A trip to Nightingale Island…with photos Part 1

On Friday 27 September I had the rare privilege of visiting Nightingale Island, an uninhabited wildlife refuge that is part of the Tristan da Cunha group. Nightingale lies 49 km south of the Tristan harbour. I have already written extensively about this trip here and will take this opportunity now to post photos from this once-in-a-lifetime day trip.

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Gathering at Calshot Harbour as we await departure to Nightingale.

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The first to depart was fishery patrol vessel Wave Dancer, here being lowered into the harbour.

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The RIB Svitzer was the second boat to depart.

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“This is not a good time, Craig!”. Karen Lavarello-Schreier (l) and Tristan’s tourism coordinator Dawn Repetto (r) who called me with the wonderful news this morning that today would be the day to visit Nightingale.

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I took the RIB Arctic Tern to Nightingale.

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Arctic Tern being lowered by crane into Calshot Harbour.

Arctic Tern In Flight

I am on the left (the “lowest” person) standing up in the rear of the RIB. Photo courtesy of Murray Crawford. Look at beautiful Tristan da Cunha. The band of clouds that often crisscrosses the summit is just above the Base. The peak of the volcano is not visible from the settlement and can only be seen from the top of the Base (which I hiked on Thursday 3 October) or when one is at sea. Karen Lavarello-Schreier, who sat beside me in the back, and I shared many an awestruck moment gazing at the volcano’s summit.

The RIB’s motor is the only thing that is still in the water. This was what our trip was like the entire way to Nightingale: a roller coaster at sea. Karen hooted and hollered with glee as we shot over the waves. I joined her in expressing my excitement. Some of our fellow passengers, however, looked nauseous and pale as ghosts once we arrived at Nightingale, but no one on the trip there (or back) got seasick, unlike on the other two boats.

I am very happy that I got to know Murray Crawford and his wife Candace, as well as Murray’s parents Martin and Marilyn over the course of this trip. Murray also took the photo shortly after my helicopter landed on Tristan. I hiked Table Mountain with Murray, Martin and their dog Flicka on my last full day in Cape Town, and it was Martin and Marilyn who told me all about which Cape Town bookstores to visit.

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As we waited our turns to transfer to the small inflatable raft which took us to Nightingale, we had ample opportunity to photograph the two tiny islands that lie to the north. Former Chief Islander James Glass stands in front of Stoltenhoff Island and its sea stacks on the left, and the island with two official names, Alex or Middle, lies directly behind him.

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The kelp is extremely thick around Nightingale. Outboard motors might get caught in it. This is the west landing, and the small inflatable raft is about to offload some passengers near the “cave” at the left. Some people are already standing on the rocks. This is a good shot to show you how high we had to climb to get to the flat land above. The climb up the cliffside was muddy and required the use of ropes to pull oneself up.

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Seals greeted us at the west landing, as well as ornithologist Bruce Dyer, whose boots you see.

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An adorable resident of Nightingale Island.

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Scirpus bicolor, or small bog grass, which resembled grassy stools. They were firm enough to sit on. A path had been cut out of the tussock grass, which was two metres high.

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I am climbing through the bog grass to the Base of Nightingale Island. Alex (or Middle) Island is in the background and Tristan da Cunha is a hazy pyramid, 38 km away. Photo courtesy of James Davis.

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Yes! This is how high the tussock grass, or Spartina arundinacea, is. Photo courtesy of James Davis.

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Standing next to the sign with information about all of Nightingale’s birdlife. That tussock grass is high. Sure would hate to get lost in it.

More photos from my unforgettable trip to Nightingale Island will follow in Part 2.

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