I have just returned from a vacation to Europe and I’m going out again, this time to a faraway island known as the most isolated inhabited place on the planet: Tristan da Cunha. (The last word in the island’s name is pronounced COO-na, as this is a British dependency and they do not pronounce the name with the nasal as COON-ya.) Where is Tristan da Cunha? Take out an atlas and look at the south Atlantic, and look for a speck in the ocean midway between South America and southern Africa. That dot in the middle of all that swirling ocean is Tristan da Cunha, population 259. The only way to get to Tristan is by boat, as there is no airport on the island. I will be sailing from Cape Town on September 5 aboard the South African research vessel S. A. Agulhas II, with an estimated date of arrival September 10.
The only scheduled ships that visit Tristan are either fishing or research vessels. There are nine scheduled visits this year. The Agulhas II makes its annual journey from Cape Town to Tristan da Cunha en route to Gough [goff] Island where it stays to restock and re-staff a South African meteorological station located there. When it has finished its mission at Gough, the ship returns to Tristan to pick up passengers before heading back to Cape Town. A lot of planning is needed before you can go to Tristan, as you can’t just grab a boat and sail for a week halfway across the Atlantic and expect someone to greet you at the harbour. I worked for several weeks with island authorities before I made a public announcement about my trip in June of last year here. I plan to write regular travel reports while I am on Tristan da Cunha. There are already about a dozen reports in my Tristan blog about the planning one needs to undertake in order to go to the island.
Tristan da Cunha has its own website, full of links about the latest island news, its history, shipping schedules and how to go about planning a trip there. Last year the website administrator listed all the passengers aboard the maiden voyage of the brand-new S. A. Agulhas II as it was en route to Tristan. Maybe you will read my own name on the passenger list before I can get to a computer to read it for myself. While on the island I will do a lot of supervised exploring, reading and writing. If the locals let me I will gladly help out planting potatoes or doing other farm or field work. I will be staying with a local family, as there are no hotels on the island.
I will be on Tristan until October 5, with an estimated date of arrival back in Cape Town October 10. Any postcards I write will be on the ship that takes me off the island, so it will not matter if you’re the first person I write to or the last: postcards won’t be leaving the island until I do.
Join me as I sail to Tristan da Cunha!