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Easing winds approaching Tristan da Cunha

Drop anchor at the Settlement anchorage by dinner time.

During the night, Europa enjoys a great sailing under the good Northwesterly winds, but during the early morning, passing squalls with their associated stronger blows make for dousing and furling the uppermost gear, Vliger and Royals. Conditions that didn’t last long, as by dawn and in a more stable weather and a good 13kn of breeze, the sails are set again.

As the first hours of the day pass and it gets lighter, white Cumulus clouds grow from the sea in the horizon. Together with the increasing temperatures, the occasional passing squall and the warm colours of the sunsets and sunrises tell us about our location in the South Atlantic, an oceanic climate at the southern edge of the Subtropical area. Sure there will be more showers and wind variations to come. And indeed, before the change of watch in the middle of the day, wind picks up, heeling increases. Time for dousing and packing away Royals and Upper Staysails, that will remain furled for the rest of the journey to Tristan.

The afternoon brought us closer and closer to land, and soon Inaccessible Island start to be visible amongst the low clouds and hazy conditions. 30km Southwest of Tristan and Surrounded by formidable 500m cliffs, it remains in almost pristine condition, free of introduced animals. One of their endemic inhabitants, the Spectacled petrels, fly over and close to the ship, curious about the noiselessly sailing with lots of canvas pulling us at good speed. Besides them, two million shearwater pairs breed here. It is also home for two endemic land-birds, the Inaccessible rails and buntings. 230 species of plants cover the terrain, eight of them nowhere else to be found, plus other 60 exclusive to the Tristan archipelago.

At the background, further away and much less visible, Nightingale Island. In our course, the spectacular volcano that forms Tristan da Cunha. 600 to 700 metres of almost vertical cliffs guard the top of the 2060m high peak. The tip of a massive complex that rise up from the abyssal depths of the South Atlantic Ocean, more than 3000 m deep. Atop, its characteristic cloud cover that seldom abandons its crater.

The three islands were built by series of volcanic eruptions, the oldest one built up Nightingale about 18 million years ago, whereas the oldest rocks on Tristan are only some 200,000 years old.
Their isolation during this long period served as a sort of evolutionary laboratory, offering a great opportunity for the divergence on speciation for several animal and plants, making the archipelago a much interesting biological spot.

Clearly visible in front of us, Tristan, but still a handful of hours to go before we drop anchor at just 3 cables from Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, the only town in the archipelago, home for a quite isolated community counting about 250 people. As the Europa approaches, the wind eases down and even shift from the good Northwesterly that we were having, to more of an Easterly. Inconvenient for the purpose of sailing all the way there. Sunset catch up with us just when the engines are turned on and the sails dropped, just to cover the very last bit of distance to let the anchor go.

Geschreven door:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader

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