21 Jul 2018

"Atlantic Odyssey 2018" - Part 4 Around Tristan Da Cunha

Tristan Island group

Spectacled Petrel (Procellaria conspicillata) - breeds on the Tristan Island group

"Edinburgh of the Seven Seas"

A pre-landing briefing by Expedition Leader Sebastian Arrebola had laid out some of the options available to us on Tristan Da Cunha.

There was a hike to part of the site of the 1961 lava flows which caused the island to be evacuated.  Fine views of the settlement were promised.

The other outing involved a 3-4 km trip (with varied transport options )  to Tristan’s “Potato Patches” where the curious visitor could see, well, the place this staple of the Tristan Islanders’ diet is grown. 

Edinburgh of the Seven Seas

Edinburgh of the Seven Seas
The PC brigade haven't caught up with historical place names here yet.....

Everybody at their own pace.....
It was made clear, too, that the Tristan Thrush might be sighted on the slopes above the road.  Most of us headed slowly up the single-track road toward the potato patches, because that was the way to go. Weather conditions were cool and sunny.

The bushes are thrush habitat
Martin Berg from the expedition staff followed the edge of the scrub-line on Tristan’s steep hillsides.  Previous experience told him this was the habitat to find the sought-after Tristan thrush.  After a couple of false starts a bird was found in some scrub beside a ravine.

A bird to look up to...
We were not the first to arrive, and there was already quite a gathering of birders at the foot of the spur where the bird was.  The bird was unafraid of us, and had been showing well. Some scrambling through bushes combined with crumbly ground meant that I left my camera, which had been swinging like a saxophone, in the meadow below. 

These shots (with 7D2 and 100-400mm) are Jemi’s.

Tristan Thrush - Nesocicla eremita

Tristan Thrush - Nesocicla eremita

Some people opted for a more sensible climb to a ridgeline behind us.

A boot makes a fine monopod

A bonus bird was a close Gough Moorhen.  Introduced on Tristan, all the birds are descended from just eight released.  Having seen both birds well we headed back down the road well-pleased with our morning.

Gough Moorhen - Gallinula comeri

Settlement view

"The Rectory"

Crayfish boat, Tristan Da cunha

The tristanensis race of Antarctic Tern posed for photos on the harbour breakwater before we left. It looked like they were having a good breeding year.

Antarctic Tern - Sterna vittata tristanensis

Antarctic Tern - Sterna vittata tristanensis

Tristan has a well-organised and welcoming Post office/Souvenir shop and cafe.  Two mugs of tea and a Crayfish sandwich went down very well. Here's the island's official website.

The "Potato Patches" from the sea

"White-bellied" Black-bellied Storm-Petrel
We sailed away in bright evening sunshine.  We saw Great-winged Petrels only when it was almost dark.

Great-winged Petrel - Pterodroma macroptera

The next morning we were anchored off Nightingale Island.  We had several Tristan Islanders on board to act as island guides, but the winds were such that we couldn’t land on Nightingale, to the disappointment of many.

Nightingale Island
We navigated round the island at a safe distance from the rocky foreshores and people with finer eyesight than mine tried to identify bird shapes in the scrub on the hillsides.
Nightingale Island
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - Thalassarche chlororhynchos

Nightingale Island

Later we learned that “Inaccessible” Island isn’t called that for nothing.  So we generally admired its  Inaccessibility when we might rather have admired its'  Rail.  The Plancius is averaging one landing every ten visits, and may be doing better than some other ships.

Inaccessible Island

Inaccessible Island rock formation
Spectacled Petrel (Procellaria conspicillata)
Spectacled Petrel (Procellaria conspicillata)

Tristan Skua - Catharacta (a.) hamiltoni

Soft-plumaged Petrel - Pterodroma mollis

Soft-plumaged Petrel - Pterodroma mollis
Later we dropped off our guides/hosts at Edinburgh on Tristan and headed further north.

In bright light and warming seas we encountered some Common Dolphins and Jemi got these shots.

Common Dolphin - Delphinus delphis

Common Dolphin - Delphinus delphis

We were able to sample the famous Tristan Crayfish, made all the more tasty by the Plancius Head Chef’s report that he had bartered a supply of them for whisky. (The "exchange rate" was not disclosed..)

Tristan Rock Lobster

We were heading for St Helena, last earthly abode of Napoleon Bonaparte, and present earthly domain of the world’s oldest animal.


  1. One of those remote places I've always dreamed of going. Living there would be paradise (assuming broadband internet and a well stocked beer outlet of course, maybe they have neither!).

    1. Stu, internet access is pretty slow - via satellite - but there IS a pub. We tried the local home-brew, it's called "Albatross".

  2. Gee John, just another ho hum day, huh? I looked up the definition of “charmed life” and found your picture.

    1. David, "just another shiggy day...." we knew it wasn't.

  3. Absolutely amazing photos and description - looks like a stunning place to visit! Hopefully I'll get down that way myself one day.

    1. Thanks, Jeremy, I'm sure they will run this voyage in the future, but maybe not every year.

  4. Excluding sea-birds just curious as to how many species you saw whilst wandering around the island?

    1. Just the Thrush and Moorhen, as I recall.... plenty of seabirds up in the cliffs, though.