Sunday, 26 February 2012

Deep Gulch

Looking up Deep Gulch towards the summit

Deep Gulch is one of the most remote and revered of gulches on Tristan.  There is no easy way to get to there and few people visit.  You can’t get from the bottom up (from sea level) so you have to approach it from above.  We’ve just returned from an expedition to the area involving the ascent of the 2,000m Peak followed by a 1,150m descent to our campsite.  A challenge – especially carrying food for 6 days, plus camping and survey equipment.  (Though we didn’t have to carry the tents and sleeping bags all the way; we’d previously left them at 1,900m.)

That's a blanket of moss on the ground (not snow!)
We set off early on a beautiful morning. A couple of hours later the clouds gathered and we were in mist and murk.  But near the summit we emerged into gloriously warm sunshine with deep blue skies, above the clouds.  Quite stunning. The only problem was that we then had to descend back into cloud, navigate to the right ridge and find a sheltered camp site. But not before encountering some lovely high-altitude springs.  They are like oases with water and vegetation amongst a desert of volcanic cinders.  Here moss dominates. There are patches of Empetrum rubrum (Island or Peak Berry) with few other higher plants.  Those that do occur such as Blechnum penna-marina, Lagenophora nudicaulis, Nertera depressa  and Agrostis magellanica are quite sparse. Interestingly all of them seemed to be flowering or fruiting.

Sunrise over the South Atlantic
Gamochaeta thouarsii,
Cow Pudding Grass
With five days of successful surveying complete we begin our return walk to the settlement.  Around the base this time, but keeping high to make gulch crossings easier. The route takes us through some amazing landscapes of volcanic rock eroded in bizarre shapes.  It is a long and tiring walk, especially with a detour to drop of tents and sleeping bags near our next major survey area – Big Gulch.  We survey as we walk, and that slows progress a little but makes it more interesting. The highlight on the return journey was another population of the little endemic rush, Rostkovia tristanensis – at a new altitudinal record of 1380m.

Late Christmas presents
We’ve had a week at base since then, waiting for the weather to settle before the next big adventure.  It’s been an exciting week as the MV Edinburgh arrived with some new people, fresh fruit and vegetables and lots of mail for me - well not just me!  Including two more Christmas presents from back home.  One of them via Vancouver and possibly New Zealand. Both full of lovely bits and pieces like chocolates, puzzle books, oatcakes, shortbread, fudge, a mini-calendar and a newspaper from November last year!   Many, many thanks to Dot and Den and Rob and Janet.  The last two editions of BSBI News and the New Journal of Botany also arrived this week – keeping me in reading material.  (Thank you Gwynn.)  Talking about mail, I gather the postcards I sent last October arrived this week!

The days are getting shorter and it is starting to feel like early autumn here now.  The fields have a good scattering of mushrooms. The Cape Gooseberry bushes are laden and the Peak berries are starting to blacken.  I’ve been collecting and busy in the kitchen making Peak Berry crumble, Cape Gooseberry jam and mushroom soup.

1 comment:

  1. Glad your presents and BSBI news have arrived at last!

    Tristan sounds an amazing island. I like the name, cow pudding grass, how did it acquire that name?
    Hope the jam is tasty!
    Best wishes