Na­tional Geo­graphic Ex­plorer and BBC pre­sen­ter Paul Rose de­scribes the feel­ing of ar­riv­ing at the re­mote Tris­tan da Cunha for a Pris­tine Seas ex­pe­di­tion.

Sport Diver - - Contents - PAUL ROSE Paul is the Vice Pres­i­dent of the Royal Geo­graphic So­ci­ety. For 10 years he was the Base Com­man­der of Rothera Re­search Sta­tion in Antarc­tica and was also the BAS Div­ing Of­fi­cer. He presents tele­vi­sion and ra­dio pro­grammes on the BBC. He is the E

With Cape Town 450 miles be­hind us and an­other 1,150 miles of open ocean be­fore we ar­rive at Tris­tan da Cunha you could be ex­cused for pre­sum­ing we are feel­ing a bit lonely. But luck­ily we have the great Tris­tan da Cunha spirit with us as we are car­ry­ing the Chief Is­lan­der, Ian Lavarello and the Swain and Green fam­i­lies back home to their is­land.

Shar­ing our pas­sage with the is­landers is a spe­cial, rare ex­pe­ri­ence for us and we’re not at all sur­prised that the se­abirds feel it too - not only are we ac­com­pa­nied by wan­der­ing albatross, black­browed albatross, gi­ant pe­trels and shear­wa­ters but some Tris­tan da Cunha en­demic birds too ( Tris­tan da Cunha is the only place on Earth that they can be found). They have made a rare jour­ney of over 1,000 miles to es­cort us and here we are rolling along in the big South At­lantic oceanic swells with Tris­tan skuas, At­lantic yel­lownosed albatross and spec­ta­cled pe­trels for com­pany. We’ve still got five days of sail­ing to do, but feel at home al­ready!

And what a home - it’s a pow­er­ful place. Tris­tan da Cunha is a vol­canic is­land sit­ting right be­tween the South At­lantic Cur­rent to the north and the Antarc­tic Cir­cum­po­lar Cur­rent to the south. These ocean cur­rents cre­ate mas­sive up­wellings mak­ing the is­lands one of the world’s rarest, most pro­duc­tive and im­por­tant hotspots of life.

The oceanic swells are com­ing from the south so we’ve had a lively non-stop roll that slowed down our prepa­ra­tion work, but now that the swells are more from the south­west life is com­fort­able and our ship has come alive: Our con­tainer­ised com­pres­sor sys­tem is com­mis­sioned and is pump­ing the right ni­trox mix. The air bank is full and we’re now fill­ing cylin­ders.

Our two-man re­com­pres­sion cham­ber has been blown down three times and is ready to go. The RIBS are be­ing washed and checked, the in­flat­a­bles are in­flated and for the first time in his­tory I didn’t lose any skin as­sem­bling them. GPS’S are ini­tialised, VHFS charged, the In­marsat sys­tem is up - so we’ve posted the first blog and the sat­phones are run­ning hot.

It’s a big re­lief when our op­er­a­tional sup­port sys­tems are up and run­ning and then we have the real plea­sure of bring­ing the sci­ence sys­tems to life. En­er­gised by the fab­u­lous ac­com­pa­ni­ment of se­abirds the RSPB team are rig­ging a few hun­dred bird tags and I couldn’t help but no­tice that when the tags came out on deck the al­ba­trosses seemed to give them a highly sus­pi­cious glance. The seal team has all of their gear along the star­board side - it’s great stuff and it looks as if it’s had a tough life on muddy beaches. The drop-cam­eras are as­sem­bled, charged-up and ready. Pelagic cam­era rigs and the re­mote shal­low wa­ter video sys­tems are next in line. The hy­dro-acous­tic unit and the shark tags are ready to go. The ma­rine sci­ence dive team have their mea­sur­ing tapes, slates, cam­eras all set up and are mostly study­ing the charts and re­ports so that they can hit the ground run­ning.

There is a lot of work to fin­ish be­fore we ar­rive at Tris­tan da Cunha and yet, as on so many ocean pas­sages, it does feel as if time is mov­ing slowly. So we’re eat­ing too much, off­set­ting this by exer- cis­ing on deck and each spe­cial­ist is run­ning brief­ing ses­sions. To­day we have the RSPB with their talk, imag­i­na­tively ti­tled Squawk! To­mor­row morn­ing we have the all im­por­tant biose­cu­rity ses­sion.

Tris­tan da Cunha is vul­ner­a­ble to in­va­sive species and so in the morn­ing we will wash all of our work gear, in­clud­ing wellies, ruck­sacks, wa­ter­proofs and equip­ment with Virkon and will give Vel­cro and any ar­eas that might be car­ry­ing seeds a good vac­uum. We’ll do this in teams and I’m keen to clev­erly po­si­tion my­self so that I don’t have the seal team as part­ners!

I’m work­ing hard on the ex­pe­di­tion. At the mo­ment I feel that we have about 12 months work to do in 3 weeks, but we thrive on an am­bi­tious sched­ule and with some luck and fair weather we’ll get it all done.

One very im­por­tant date that we have to work around is Tris­tan da Cunha’s Queen’s Day. It’s a hol­i­day at the end of Jan­uary with sports of all kinds. We’ve en­tered of course and hope for big wins in the welly throw­ing, tar­get shoot­ing and run­ning. If we keep eat­ing like this, we might even stand a chance in the tug-of-war!

“The seal team has all of their gear along the star­board side - it’s great stuff and it looks as if it’s had a tough life on muddy beaches“

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