During this voyage from South Africa to the Azores, we will be sailing from Cape Town to St Helena, Ascension Island, cross the equator onwards towards the renowned harbor of Horta. This ocean voyage is perfect for the ones who really want to learn more about life on board a square rigger. During this trip there will be plenty of time to learn from our crew and your fellow trainees. We will not only focus on sail training during this voyage but also on scientific research on the oceans. We will learn more on how they are collecting data for research on weather observations and on global warming. Taking into account the maintenance that is going on on board this voyage combines enough time to relax with a good opportunity to gain some new knowledge.
Bark Europa crosses the oceans following the traditional sailing routes, which are often a long way from the routes of commercial trade. This makes our sailing voyages exceptionally interesting for scientific research. During our sail around the world in 2013 we had special equipment on board taking measurements of air and water which are being used for international research on climate change and meteorology. Last year we deployed several floaters and drifters along the route from Cape Town to Horta, activities that we will pursue in the coming years. In 2016 we had two scientists on board who investigated their own research goals and gave lectures on their field of experience. Last year we had three researchers on board from Wageningen University and Bangor University (UK) who focused on plastic research and marine biology.
Our voyage will start from Capetown before we head north to St Helena, Ascension Island and the Azores. Capetown is the capital city of the south-west region called Western Cape province. Located on the shore of the Table Mountain, you have a wonderful view over the city once you climb up the mountain. From Lion’s Head, you can watch over Robben island, which was the island where Nelson Mandela has been imprisoned for over nineteen years.
From the 16th century onwards the Cape was an important place for Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, English and French navigators to trade their goods in exchange for food supplies. In 1652 the Dutch established a way-station and Fort the Good Hope and the settlement grew slowly every year. With the Dutch East Indian Company being bankrupt the Brits captured the colony in 1814. It was only after 1910 that the colonies regained their independence as the Union of South Africa.
Although tiny in size, St. Helena played an important role in world’s history. It has been of vital strategic importance to ships sailing to Europe from the Far East. The island Saint Helena was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Joao da Nova, on his voyage from India in 1502. He named the discovered island St. Helena after the mother of the Emperor Constantine the Great, Helena. The island was strategically important during the British Empire, until the opening of the Suez Canal and the advent of steamships.
In 1633, the Dutch formally claimed the Island but abandoned it again in 1651, in favor of their other colony at Cape the Good Hope. The English East Indian Company (EIC) was given a Royal Charter to fortify and colonize the island in 1659.
In the following years, more settlers and slaves arrived at the island, but when slaves started to outnumber the civilian population, it was ordered that no more slaves could be brought to the island. A request was sent to China to ask for laborers, who came to the island from 1810 until 1834. A racial melting pot was created on St. Helena.
Another well-known role of the remote island was as a place of exile, most notably for Napoleon Bonaparte. He was brought to the island in October 1815 and died there in May 1821. His body returned to France in 1840.
In 1834 St. Helena became a British Crown colony. The EIC withdrew and their privileges disappeared. It was followed by emigration and poverty. In the 19th century the island also played a largely unrecognized role during the abolition of slavery. Thousands of captives were set free and a huge influx of liberated African slaves sought refuge on the island.
About 700 nautical miles from St. Helena, Ascension Island was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Joao da Nova Castella in 1501 and found again in 1503 by Alphonse d’Albuquerque on Ascension Day. The island remained inhabited until Napoleon Bonaparte was incarcerated on St. Helena in 1815, when British marines were stationed on Ascension.
In 1823 the island remained under supervision by the Royal Marines and in 1922 it became a dependency of St. Helena. From 1922 until 2002 the island was managed by the Eastern Telegraph Company, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and various other entities. During the Second World War the Ascension Island was used as an airstrip for British and American airplanes. Other important presences have been the U.S. NASA, U.S. Air Force, Royal Air Force (RAF) and the European Space Agency.
The sandy beaches are critical nesting sites for the famous green turtles, which come ashore to lay eggs between January and April. The peak of the hatching season of green turtles will be during our visit to Ascension island, so make yourself ready for a night walk on the beach looking for green turtles!
The nine Portuguese islands, dominated by a volcanic mountain range, offer a rare and unspoiled natural beauty. There are meadows filled with the scent of wild herbs and vivid, colourful flowers line the roads. It is quite the perfect setting to relax. The Azores are also a perfect place to watch whales and different species of dolphins.
Horta is the capital city of the Island Faial, also called Ilha Azul (blue island). The blooming Hydrangea are found everywhere on the island, creating a blue see of flowers in June and July. Horta has a popular marina for sailing vessels that are on a transatlantic voyage. Horta's renowned marina amongst sailors has become an open-air gallery of colourful painted murals by sailing crew before departing on their next voyage.