Sunday April 19, 2015
Gough (S.Atlantic Ocean)
It comes unexpectedly. Suddenly you become sweaty in bed and awaken, and go out seeking air, dressed as you were the last few months; you discover that the temperature has risen from 2 to 14 degrees Celsius.
The north wind brings tropical air to us. They are not hot flashes: just a change of wind from south to north. A few days later, it appears that the temperature of the water is also increased to 14 degrees. We leave Antarctica and our bilge can no longer serve as a fridge!
Tristan da Cunha? .. Gough!
We are now at 40º south, and with the persistent north wind, it would take a long time to sail to Tristan da Cunha; too long, if the wind turns to the east for more than a few days, as the weather indicates…! We would like a break after 10 days at sea. An alternative to Tristan da Cunha for us is the island of Gough, an island a bit more south. After reading about it in the Pilot, Piet our birder, gets red from excitement. An ancient volcano in Gough is inhabited only by a particular kind of fur seal and by millions of seabirds unique to this island !!!
Rare place …
At the edge of the island, there appears also to be a weather station. A desperate employee there asks if we would bring a postal parcel from him to Cape Town. They are “locked up” for months.
Man is thrown into paradise and as a good steward might manage the earth well. … Yet, we have misinterpreted this role… For example, tropical islands have been practically turned into repositories for excessive number of retirees. And because of hunting pressure in natural environments, almost all wild animals become active only at night In our urban environment. To experience the remnants of paradise, you need to travel to where man cannot live.
Gough is one such place. A volcano, consisting of rugged cliffs and jagged mountains surrounded by an ocean with wind over 45 knots 300 days per year.
We therefore bounce with three reefs in the sail and storm jib on the island and go off at dawn looking for an underwater platter with 30m of water above them. This plateau is situated on the east side, in the lee of the island. After 100 meters anchor chain with it have dropped, we keep looking. Watching the altitude, the green, the black cones, remains of locks that have squeezed through the rock. Large waterfalls plunge from the height. Large caves at sea level provide a glimpse into the interior.
We hear the cries of hundreds of fur seals that guard the rocks at the foot of the cliffs. Wandering albatrosses fly laps around the ship, inspecting us, whether we are worthy to be allowed to anchor here.
After we drop the dinghy in the water, we seek an opportunity to go ashore. The only feasable climbing place is dotted with fur seals and there is a heavy swell breaking against the rocks, so we decide these seals will defend their territory, not test ours. Thus, we continue sailing along the cliffs and watching, photographing.
Than we will pull the anchor and look for the weather station. Piet had radio contact with them, and the men said that it would be possible to “hand-over” us the parcel. Well we can visits them maybe also … we think.
The station appears to be on the southern coast of a plateau near a rocky slope hundreds of meters high. The plateau is like a shelf near steep and inaccessible cliffs of 110 meters above the sea level. And there are heavy seas crashing against the rock walls.
Surprised, I look and think: there will be no postman!
After another contact between Piet and men, we are told that they have a large crane and the water at the base of the cliffs is very deep. They want to let someone down and that gives the parcel then …
Okay, to Karine instructed to keep my ship free of the cliffs, and we let the dinghy into the water. Piet and I sail to the cliffs. The swell is high here, just not lee shore, and I’m just about to call off the action, as loftily a cage comes down on a cable with a man in its swimsuit, brandishing a frequency welded letter …
He drops to just above the surface and now the art to us to get close to him ..! It seems quite a challenge to get to grips with three meter high waves something that once swings back and forth in the wind! Especially if the swell takes the boat also everytime …
But ultimately Piet managed to get the important parcel of mail in his hands.
I go back with sweat between my buttocks toward Anne-Margaretha.
My good deeds are there for the next few years again I think, if we sail back to the anchor spot on the sheltered side of the island.
Here we go again anchoring and enjoying a good meal, talking elatededly about our adventures, taking another look at the rocks that now have to compete with a star-studded sky.
We feel rich.