Monday, March 7, 2016

Fwd: Ascension

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Subject: Ascension
Date: 06 Mar 2016 18:39:23 -0000
From: WCW8438


There is something wondrous about seeing an island appear after sailing for days, nights and nautical miles over liquid blue. You scan the horizon for signs of anything but nothing is to be seen but blue ocean and white caps and then- an island! Nothing was there...and then something appears, ever so faintly, and you wonder if it is a cloud, fog or your imagination. It's as if out of thin air an island emerges and slowly, slowly it becomes more real, defined and then color appears, contour develops and lo and behold, it is right where the chart says it will be! Of course we have the latest chart plotting equipment and charts of the world, but we still go on acts of faith that nothing has gone awry, we are where the chart says we are and that the land will be where we are headed. The more I think about this, the more respect I have for the sailors of old that just struck out to DISCOVER! They had no idea what was out there and probably passed by many places, like Ascension, simply because they passed by on a day that was overcast, foggy or they were one too many miles away to see the faint outline of a tiny land mass.

Ascension was bypassed for many years. That is probably because it is in a very remote part of the S. Atlantic, 1600 km from Africa and 2300 km from Brazil. It's not really on the way to or from anywhere which turned out to be great for the Green Turtles, Frigate Birds, Terns, Tropic Birds and Masked Booby! Now a British protectorate with an active air base shared with a USA air base Ascension is one of the largest marine reserves in the S. Atlantic. Isn't that two opposite ends of a spectrum! Darwin studied here (after going to St. Helena) as did NASA and while Darwin helped establish a national park, NASA built the second largest runway in the world as a back-up runway for landing the space shuttle. The BBC studied here too and first established a radio transmission center for broadcasting to Africa but now strange and futuristic antennae broadcast the BBC to all over the world via short wave radio.

The island is starkly volcanic. Tall red cinder cones contrast with white sand beaches but the surrounding rocks are sharp obsidian and the moonscape is quite barren. Trails across lava fields are marked by cairns or white spray paint and there is NO water. Of course, this is in marked contrast to the one high island mountain, Green Mountain, which captures moisture from the air, creates its' own weather and is constantly shrouded in clouds and has a tropical rain forest at its' crown. The British originally built their barracks up there but it was too cold and rainy for them (must have been a lot like the UK), and was also logistically impractical so the camp was moved to lower, dryer elevations. They did however leave behind introduced banana, guava and raspberries so on our hike the other day, Neal cut down a huge stalk of bananas which are now hanging from the mizzen mast! Green Mountain does not capture enough water for drinking for the 800 island inhabitants or the military, so there is a reverse osmosis system and ALL fruits and vegetables are flown in on that very long runway. The only fresh ones you will find are potatoes, onions, apples and squash!

We have spent a wonderful week here exploring, snorkeling, turtle watching, hiking and mingling as much as possible with the locals. We ended up at the Volcano Club on the American Air Force base one evening for happy hour. We were told that there was good, traditional American food there like Big Macs and corn dogs! Oh what a reputation for cuisine we have! It was so great! Felt just like a bar at home with lots of young people ordering trays of Budweiser for beer pong. There are five other boats anchored here in George Town- our Austrian friends on Amigo, one American boat, an Italian and two British. From here everyone seems to head some place different, but on Tuesday we will head with Amigo to Fernando de Noronja- an island off the coast of Brazil, just about 1000 miles west at 3° South and 35° West. It looks beautiful in the photographs and should be a great resting point before heading on to Tobago.

So one more time, we will be looking for that tiny land mass to appear out of the clouds. Until then it should be a nice downwind run and we are confident that we will end up at the right crossroads of latitude and longitude in about a week and be ready to explore yet another island full of samba and exotic cuisine.


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At 3/7/2016 7:17 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 07°55.24'S 014°24.67'W
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At 3/8/2016 7:34 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 07°55.24'S 014°24.67'W

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