena. Their dreams came reality in 1827 and the community began to increase to the eight family names and around 270 inhabitants present on Tristan da Cunha nowadays.
One of the new faces face in Tristan is Leo Duval, a French engineer who keeps running the Monitoring Station. He has been here already since last September, and will still be around for another year, with a couple of periods in between when he takes some time off. He is in charge of keeping a watchful eye over the instruments at the base. This facility is a geophysics monitoring station form the International Atomic Energy Agency. This station is part of a large worldwide network of stations that keep a constant eye to enforce the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). This is a multilateral treaty by which states agree to ban all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996 but it has not entered into force due to the non-ratification of eight specific states.
We were lucky enough with the weather to permit almost a full day visit to the island, our voyage crew enjoyed a splendid day ashore undertaking different activities offered. By 16:00h most of them could be found at the bar relaxing with a beer in hand. However other two groups still were visiting the lobster factory or waiting for a visit to the monitoring station that Leo promised. Captain Eric was by chance amongst the visitors to the station. By 16:45 the harbourmaster started to be concerned about the changing swell and weather, and he recommended us to leave the island. Therefore, after the visits to the lobster factory and the monitoring station we proceeded immediately to the jetty where Jordi was already preparing the zodiacs. One by one our voyage crew started the downhill walk to Calshot Harbour. Annukka and Eduardo were in the back keeping an eye on forgotten items and checking that everybody was aware of our imminent departure.
Sadly we waved goodbye to the islanders shortly after 17:40. The zodiac with the last voyage crewmembers and our guides reached the Europa by 18:00. A shy Sun shone very low in the horizon at sunset just when dinner was announced. After finishing our evening meal, followed by the daily briefing with the captain and guides, we had our South Georgia Auction. The auction is made to raise money for the South Georgia Heritage Trust. The auctioneer was our bosun Matt Morris and his assistants were Annukka and Eduardo. The funding that comes from this auction helps to preserve the museum and the visitor centre as well to keep going with the local Habitat Restoration Projects, monitoring of the rat eradication campaign final stages, nowadays being the most important ongoing work. The grand total of the auction was a good amount of US$ 1375.00.