Arrival at Tristan da Cunha

On 12 September the South African research vessel S. A. Agulhas II arrived at Tristan da Cunha on its first voyage out of Cape Town, after six days passage across the south Atlantic. I have changed the gender of the possessive pronoun to neutral. I do not like using the feminine possessive with regard to boats or countries. I used “her” in my last post on the topic yet if I plan to be aboard this ship a year from now I will be talking and blogging about it for months to come, and I do not want to use a term I dislike (although I have used it in poetical contexts).

41 passengers joined the crew of the Agulhas II as it made its annual journey to Gough Island, stopping at Tristan da Cunha on the way. South Africa maintains a research station on Gough, which lies 350 km south of Tristan, and restocks and re-staffs the island during its annual visit. Here is the S. A. Agulhas II on its arrival at Tristan da Cunha:


All photos are courtesy of the website, which has been sending updates in anticipation of, during and following this annual visit.

The Agulhas II is the only one of the three ships that regularly visit Tristan that guarantees you a landing on the island. How? There’s a helicopter on board, and it was put to use three days ago:


The helicopter landing at Tristan:


I have enquired with island authorities about the reservations for passage aboard the Agulhas II in 2014. I am currently ranked #9 of ten for next year’s passage, but if the need of berths for medevacs, government officials or Tristanians exceeds their designated quota, there is a chance I could get bumped. I wanted to know where I’d stand if I had to postpone my trip another year. If I don’t get to Tristan in 2013, I am more assured of visiting the island in 2014, since I am ranked higher at number five. 

The final confirmation for the September 2013 trip will come in August. Thus year-long plans can be thwarted just a month before departure, and tourists have to accept this. Tristan da Cunha aside from being the most isolated community on the planet is also the most inaccessible. Finding a flight from Toronto to Cape Town a month in advance is easier than finding a place on board a ship en route to Tristan. Island authorities have strongly encouraged me to buy flexible or open-ended plane tickets to and from Cape Town, in case my spot is forfeited or if there is a delay in the crossing back to Cape Town.

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