Saving Sea Turtles and Hiking Green Mountain: Class Afloat Discovers Ascension Island - Day #1

Posted on 27 March 2017 @ 12:20pm

The tropical blue waves washed on to the white sand beach under the looming red volcano.

It was a clear blue morning, and the trade wind blew ocean spray in from the southeast cooling us down from the scorching sun.

 Waves crashing on Long Beach, Ascension

Waves crashing on “The Long Beach”

We were eager to get ashore since we had been on the tallship Gulden Leeuw for 7 days since we departed the mid-Atlantic island of St. Helena and arrived at another, even more remote island, Ascension Island.

 Gulden Leeuw, Ascension Island

The Gulden Leeuw anchor safely offshore

We all waited patiently in the lineup of excited trainees and climbed onto the tender with bags packed and ready for a day ashore.

 Black Betty, Ascension Island

Black Betty ferries everyone ashore

Each in turn, we leapt from the bouncing black inflatable tender, lovingly called “Black Betty” onto the concrete pier and recognized the green polo shirts of the conservation officers that we were helping to clean up the beach.

 Conservation crew, Ascension Island

Charlie, Hayden, Asta and Harry pose with a pickup truck full of invasive plants and plastic from the turtle nesting beach.

An army of red CREW t-shirts scoured the beautiful beach, picking up trash and weeding thorny plants as we carefully sidestepped the freshly dug turtle nests.

Leah, Long Beach, Ascension Island

Leah hunts for the invasive plants whose roots create soils on the sandy beach and make them unsuitable for nest digging turtles.

Layli, Long Beach, Ascension Island

Layli shows off her work gloves, a necessity for pulling thorny weeds.

Svea and Elizabeth, Long Beach, Ascension Island

Svea and Elizabeth scour the beach for man-made pollution like plastic, wire and broken glass.

Klaus, Long Beach, Ascension Island

Klaus is all business pulling up weeds like a boss.

Ben, Long Beach, Ascension Island

Ben brings an armload of vegetation to the pickup truck for disposal.

Kerrin and Ben, Ascension Island

Kerrin and Ben show off the morning’s beach cleanup haul!

Group Shot, Ascension Island

Many hands make light work, and save turtle nesting beaches!

A single tiny turtle nestling emerged from the sand and we hid it in the safety of a backpack to be released under the cover of darkness. We had seen our efforts were working, as at least one more turtle had a chance of survival!

 Marine Biology on Ascension Island

Marine Biology teacher Asta Mail is in heaven with an early emerging turtle hatchling.

Sammy, Class Afloat student, Ascension Island

Sammy is happy she could help this little fella!

After a hot mornings work we hydrated and then had time to go to the bank, hotel and shop because that was the only time that they were open that weekend (and even on Monday!). That’s island life for you!

The students met at the pier head and another group of conservation officers came to meet us in a fleet of 6 Land Rovers.

 John and Antoine, Ascension Island

John and Antoine are all smiles in their sweet ride!

We piled in, watch by watch, and drove up the steep and twisty road to the peak of Green Mountain.

Green Mountain, Ascension Island

Up and up...

Green Mountain, Ascension Island

...and up we go, through many types of vegetation as we gain altitude in the cloud forest!

Each group had their own naturalist guide and the hike was fantastic. It followed the old military observation trail, which was literally carved into the mountain slopes. As a result it was flat and easy to walk along, with tunnels and breathtaking views when the clouds parted.

MO, Class Afloat student, Ascension Island

It’s official: our MO Chris is a tree hugger!

Since Green Mountain creates it’s own clouds, the hike was much cooler and the vegetation, imported from all over the globe, was incredible. Ginger, Eucalyptus, Screw Pines, Orchid, and prickly pear were towering over the endemic mosses, grasses and ferns.

Endemic plants, Green Mountain, Ascension Island

Endemic plants hide among the roots!

Unique Eco-System, Green Mountain, Ascension Island

A weird and unique ecosystem exists at the top of Green Mountain.

Class Afloat students relaxing on Ascension Island

Students chilling out after a long hike!

Everyone had a great time and we were all glad we had done this activity as a group.

 Back into the tender!

Back in to the tender at days end.

For our first day on Ascension Island, we sure packed in a lot of activities, we were all smiles and greeted by dolphins on the way back to the ship. 

- Written by Shipboard Director, Drew

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