s/y Nine of Cups
Second Atlantic Crossing - Ascension Island
Feb - May 2007
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Ascension Island

Capital and only city: Georgetown; there is one other town called Two
Boats.
Population: ~ 1,000; the island has never had an indigenous population
and currently it is not possible to own land or a business there; it is a
working island only although some worker/residents have lived there for
decades.
Currency: St. Helena Pound (STH£ = BSP£ = $1.92 US)
High Point: Green Mountain (2,817')
Government: Under the administration of Saint Helena, Ascension is
officially a British Overseas Territory. The island has an appointed
Administrator who reports to the Governor, also appointed by the
British Crown. An Island Council is elected by the islanders to oversee
general island affairs.

Ascension lies in the South Atlantic Ocean about 700 miles northwest of
Saint Helena and 500 miles south of the equator.
Unlike Tristan, Ascension
does not have its own flag
and shares that of St. Helena.
There was no permanent settlement at
Ascension until Napoleon was imprisoned
on St. Helena and by then the British
controlled it and set up a garrison to aid St
Helena in case an  attempt  was made by
the French to free Napoleon..
Discovered in 1501 by the Portugese and named
Conception Island. Discovered in 1503 by the
French (who didn’t know the Portugese had
already discovered it) and named Ascension Island.
A view from shore shows Cups all alone in the
anchorage at Clarence Bay except for the
freighter, which was anchored there all the while
we were. Less than 24 boats a year call at
Ascension.
Long ropes at the bottom of the
steps help to get ashore, then a long
line is used to tie up the dinghy and
push it off the loading dock. The
pierhead and steps were originally
constructed in 1829.
The road into Georgetown from the pier is up an
incline which seemed long on hot, humid days. The
ground here is flattened and covered in a black,
volcanic pumice stone readily available locally.
The town itself is quite small. Other than admin
and functional buildings, there is a post office, a
small grocery, a hotel and a few small restaurant
and not much else.
Ascension’s Government Building
We peeked inside of St.Mary’s Anglican
Church which is simple and basic.  
We were tickled by the sign
posted on its door.
The portals of the Exile Hall made a
good place to make some plans for the
day out of the heat of the sun.
Ascension is volcanic in origin and is the tip of a
10,400’ high, 1,170’ wide shield volcano. The
area close to sea level is volcanic with sparse
vegetation and rough volcanic rubble.
Paths and rough roads have been bulldozed out
of the rubble and volcanic rock making the area
passable, but tough walking.
We came upon this pleasant cemetery
known as Bonetta in our travels. The
original graves were for the men of the
ship “Bonetta” who died on the island of
yellow fever. We also found the grave of
a young sailor from the USS Constellation
buried here.
We tromped over volcanic debris for hours using the
GPS to search unsuccessfully for a
“geocache”.
Brennan had turned us on to geocaching, a kind of
GPS club. People hide a “cache” (watertight
container of some sort with little trinkets in it) and list
on the internet the GPS coordinates as well as some
clues for finding the cache. Brennan determined
there were actually two on Ascension and we set
out to find them. The end result was that we could
not find the one in Comfortless Cove. After
spending nearly 4 hours getting there and searching
around, we determined it was either too well hidden
or someone else had found the cache and moved or
destroyed it.
Though we didn’t find the geocache, we
did indeed find Comfortless Cove and
cooled off in the clear , warm (85F) water.
Ascension is the most important breeding ground for the green turtle in the tropical
Atlantic. Each year between January and May,  3,000-5,000 green turtles swim more
than 1,200 miles from the coast of Brazil to mate and lay eggs on one of Ascension’s  32
sandy beaches.
Green Turtles
Each morning the beaches show the
tracks of females who have hauled
themselves up on the beach the previous
night to lay her eggs.
We watched  in awe as we witnessed the
egg laying process one night at about
10PM on the sand of Long Beach. About
100 eggs are laid each time. The female
goes into a trance during the laying process
and was oblivious to us.
As one female was laying, a hatchling from
another nest scurried by. It takes about
6-10 weeks for the eggs to hatch.
Only 1 in  1,000 eggs mature and return to
Ascension Island to complete the breeding
process. The hatching temperature determines
the sex of the turtle.
After laying the eggs, the female spends
hours covering the eggs with sand using
her  strong flippers as hands to scoop the
sand.
As several other hatchlings scurried by, the
“turtle lady” scooped them up carefully and
carried them to the sea.
The old walled turtle ponds or kraals above
and some old photos from  the museum
(below left) show the historical importance of
turtle meat to the island during the old
shipping days. After laying her eggs, men
would turn the turtle on her back until
morning. Floats would then be tied around
her so that she couldn’t dive and could easily
be picked up by boats off shore. The turtles
would be moved to the turtle ponds and kept
in captivity until purchased by passing boats
for fresh meat. In 1822, over 1,500 turtles
were taken but by the 1860s, the population
had dwindled dramatically. The last capture
of a green turtle was documented in 1950.
Now they are a protected species by local
and international law.
Approximately 25 species of plants
are thought to be native to Ascension
and of these, 10 are thought to be
unique in the world to Ascension.
The fern above is one of the critically
endangered 10 unique species.
Letterbox Walks
Though the sea level area of the island was
volcanic rubble, the top of the island is like a
tropical rain forest, lush and green, hence the
name Green Mountain Park. There are more
than 20 “Letterbox Walks” on the island
whereby the hiker follows a marked trail and
at the end, there is a letterbox with a stamp
and visitor registration book. Souvenir
books are sold to collect stamps or you can
just stamp your journal. We thought it
sounded fun. We rented a car to drive
around the island and try a few of the walks.
There were lots of flowers on our walks.
Without a doubt, the Ascension Lily was the
most dramatic with a huge red showy blossom.
Let’s hear it for the BIG RASPBERRY!
The scenery of the island below was magnificent,
lush and green, as we climbed in altitude.
Throughout the park, there are interesting
remains of old stone buildings and structures
dating from the 19th century.
There are several tunnels along the
trails… some were very, very
muddy…up to our ankles muddy!
The highest point of Green Mountain
(2,817’) is demarcated with a big ship’s
chain in the ground.
The prettiest walk we took was to the
Dew Pond dug out in 1875 and filled
with blue water lilies.
We found  letterboxes all along the way,
but many had NO stamp pad… bummer!
We headed from the Dew Pond Trail to
Elliot's Pass Trail. Mid-way on this trail, we
found the Letterbox. This time stamp and
inkpad were present, but the pad was dry.
As we wandered along the trail, we
flound monuments in odd places. This
stone obelisk was simply marked
“Elliott’s Pass 1840”.
Feral donkeys roamed the streets looking for handouts of
raw carrots and evidently  trying to get into the church.
The government-run farm was privatized and
by the 1990s, farming ceased on the island
leaving the farm animals to go wild. Since
they’re feral, some sheep never get shorn as
evidenced by our friend “Dreds” above.
Views near the top were great!
Captain James Cook stopped  at Ascension in
1775 to collect turtle meat. Charles Darwin on
the HMS Beagle wrote an account of the island’
s geology. Prince  Andrew visited as did world
famous Nine of Cups and crew.
We refueled our rental car at the only
gas station on the island, Birdie’s
Refueling Station located in One Boat.
One day, we tried to find the second geocache
that Brennan told us was on the island. Again,
across volcanic debris and a moon-like terrain,
in and out of volcanic caves, we hiked for nearly
two hours in blazing sun.
Finally, in a little grotto beside the cave, David
spotted a big container marked
www.geocaching.
com. There was all kinds of loot inside. We
signed a “guest book”, took a deck of cards and
left a Nine of Cups boat card and a Peruvian coin.
There’s even a 9-hole golf course on
Ascension which held the distinction of being
in Guiness’ Book of World Records as the
“worst golf club in the world”. There were
no greens on this golf course, only flat
expanses of volcanic pumice.
Among other communication agencies, this is
BBC Atlantic Relay Earth Station with huge
satellite dishes to prove it. There's also a rather
unimpressive US Air Force Base on the island
where we stopped for a burger and beer.
The topography is moon like and NASA had a
tracking station here as well. We didn’t see the
topless beach, though David was looking.
Our last day on the island was spent at the little
Ascension Museum only open 11am-1pm on
Saturdays. The museum included  a tour of the
historic, but rather dilapidated Ft.Hayes built  on
Goat Hill by the British in the 1860s.
One of the special people we met was
Susanna Musick, a turtle biologist who had
just arrived from the States for a two-year stint
here as Head Conservation Officer. She came
out to Cups for pizza one night before we left.
We hauled anchor on Sunday, 25 March.
A lazy departure as we watched a cruise
boat, the Van Gogh, shuttle people to
shore for their 6 hours of land time…no
Green Mountain Park or turtle watching for
them.  David  hauled the anchor manually...
the windlass is broken and this time not
reparable. We talked about going straight
to the States without a stop in the Carib
and set our course for the Equator and then
for Charleston, SC. Southeast trades
carried us off the island and soon it had
vanished from sight. We are at sea again.
Two nights in a row, a brown noddy hitched a
ride at dusk and left at dawn, a present of
noddy poop left behind.
We crossed the Equator for the 4th time on
April Fool’s Day at 0847.
David paid our tribute of rum to Neptune
as we crossed the Equator. We had
thought we’d celebrate with a beer or
wine, but it wasn’t at all appealing.
It was a long passage and we tried to do
some exercise each day so we dug out our 9
lb hand weights which Jelly used religiously
each afternoon.
We noticed large areas on the UV of the jib
had come unstitched. We lowered the jib,
hauled the sewing machine on deck and
managed the repair without too much difficulty.
As usual, David had his share of repairs to
make en route. This time the batteries were
not charging properly and he determined they
were sulphated and needed equalizing.
ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone)
There are no prevailing winds near the equator, and up to about 700 miles
on either side of it, because the air rises there instead of moving across the
earth. This calm belt is called the doldrums. Often the trade winds
converge in a narrow zone which is called the intertropical convergence
zone (ITCZ). Some of the air that rises at the equator returns to the earth's
surface at about 30° north and south latitude. Air moving downward there
produces no wind. These areas are called the horse latitudes, possibly
because many horses died on sailing ships that were stalled by the lack of
wind there. Crossing this area was slow going.
Atlantic Ocean Facts…

Area: About 34 million sq. mi.
Greatest distances: North-south--9,000 mi. excluding the Arctic Ocean;  
                 East-west--5,500 mi.
Average depth: 12,100 ft.
Greatest depth: 28,232 ft. in the Puerto Rico Trench.
Surface temperatures: Highest, about 86° F, near the equator in summer.
Lowest, 28° F, at and near the boundary with the Southern Ocean
in winter. Note we saw nearly 95 degrees in Ascension!
Tides: Highest--Over 50 ft. in the Bay of Fundy, Canada.
Lowest--less than 1.5 ft. in areas of the Gulf of Mexico
and the Mediterranean Sea.
The Atlantic  is the world's second largest ocean
and makes up about 26% of Earth's ocean area
and 17% of its total surface area.
The ancient Romans named the Atlantic after the Atlas
Mountains. Those mountains rise at the western end of the
Mediterranean Sea and, in ancient times, marked one of
the limits of the known world. Atlantic probably referred
to the fact that the ocean lies beyond the Atlas range.
7,350 nm and 73 days after leaving Cape Town, RSA, we arrived in
Charleston, SC completing not only our longest voyage, but in actuality,
a circumnavigation of South America!

After a rest in Charleston, we headed to Bristol, RI where we were in
for a full, family-packed summer. Join us for a
New England
Summer...coming up next.
St. Helena Island
Tristan da Cunha