Swell kept us rolling overnight while anchored a short distance from Calshot harbour, the little port of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas at Tristan da Cunha. But the conditions were just good enough to try a landfalll after breakfast. Although the swell and the breakers made for an adventurous embarkation and zodiac ride, we managed to get ashore and soon start with the different activities planned in the settlement and visits to the several local venues. Soon we all realise that Tristan is a special place for its ecology, politics and ethnography.
It was discovered and named in 1506 by the Portuguese Admiral Tristao da Cunha as he sailed past en route to Cape of Good Hope, but it took until the early 18-hundreds for the first attempt to settling down here. First as a trading station with the numerous whaling ships that sailed around the island, then as a British Military post as a measure against any French attempt to rescue Napoleon, imprisoned at St. Helena Island. The story goes on over the years with people establishing here after shipwrecks and marooned crews. Nowadays has a permanent population of about 250 people.
The views as we walk around reveal the impressive northern shores of the island guarded by large steep cliffs all around. The daily schedule started with a match at the remotest golf court in the world. Care must be taken with the chicken running freely around the field and also not to loose too many balls. In the meantime tours took off to the black lavas of the most recent eruption in the island, the well known 1961 volcano.
In the summer of this year, the lava flowing of a new volcanic cone just North of the village made for evacuate all the locals to the neighbour Nightingale Island. From there, they boarded the Dutch ship Tsjisadane to evacuate the population to Cape Town.
The British Government brought them afterwards to England, where they settled at the so called Calshot Camp. They waited for two years until a geological survey declared Tristan safe once more. Most of the decided to come back, not able to adapt to the crazy english 60’s and all the new world’s developments. On their return they found out that surprisingly the lava had stopped about 100 metres from the settlement, and just one of the houses was affected.
Coffee shop, souvenirs, pub, even internet connection and the taste of some of the local delicacies made for the time before the afternoon activity started. A walk in the Southwesterly direction to the famous “Potato Patches”, were the local families share the fertile land to grow their vegetables; a 3km dirt road extends from them to the settlement through the green meadows. Wet and rainy at the beginning, but clearer and dryer as we walk on.
But a radio call from the harbour master informed us that the swell was growing and was time for us to make our way towards the port to embark the zodiacs and board the ship. Out at sea, just about half mile offshore, the Europa keeps rolling and pitching, holding on to her anchor.
Taxis were sent to collect the ones who were still far away. The rest could hear the loud ship’s horn calling everybody. Once at the port, it was clear that the sea state grew during the day, now higher swell breaking at the entrance of the little port made for a more daring ride and embarkation. But timing the speed of the boats between the crashing waves, soon we all made it back safely. All of us including two new on-signers to the voyage crew, social workers that have been in Tristan for about 6 months, now taking a ride in the Europa to Cape Town.
Early as it was, and still with a couple of hours before dinner was called, many took the chance for a swim. In the meantime fishing gear was being readied and soon a Barracuda, a Five fingers and a Yellow fin tuna joined our galley provisions.
Darkening skies brought more rain in the evening, as a closure for a fun and great day at the remotest inhabited island in the world. Maybe tomorrow we will be able to set foot ashore again.