Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Goodbye Tristan

Ok the sun is shining and ship is finally being unloaded, after a few days of poor weather. Passengers are due to board at 4pm this afternoon.  The weather forecast doesn't look bad for the week ahead so I think we should arrive in Cape Town on schedule, in 6 days time.

While I'm really looking forward to seeing Simon (and Sandy & Ali) in Cape Town and everyone back home, after nine months here it is sad to be leaving too.  The people are extraordinarily kind and generous and I've made a lot of friends here.  Most of whom I'll never see again, I guess. I know one or two follow the blog, so I'd like to take the opportunity to thank them for welcoming me into their very special community.

It has been the most amazing experience of my lifetime. I called the blog Further than the furthest (thing) after the screen play of the same name, about the evacuation of the island in 1961 due to a volcanic eruption.  But the work has been harder than the hardest thing, because of the remoteness and isolation - not to mention the landscape, weather, vegetation and the plants themselves!

Interestingly I visited the summit of the 1961 volcano yesterday afternoon to investigate a reported rare plant the endemic fern (Asplenium insulare).  I eventually found it deep in crevices and fissures in dark recesses, between 0.5 and 3m below ground level. Surprisingly there was a lot of warm suphurous air coming up from between the cracks. I guess 50 years since the last eruption is just a blink in geolgical time. Or maybe this is a good time to be leaving...

I'll update the blog next from Cape Town.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Leaving Tristan - this time?

This might be my last blog from Tristan. The Edinburgh - the ship that I'm leaving on has just arrived. But as soon as it has unloaded passsengers, cargo and diesel for the island's electricity generators - and that can take anything between half a day and a week depending on weather and sea conditions - we'll be off!  And I still have some (re-)packing to do!

I'm leaving the island under a pall. There was a terrible tragedy at the weekend. One of the young island men was swept out to sea and lost his life. He leaves a one year son and fiance who had a joint birthday party the night before the accident, and as usual the entire island (or so it seemed) was there.  You can read more on the Tristan website www.tristandc.com

As a result most of our Diamond Jubilee celebrations were cancelled or postponed - except for the bonfire. You might have heard the chief Islander, Ian Laverello, on Radio 4 News at One the other day talking about it. Apparently we were the last Commonwealth country to light up before the queen lit the touch paper outside Buckingham Palace. We're 12 degrees west of the UK (about 1 hour) and they went from east to west around the globe. Our bonfire was made out of non-native invasive trees, which had recently been cleared from around the Settlement.

Bogfern or Blechnum palmiforme - one of the most important species on Tristan.
I had a great day out on Monday - a walk to The Ponds.  Where we surveyed the 100th 1km square - which sounds much better than 99!   Still leaves 21 - but many of those are coastal and mostly sea, or on the Peak and mostly scree. It is a pity we didn't quite finish but we do have a very good sample. On with the data analysis and report writing now...

Trigger showing us the road home.
There is only one butterfly species commonly seen on Tristan. I've been trying to photograph it all season, and have at last succeeded - probably due to the cooler weather making them less active.  Its the Southern Painted Lady, which as far as I can remember what the Painted Ladies look like back home in Europe is pretty similar!

I'll keep you posted on exactly when I leave, but if the call for passengers comes suddenly, there might not be enough time to give you an update. In which case my next blog will be from Cape Town in a week or so.

Bye Bye Tristan...