We have secretly been hoping for a chance to visit Saint Helena, but good winds cannot be ordered and nothing can be guaranteed. A few days ago, however, the news finally arrived; thanks to favorable winds over the past week, we now have time for a visit! As I am writing this, we caught our first glimpse of the island on the horizon. At first, she was barely distinguishable, obscured by clouds. But soon enough, she grew larger before our eyes. As the sun emerged and the clouds dissipated, her shape became unmistakable. The excitement on board was palpable, and this sense of anticipation had been in the air for days.
As Abi and I prepared for the lectures on the history, ecology, and touristic sites of the island, I learned more about the island than I knew about my hometown. I am completely hooked and fascinated by the island now, but have already read every book and document I could find. As I am looking at the horizon, I keep wondering how it was to arrive here back in 1502, when the island was first discovered. How did they feel, finding an island nobody knew about? What did the island look like, before colonisation whipped out so much of the endemic life? We have everything we need on board; we can make our own water and store vegetables in the freezer. It was different for the first ship arriving here. How many days could they discover the island before having to leave with important supplies running out? And of course, what was it like to arrive two hundred years later, when it became a busy harbor and Napoleon was soon to be exiled here? We will never know, but it feels special to arrive here on this island on a tall ship like they did, only a few hundred years later.
Before I left a friend from my work at the zoo, who also takes care of the Galapagos turtles there, mentioned Jonathan - the oldest terrestrial animal alive. He lives in Saint Helena. I am so excited that we may get to visit him that I have been spreading information about him and his species (the endangered Seychelles giant tortoise). As a result, Jonathan became a regular subject of conversation.
But more on tortoise Jonathan: At an impressive age of 192 years old, his sight may have deteriorated, but allegedly his hearing remained sharp. He has two mates, named Francesca and Emily, yet it is Francesca who holds the favorite position, and we do not possess any information about Emily or why she isn’t Jonathan’s preferred companion. Sometimes these conversations got confusing as we also have deckhand Jonathan on board, who is not from the Seychelles but from Denmark and still has excellent eyesight. These light-hearted fun conversations took a sudden turn when someone thought to remember that Jonathan recently passed away. Unfortunately, there is no way for us to confirm this information, but we are eager to unravel this mystery soon. Is Jonathan still alive?