Day 5 - December 31st
This being New Years Eve we make a early start and decide to visit the Command Hill Cave. This is not far from the airhead which looks totally deserted, a total change from a period during the Falklands conflict when Ascension was briefly one of the busiest airports in the world.
The airfield was originally built by American Army engineers in 1942 in less than six months, a pretty spectacular feat given the remoteness and lack of heavy building facilities on the island. Their arrival swelling the population from around 150 to 1500+ overnight. The airfield project had been planned in top secret, so much so that when the small American advance reconnaissance party of ships arrived on Christmas morning 1941 they were nearly fired on as only the Cable and wireless manager Cardwell knew they were coming.
Command Hill Cave is actually a not really a cave at all but a lava tube, and not a conventional cave. Lava tubes are formed when parts of lava flow start to solidify because they are flowing more slowly. Then if the top crust also solidifies and the lava actually drains out when the flow ceases then a lava tube is formed.
One normally expects a cave, or lava tube to be cool and damp, but the caves or Ascension are all very warm and humid, and one comes back to the surface dripping with perspiration.
At this point Lynda decided that we were going to impress Johnny by not going back for elevenses but to go up Sister Peak.
So we push on to Two Boats, take the road for North Bay and park up by one of the helpful tourist information signs that have sprung up all over the island since our last visit in '97. (This one, for some reason, is not quite right as it should be Sisters Peak, not Sister Peak)
The Sisters Peak area is actually a complex of three scoria cones. The scoria can consist of ash (the fine stuff), cinders( 2 to 64 mm in diameter) and blocks and bombs (> 64 mm).
The Sister peaks are one of the youngest areas on the island, and according to Barry Weaver, who has conducted an extensive study of Ascension Island's geology, "the lava flows from the southern side of Sisters Peak and the lava flow on Letterbox have the appearance of being extremely young and perhaps erupted within the last 1,000 years or so".
Most walks on Ascension once one is away from the costal plain seem to be based going up one foot in height for every foot horizontal and Sisters Peak is no exception. The top of Sister peak is 1468 feet up and we started from around 800 feet and it was slow going over the steep path.
Half way up and still a way to go to the summit via the right hand path. However, as always once gets up a bit on Ascension the views make the effort worth while, as the one below facing back to Cross hill.
Once at the top one has an interrupted 360 view of the North West of the island. Looking back with the Two Boats settlement on the right.
The rocks on Ascension come in all shapes and sizes, and one early arrival commented on the fossilised trees, although the island had not trees until mans arrival. In fact, as the top half o this rock below shows, it would be very easy to make a mistake.
We weren't quite sure of the route back and Lynda didn't want to come back the way we had come, so we opted for what looked like a short route down a shallow ravine. At this point I lost my footing and grabbed at a couple of the large boulders and my grazes can now vouch for the fact that the rock on Sisters is young and very sharp and not worn smooth by erosion.
Finally we get back to the road and the Landrover makes a very welcome site. We are both very red in the face and not sure whether this is due to all the exertion, the sun or both.
The drive back with a breeze through the open windows and the sound of a beer calling back in Georgetown makes for a quick return journey.
After a dip in the pool, it is over the road late afternoon for a barbeque. Followed by New Years eve party at Johnny's with picture and anagrams quiz spread round the walls to mix everybody up and break the ice. Finally to bed around 3 o'clock.
Georgetown by night