The morning of the 28th, we reported to the bridge deck for the 4 to 6 am watch, just in time to see the sunrise behind the mountains of Tristan da Cunha.
We dropped anchor the night before in complete darkness so it was our first peak of the world’s most remote inhabited island. To our great surprise, we found heavily sleep-deprived boys at the aft table who had been fishing all night, catching quite a bit of yellowtail and five finger fish. This day was to be a well-deserved snow day at anchor and most slept in until 10 then spent the day reading, catching up on homework and assignments or simply catching up on some more sleep. Quite a few students, not knowing what to do with all this free time, went for an excursion aloft to get a better overall look of the island 120m away.
As we later learned in the port presentation, Tristan gets rain showers 250 days a year, which would explain how bright and green their pastures are. The Settlement, the main part of the village, is restricted to a small corner of the volcanic island while the rest is steep mountain cliffs or a small volcano on which no vegetation has grown since its eruption in 1961. All in all, this snow day was a well-deserved rest and got us all fired up and ready for our next day on Tristan da Cunha.
Tristan from aloft
Sleep-deprived members of the fishing club having a blast
In order to maximize our time on the island, everyone woke up a tad early the next morning, quickly grabbed some breakfast and a bagged lunch and slipped into our bright red Class Afloat attire. Although there was a brief delay due to problems with our dear tender Black Betty, we eventually cruised into the small fishing port. Weather wise, we hit the jackpot. It was a rare clear sky and the sun made most students quickly take off a couple layers. Ecstatic, students jumped onto the dock, adapting to standing on still land after a 15 day passage in rocky seas. A few of us ran up the hill leading to the village and were shocked at how quiet the place was. We met Kelly, one of the two non-native Tristanians living on the island. She told us about how she met her husband while he was visiting the UK, where she is from. She fell in love and here she is. The population of 250 all descend from 7 different original families and have all kept those original names.
Quite the impressive family tree was hung up on the wall of the building we first visited, which served as a post-office, visitors' centre, government building and town cafe. The locals seemed impressed to see so many unfamiliar faces walk into their businesses and purchase a variety of souvenirs, the most popular one being a wool penguin touque.
A view from the top of the hill of the Settlement and in the distance, the Gulden Leeuw
Exploring the cliffs of the island
From there on we all branched off in various groups: some heading for the volcano, some for the hill, some for the beach and others were satisfied with exploring the village and speaking to locals. My group headed east, mesmerized by the green pastures and hills we saw in the distance. We made our way through the village, not exactly knowing where we were heading but curious to try and get a sense of the daily lives of the villagers. We passed the small hospital, swung by the supermarket and within 5 minutes we were at the limits of the village. We kept walking and crossed paths with smiling locals every so often.
On our right, not far away were impressive eroding cliffs, leading to rocky beaches beaten by the crashing cold southern Atlantic waves. On our left, the ridge of the 1200 foot mountains were hidden behind a light layer of clouds. We past multiple pastures in which cows roamed freely, occasionally sharing space with a group of chickens. It was beautiful and incredibly peaceful as there was a surprisingly low amount of wind. We spotted a hill in the distance and decided the view from the top would be worth a hike; and it sure was. Once up there, we admired the scenery of the village afar and a peak of the other populated part of the island, the pastures. It was nice to sit up there, panting from our run and reflecting on how lucky we were.
Around 2pm, the whole Class Afloat crew reunited and headed down to the potato patches, led by locals. The discussions ranged from ''how did the first habitants get here?'' to ''do you guys ever run out of food?''. It was eye-opening and fascinating. With an hour left on the island and the sunburns starting to show, some brave athletes sprinted up the volcano but most headed back to town. It was impossible to leave the island stressed, the rhythm of life there is clearly healthier; people take the time to enjoy the simplicities of life.
Last minute explorations
The quaint little houses all had beautifully maintained gardens
We eventually said our last goodbyes to Tristan and zoomed off on the tender back to the ship. There was some successful last-minute fishing, and a lot of laughing and talking about the adventures of the day. To our great surprise, a fishing boat pulled up to the ship and unloaded 5 impressive yellowtail fish and two crates of crayfish. Dan, who had quite a bit of experience arranging the seafood, trained a load of students on how to filet the fish and prep the crayfish for the galley. It's safe to say everyone slept very well that night, dreaming of the island most people will never have the chance to visit.
Last minute fishing at anchor
The crates of crayfish and the yellow-tail fish were a wonderful surprise
- Written by Grade 12 student Adele