This port had a very special feeling about it from the day we first saw land.
It was about 10am on January 28th, we were all bustling through the mess in between classes when someone ran in exclaiming they could see land on the horizon. We all rushed out to see what turned out to be Nightingale, one of the outer islands. From there on it only got better: we saw Tristan da Cunha; the weather was perfect for landing; we anchored with no issues and we even had snow day with no classes.
This is an Antarctic Turn, the first of the animals to come out and inspect our ship. They were particularly interested in the fish we were fileting on the aft deck.
The day we were destined to land, the perfect storm seemed to hit. The tender the islanders planned to ferry us in with broke down; the captain told us we had to assemble Black Betty (our ship’s tender), and if that didn’t work out we wouldn’t be able to make it ashore. But alas, we all pulled together and the first run was off to the island by 1030. Climbing into the tender, ripping off to land, and feeling the firm concrete below my feet was almost alien, in a good way, after 2 weeks at sea.
As we stepped onto the quay, the island’s tourism coordinator greeted us, and escorted us up the hill to the tourism center, which is in the same building as the café, gift shop and post office. We passed the supermarket, electrical and plumbing store, and a small gift shop. The immense sense of community was apparent from the beginning; everyone seemed to help everyone - whether it was sharing their water or helping to take a fishing boat out, everyone helped.
We couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to take a family photo in front of the “World’s Remotest Island” sign. We look relaxed but we were all very eager to explore the wonders of this island.
And then there was the shear beauty of the imposing cliff side hanging over our heads, the brilliantly green grass and the sign that read “World’s Remotest Island”. The landscape was mesmerizing; it looked like a combination of the rolling Scottish hillside and the rugged mountains of Iceland. The interesting geography never ended, from the 1961 volcano on the east side of the settlement to the potato patches on the far west.
A view of our floating home as seen from the island. The weather conditions and swell pattern were perfect for us to land; we even go to spend 3 night at anchor which was a well-earned break.
My day started off with a trip to the small supermarket, where we were all dying to stock up on snacks, but had to refrain as every item we bought was an item the islanders would not be able to buy. After that it was off to one of the island’s small gift shops where we all splurged on garments that were plastered with the name of the island. The next item on the agenda was the post office, as we wanted to send letters to our families knowing well that they wouldn’t even arrive for 2-4 months.
At 1400 our tour of the potato patches started; we all gathered at the tourism center and then began our trek to the outskirts. After 5 minutes of walking it seemed like we had fallen off the edge of society, the only sign of civilization was the road we walked along. The cloudy peaked cliffs rose sharply out of the ground on one side, and the rolling hills fell into the ocean on the other; it was like nothing any of us had ever seen.
This tractor was the last sign of human life before we reached the patches. After this, we had 15 minutes of silent, uncivilized nature; a stark change from the every noisy and constant motion of the ship.
The patches were quite different than you would expect: they consisted of a series of small huts and fields surrounded by chicken wire fences to keep the livestock out. Over the growing season they cultivate plums, pears, carrots, apples, and potatoes, lots of potatoes. Our guide pulled up one of the red smoothskin potatoes for us to take a look at, and they were small, but felt substantial and filling. They work as a community to grow the food, and everyone has to do their part, whether that is planting, maintaining or harvesting, and you can’t skip your turn or the island will run low on food.
On the way back to the settlement we caught a glimpse of our floating home anchored out in the bay, and knew our day was coming to an end. We gathered in the café to have one last Coke or piece of coffee cake before thanking the islanders and being on our way. As we walked down towards the water we all reflected on where we had been, and how few people had been there before.
A full load of trainees heading back towards the ship after a long tiring day of exploring on the beautiful island.
We all lined up on the quayside, went through a sound off to ensure everyone was present, and boarded the tenders home. I don’t think where we had been really sunk in until we exited the safe waters of the seawall, and began to bounce up and down in the waves. We had just been on the world’s remotest island, and now we’re off to Cape Town - what a life.
- Written by Grade 11 Student, Sam