I just realised that this post never updated properly and I am so sorry for such an outdated account of Ascension Island!
(read in hindsight as this was unable to publish at time of writing).
It’s our last day on Ascension Island. It is a particularly peculiar place. The airstrip (supposedly longest in the world and emergency landing strip for the space shuttle) has cracked and so there are no commercial planes landing bar one small plane once a month to and from St Helena. Our convoy of befriended yachts from St Helena Island arrived here together and we make up the sum total of visitors. They included: Jackster with Jackie and David; Inspiration Lady with Jackie and Gary; Gaïa with Gaelle and Phillipe; and us. The rest of the inhabitants are Saints and military staff from the US or Britain – all working on Ascension. One cannot own property on the island and so it is a bit of a half-way stop.
It’s been just a week and the island is just starting to grow on us. We’ve visited both the US Airforce Base as well as the UK’s. Both are extremely quiet but have bars, some junk food and the UK base even has a cinema.
With limited time to write, I will highlight three particularly special events and hopefully have a chance to add some meat once we reach Brazil and better WiFi.
Event #1: Oloff, Muir and myself were invited on a dive with the local BSAC diving club. They lent us all their personal gear and guided us around “Devon”, next to English Bay. The Devon was a guano shipment vessel which was apparently abandoned. I guess bird guano wasn’t as lucrative as anticipated.
The dive was fabulous – an easy, shallow shore dive with many fish, eels and a few swim-through tunnels. We especially appreciated the dive because we were warned not to swim or snorkel on the island. Mixed information was received on whether it was a serious restriction or rather friendly advice. The Galapagos sharks apparently grew in numbers last year and had attacked bathers. They became so aggressive that they were snapping at small boats in the harbour and attacked in multiples. Very strange behaviour. They had gone though but the islanders remained vigilant and their insurance only covered diving.
Event #2: Our Mauritian friends on yacht Gaïa kindly took us up Green Mountain with their rental car. It is by far one of the most interesting hikes we’ve done. The mountain seems completely out of place – a protrusion of green on an otherwise dry, rocky vulcanic island. It too has tunnels through which you walk to make your way around its peak.
Event #3: After the Green Mountain hike, the Ongemak crew all gathered our last bits of adventurous spirit to go camp out on Long Beach and watch the Green Turtles prepare and lay their nests. Side note: Muir and I went on a date the previous night and watched a turtle dig her nest, lay her eggs and close it up – we fell asleep next to her on the sand.
Back to our camp out. We made beds on the conservation hut’s floor and got the fire started to braai our freshly caught and gifted tuna. Before dinner was ready, Isolde spotted some movement in a nest. There were about four little turtles with only their necks and some flippers sticking out above the sand with very little movement. Muir tickled one’s flipper and suddenly the nest erupted with tens of little turtles popping out of the sand like wind-up toys. Their instinct sets four flippers in constant motion while their other senses search for the ocean. Adorable. Their internal GPS systems are unbelievable yet understandable considering that they inherited it from their mommies who swam all the way from Brazil to a very specific beach in order to hatch them.
Sadly, as these little critters try to make their way to the sea, they are swept up by hungry birds. Our natural instinct was to try save as many as we could from their grips. At first we accompanied them to the sea then started to pick them up, flippers still flapping, and place them in the water but even then they weren’t safe.
These creatures are miracles of nature and reminds us there is validity in connecting with nature and natural instincts. It was such an amazing experience that I’m sad to say I don’t have a picture right now. The only one we could photograph was one little turtle that somehow lost his direction before we picked him up far from the beach on a road to the pier head. He was so dusty and dirty that we dubbed him “Stoffel” and set him free in the water.
We’ve just done our shopping for the upcoming crossing at the Chandlery – a wonderful grocery store. We planned to stop at Fernando de Naronha islands but after consulting with our sailing companions, our better judgement is diverting the route straight to Cabedelo, Brazil. When you next hear from us, it will be after a 10 day ocean crossing.
Adios for now and thanks for reading!