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‘The Remotest Island,’ the Warmest Welcome!

In collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protections of Birds (RSPB) and the Tristan da Cunha government, National Geographic Pristine Seas is conducting an expedition to Tristan da Cunha and its surrounding islands. During the expedition, our team will conduct comprehensive surveys of the health of its largely unknown marine environment, and produce a documentary film to highlight this unique ecosystem and the people that steward it. Learn more about the expedition.

By Paul Rose, Expedition Leader

Our arrival here at Tristan da Cunha could not have been better. From 60 miles away we could see the summit of the island soaring above the clouds. Only a few miles later we were enveloped in a fog so dense that we couldn’t see from one end of our ship to the other. Guided by our radar we sailed slowly for two hours and then—at just two miles away—the island made a glorious, dramatic appearance.

Tristan da Cunha comes into a closer view, its summit hidden in the clouds. Photo by Dan Myers
Tristan da Cunha comes into a closer view, its summit hidden in the clouds. Photo by Dan Myers

We feel as if we are part of the Tristan family: The expedition team and the Tristan Islanders became a single close family on our passage here, and as we helped unload their cargo from the storage hold and load it onto the barge their excitement at being home was tinged with a little sadness from us, as we love these people and we missed them aboard immediately.

After a seven-day journey with these new friends, the expedition team unloads the Tristan islanders' cargo onto the barge. Photo by Dan Myers
After a seven-day journey with these new friends, the expedition team unloads the Tristan islanders’ cargo onto the barge. Photo by Dan Myers

It was an emotional arrival for me today! I was ten years old when Tristan da Cunha erupted and I clearly remember those dramatic black and white BBC images of the islanders being evacuated as ash fell and lava hit the sea in a cloud of steam. My only thought when I realised that people actually lived on the tip of a remote active volcano deep in the vast South Atlantic was, “I must get there.”

Those images helped make me an explorer—and even though I have traveled the world, I did wonder if I ever would make it to Tristan da Cunha.

With half the team already running to begin preparation for fieldwork and filming, a handful of us gather by the welcome sign for a proper arrival photo. Photo by Katie Davis
With half the team already running to begin preparation for fieldwork and filming, a handful of us gather by the welcome sign for a proper arrival photo. Photo by Katie Davis

We are not short of ambition: We have twenty days to complete our comprehensive near-shore marine surveys, our deep and shallow water remote camera surveys, the botanical work, the bird studies, seal studies, hydro-acoustic recording, shark tagging, underwater filming, topside filming and sea-mount surveys on all four islands in the Tristan da Cunha group. It’s very ambitious indeed and we are buzzing with the sense of challenge in this most beautiful and powerful setting.

 

University of Western Australia Marine Scientist Chris Thompson begins the first stereo camera deployments. Photo by Dan Myers
University of Western Australia Marine Scientist Chris Thompson begins the first stereo camera deployments. Photo by Dan Myers

You can also follow the expedition on our Instagram, and check out Tristan da Cunha and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for more coverage of the expedition.