Swell, churches, volcanos and golf

Wednesday was a busy day; the swell was low enough to get into the tiny harbour at Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, the (only) settlement on Tristan de Cunha.

The island has only been settled for 200 years but it’s been eventful. Lots of shipwrecks have brought people in, and a few have stayed. A dreadful disaster trying to save one ship meant every adult man save four were lost in one night. A volcanic eruption next to the village caused a wholesale evacuation in 1961. Time and again the people of Tristan have been determined to stay and keep their unique, isolated way of life going.

Today the 250-strong population is less isolated: Since the 1960’s they’ve run thriving businesses in stamps and crayfish, and ships like ours come by sometimes. A mail ship comes about once a month and they have (very slow) internet. But when the sea and the wind decree, Tristan returns to its solitude.

We were lucky to get ashore yesterday. I climbed the 1961 volcano cone, visited the tiny museum, wandered through the settlement and took pictures, not least of the two churches. Some of the voyage crew played golf on the remotest course in the world and are very proud of their personalised hats.

This morning Tristan de Cunha has shown us its teeth and temper. It’s blowing about 25 knots but the real problem is the swell. it’s come up to about 5 metres and the port is closed. There is no way to go ashore. Our anchor has been dragging in the night, and so this morning the decision is made. We are on our way across the swell, wind at our back, heading for Cape Town 1500 miles away.


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