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Ascension Island diary - December 27

Day 1- December 26/27th

When the plane "tickets" for Ascension arrive they prominently say "Phone RAF Brize Norton" for latest schedule information. All very well, but when one's flight is 23.00 on Boxing day, ringing up 24 hrs in advance unsurprisingly gets an unanswered line. Still when we turn up on a very frosty evening, get through the security check at the main gates, all is well. The long term car park must be one of the few in the country where the cars are effectively under lock and key plus machine gun.

In 1997 the RAF Tri-star flight was delayed by a day due to high winds, so it was with some relief our flight took off on time and in relative comfort of an Air Luxor charter Airbus A330.  

For some obscure reason I had always assumed that the flight went round the outside of Africa, but, in fact, it heads down in an almost direct line over the Bay of Biscay, Spain, Portugal and then crosses the Africa coastline near Casablanca, over the Sahara Desert, and then hits the Atlantic somewhere near Freetown in Liberia. All in all, a route with evocative names, appropriate for journey to some as exotic as Ascension Island.

Passport stamp on the way in to Ascension Island Dec 2004.

Arrival at Ascension is at 07.00 just after dawn and, if anything,  the landscape looks even more that we have arrived on the Moon or Mars than last, although Green Mountain backed by cloud pulls one back to reality.

One of the advantages of a small airport like Ascension which only has one flight every couple of days is that there are few delays in getting through airport formalities. Although Johnny forgot to tell us that we would need a 33 fee to accompany the 3 immigration forms and a stamp on our passports, and we were a bit light on change. No matter, on noticing the immigration form said that  we were staying at Johnny's, the policeman said he would collect the fee later ! 

Five minutes later we have picked up our luggage, including several big cardboard boxes full of DVDs for Johnny, goodies for New Years eve, and obscure candle light bulbs for the Obsidian Hotel.

After a short drive, passing just a couple of other cars, we are at Johnny's new place overlooking the beach.

Sea view from last bungalow in Georgetown, Ascension Island     

After having batteries recharged with breakfast, and tea/coffee, a walk along the beach to blow away the post-plane stiffness.

Needless, to say Paddy and Finn need no excuse to sample the sea, albeit that Paddy, being an OAP retriever sticks closer to shore.

Paddy in sea at Long Beach, Ascension Island

Meanwhile Lynda and Johnny stay out of the reach of the surf which is probably a wise move.  Long Beach has a strong undertow and is not recommended for swimming unless you are a dog or turtle.    

Lynda Smith and Johnny Hobson

Pete SMith on Ascension IslandEven Pete fully trained as a life-guard stays out of the water, but is less cautious about the strong equatorial sun.

This picture also gives some idea of the steep slope on Long Beach which the turtles actually climb up to lay their eggs a long way up the beach so that the eggs are safe from the surf.

In fact we could see turtles just off-shore, popping heads up every now and again for a second at a time to breathe, but try as I may, I failed to catch them in a picture. Lynda and Johnny said they saw some up to "naughty things" but if they were they were definitely doing it under water,  well out of the sight of cameras.

Wind turbines near the American base at Ascension IslandLunchtime was a trip to the cottage for a picnic in the cooler temperatures high up on Green Mountain, more of which later on.

En-route we stopped off to look at the wind turbines.

Ascension's location in the South Atlantic  benefits in having steady trade winds to moderate the tropical temperatures. 

Last time we were here there were a couple of wind generators but now there are 6, 2 of 1 Mw capacity and 4 of 0.25 Mw. [1]

 

Apparently if all six are working they generate as much power as the BBC power station.  

It has to be said that whilst being very ecologically sound there is a fair bit of noise, when  standing underneath them, ... wooshing from the blades and  mechanical whirring, presumably from the gearbox.

View from garden cottage on Green Mountain, Ascension Island

The view from the cottage

After lunch back down to base and then we swapped Landrovers to use the older (15+ years) one for an afternoon's swim at Comfortless Cove. This should have made me suspicious, but it was only when we set off down this twisty, up and down track that I realised that we were on the off-road route. Then almost at Comfortless and suddenly this funny grr-grr-grr from outside. 

Lan Rover with puncture at Comfortless cove, Ascension Island

Puncture time ! So whilst Lynda set off on foot for a swim it was time for the spare. The more observant amongst you will notice the rock in front of the front tyre, this was added after the Landrover threaten to roll down the slope, whilst the handbrake was on (rear wheels only ?), it had not been left in gear.  

After this a really refreshing swim was really welcome and afterwards Johnny made amends for the puncture escapade by  producing cold champagne and chocolate to round off the afternoon.

And then there was the sun set ..

Sunset, Ascension Island, December 27 2004  

All in all a great first day.

 

 


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[1]

See The Application of Information Technology to Data Management for information about the original wind farm in 1997.