Tristan da Cunha
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The Tristan Times - Tristan da Cunha
The online newspaper of Tristan da Cunha
  Issue No. 641 Online Edition Wednesday 10 February 2016 

   : Current News Articles

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Tristan : Tristan Science - Research and conservation activities at Inaccessible Island
Submitted by Tristan Times (Sarah Glass) 19.12.2009 (Current Article)

Peter Ryan & Rob Ronconi tell us about valuable research on Inaccessible Island.

Research and conservation activities at Inaccessible Island 

We visited Inaccessible Island for two months in October-December 2009 to tackle a number of conservation, monitoring and research questions. For Peter Ryan, it was his tenth visit to the island, while for Rob Ronconi it was his first chance to see where the Great Shearwaters he studies off the Canadian east coast breed. After spending three weeks on Gough Island, we were landed at Blenden Hall by the helicopter from the SA Agulhas. The hut was in fine shape, and with new batteries installed for the two solar panels we were soon settled in and ready to work. Our first task was to check the litter on the beaches, repeating surveys dating back to 1984. Not surprisingly the amount of litter washing up has increased, with some types of litter (such as plastic bottles and shoes) increasing faster than others. As before, most comes from South America, followed by oriental countries (presumably from their large fishing fleets operating in the South Atlantic). We also checked the amount of plastic eaten by seabirds by examining the pellets regurgitated by Skuas (Seahens). Compared to previous years, there was a marked increase in plastic. 

Our next job was to tackle the flax on Pig Beach Hill, which was missed when the flax team in 2007 was stranded on Nightingale. This turned out to be a bigger job than anticipated. On our first visit we killed 20 or so plants, but found several more we didn’t have time to deal with. Then when we returned, we found some more, so what should have been an easy day became another epic. And then, when we thought we’d got them all, we spotted a few more plants further up Waterfall Valley, which necessitated another visit, and the discovery of yet more plants, including one on the south side of Pig Beach Hill, overlooking Harold’s Plain. In the end we spent 4 days flaxing (not counting commuting days to the camp at Denstone Hill), but we are now confident that few if any remain on the plateau.  

We also repeated surveys of alien plants around the island to check whether their ranges are increasing. If nothing else, this is a great excuse to explore the island. We found few changes in alien plants, although two new species were discovered. Both were localised, and so measures were taken to eradicate them from the island. The alien plant surveys also improved our knowledge of some of the native species. For example, Pepper Trees Peperomia beteroana and the scarce grass Agrostis trachylaena were found along the Twin Falls river above Cove Rock. Both species previously were thought to be confined to the Waterfall Valley. The Nightingale Brassbuttons Cotula moseleyi is now common along the scarp edge between North Point and the East Road, suggesting it is a relatively recent arrival from Nightingale Island. 

The other big task started in October was the census of Spectacled Petrels or Ringeyes. This repeated surveys made in 1999 and 2004, and showed that Ringeye numbers continue to increase. We estimate at least 15,000 pairs now breed on the island, compared to perhaps 10,000 pairs five years ago. Unfortunately, repeat counts of Mollies and Sooties were less encouraging, with both species of albatross having decreased by about 10% since 2004. In November, the Great Shearwaters returned and Rob got stuck into monitoring a series of burrows around the hut at Blenden Hall, while Peter spent most of his time chasing buntings around Denstone Hill. At times we felt like the Stoltenhoff brothers, with one on top of the island and the other at the bottom! However, we did get together to deploy satellite tags onto Sooty Albatrosses, Ringeyes and Great Shearwaters as part of a project funded by BirdLife International to better understand the at-sea movements of seabirds threatened by longlining and other fishing activities. Rob also put small depth recorders onto a few Great Shearwaters. Although on most days they seldom dive to more than 10 metres, the record dive was to 17 metres! We also checked the diet of breeding Skuas around the island, and were able to confirm breeding by Great-winged Petrels when we found a large chick in a Skua midden on Harold’s Plain.  

Despite the discovery of a few new alien plants on the island (which we immediately attempted to eradicate), Inaccessible remains in good condition from a conservation perspective. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and thank the Island Council and Administrator for approving it. We are especially grateful to the captain and crew of the Edinburgh and Tristan Conservation’s Norman Glass for getting us safely off the island on 1 December, and for our subsequent visits to Nightingale, Alex and Stoltenhoff, where we were able to do some more alien plant control work.  

Peter Ryan & Rob Ronconi


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Falklands : Tristan Team to Attend ACAP Working Group
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 12.01.2006 (Current Article)

The Environmental Committee confirmed that a group from Tristan da Cunha will attend a workshop in the Falklands from 12 to 15 March 2006.



By J. Brock (FINN)


A meeting of the Environmental Committee took place in the Liberation Room of the Secretariat at 1000hrs on Wednesday, 10 January 2006.  In attendance was Cllr. Richard Davis (Chair), Cllr Mike Rendell, John Barton, Director of Fisheries, Phyl Rendell, Department of Mineral Resources, Manfred Keenleyside (PWD), Dominique Giudicelli (Environmental Planning Officer), Sally Blake (RBA), Nick Rendell (Graduate Trainee), and Fiona Wallace (Minutes).  Apologies came from Grant Munro (Falklands Conservation).


The first rather urgent item was the Environmental Impact Assessment Report done by Desire Petroleum.  (See relevant FINN Reports).  It is out for public consultation but needs to be further publicised in the media.


Another matter – whether or not scientists should be able to overnight while doing bird counts, etc. on Beauchene Island.  Only one member objected to this and not the whole group.  The minute would be corrected.


Matters arising from the meeting held on 07 September 2005 were discussed, with Dominique Giudicelli saying she has written an amended management plan because Helen Ottley was rushed to complete it and it was not thoroughly thought through and did not address all the issues.  More time was needed to complete the work.  There ensued a discussion about whether or not the matter should also be discussed in Stanley Lands Committee as it was a land management document as well as an environmental one.  Much of the opinion was that it should be an environmental document.


Another discussion about the fact Trout introduced into the river were killing off the native species and that those less than 2lbs had to be thrown back into the river.  The situation would be monitored and dealt with should there be a problem.  Again, the suggestion about reviewing the document in Stanley Lands Committee was raised. 


“Dirt Tracking and other environmental damage could be monitored by aerial surveillance and photos.  There was a draft plan for Gypsy Cove as it also was part of the common as well as the land over which the Murrell Road was being laid.  The concern at Gypsy Cove was that tourists and locals were wearing down the paths and breaking down the Penguin boroughs.  Another hot spot was at Cape Pembroke.  A management plan for Cape Pembroke was sadly lacking as well.  Dominique Giudicelli said it was critical to do some work at Cape Pembroke but there was only three people in the office.  Fiona Wallace, with her interest and training as a planner has written a report and is seeking input from the Committee as well as others.


The second matter arising was request to shoot birds.  People seeking a permit to kill them must submit a return after the cull is finished.  Turkey Vultures and Striated Caracaras were being shot.  In many cases, people haven’t shot anything.  Aerial photos to do bird counts were discussed with the majority thinking it was a good idea where there couldn’t be an assessment on the ground.  It was decided that they were accurate and played an important part in assessing the numbers.  Ground based assessments would help to determine bird mortalities.  The Environmental Studies budget provided some funding for the project.


There would be an ACAP workshop from 12 to 15 March, with representatives from British Overseas Territories as well as some from South America.  JA contingent from Tristan da Cunha , consisting of James and Norman Glass, will attend this vital working group. John Barton would represent Falkland Islands Fisheries and Gordon Liddle would do the same for South Georgia Fisheries.  One representative would come from South Africa.  It was thought that the Falklands and South Georgia could persuade the others to use mitigation measures tat have been use in both fisheries for a number of years now.


There were four applications for research licences.  The New Island South Conservation Trust has submitted a paper outlining their research that would assist conservation measures in the Falkland Islands.  Their full ecosystem approach was unique and widely respected as the way forward.  Researchers whose papers have not been received yet are Amy Van Buren for Johnny Rooks on Steeple Jason.  She wants to additional research but it is difficult to contact her.  ESRG has applied for a 5-year licence for research on Sea Lion Island and there was another request to do research on plovers and dotterels.


Those doing research must, as a provision of their licence, give a lecture and/or provide information about what they are doing to FIG.


The Environmental Studies budget has two phases.  There is a bidding process on behalf of FIG, where a letter of support is needed.  Key species are Striated Caracara and Turkey vultures.  These birds worried sheep as well as killed the young lambs, taking out their eyes and tongue - thus, the need to cull some birds.  A proposal would help to deal with the issue.  £20,000.00 would be available for years one and two of any programme and £10,000.00 in year three.  The research might include the Crested Caracara but if other species were added the discussion would come later.  Another look at the policy was necessary before it is set in stone.


An extension to the refuge hut was needed but concerns were raised about people staying overnight on the island.  FIG owns the nature reserve and it is thought that the iron-clad wooden framed hut could be a listed building as it has been on the island since the 1930s.  If an overnight was needed, perhaps a tent and sleeping bag would do.  The shanty has four wooden bunks and was in use recently with Dominique Giudicelli, Nick Rendell, Robin Woods and Sonya Felton staying over.


Nick Rendell, a graduate trainee, gave an update on the Falkland Islands and the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol.  The Falkland Islands Government had been invited to join both but things seemed to have stalled because of up and coming negotiations with Defra but they were naïve about the Overseas Territories and wanted more information before they formulated a policy.


There were major issues at stake such as an emissions inventory but as a UK Overseas Territory there would be problems getting funding as the classification could be as a first world country with resources to cover many costs.  Nick Rendell sent Defra e-mails and a letter in mid December but nothing has been heard yet.  Harriet Hall had circulated an Overseas Territories briefing paper to other Overseas Territories in January and a response is awaited.


Sheep numbers had decreased from 720,000 to just below 600,000 since 1009 so some methane emissions had reduced.  Funding may be procured for wind turbines, that would further reduce emissions.  The heat recovery programme for the KEMH from the Power Station would also help reduce emissions.  Less fuel would be used if houses were better insulated.  It was noted that even new builds had average insulation and it could be better.


There were not as many recent Penguin Egging Licences issued as there had been in the past.  Only Gentoo Eggs would be taken by licence.  Farmers are managing their colonies.  Dominique Giudicelli is happy that the trend for taking eggs is going down.


Visitors to gypsy Cove during tourist season could beas many as 600 a day.  Tourists were not allowed on the beach because feeding penguins refrained from coming ashore to tend their chicks with people on the beach.  Locals, however, can go on the beach but this causes difficulties when tourists are about.  It is quietly suggested to locals to come back to the beach area when the tourists have gone.


A lot of work had to be done on the paths through the boroughs because people could slip and break through them.  There was no money in the pot for funding some of the improvements and some money for others.  The importance of having toilets on site was expressed with discussion about who would pay to paint them.  Would it be Tourism?  This needed to be discussed and money allocated.


In the final version of the draft management plan for Gypsy Cove an emphasis on funding would be paramount.  With tourism numbers increasing, things are at a critical stage.  The Draft Management plan is available from the Secretariat.


The Conservation Biodiversity programme had not been progressed.  Andy Douse had produced a useful document that merely had to be re-vamped and updated.


The relationship between Falklands Conservation and the Falkland Islands Government  needed to be clarified and a Memo of Understanding needs to be drafted.  Falklands Conservation is looking for someone interested in doing it.  This could be funded from the Environmental Studies budget.


This article is the Property and Copyright of Falkland Islands News Network.

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Tristan : M/S Endeavour: The Landing at Inaccessible Island
Submitted by Tristan Times (Juanita Brock) 04.05.2004 (Current Article)

This would be the first ever landing by the Endeavour zodiacs, the first for Tristanian students, first for me and the other passengers.

Photos (c) J. Brock (FINN)



By J. Brock (SARTMA – TdC)


Inaccessible Island viewed from Nightingale Island


We had just departed Endeavour by zodiac after a particularly water-filled Lunch.  No wonder!  While climbing on Nightingale Island I had worked up quite a thirst and drank a few cups of tea when I boarded Endeavour for the sail towards Inaccessible Island – an hour’s journey.  It was time to relax and have a good chat with my new-found extended family.  We graduated from tea to beer while putting on our rubber boots and rain jackets.



                    Nightingale Island viewed from near Inaccessible Island


This would be the first ever landing by the Endeavour zodiacs, the first for Tristanian students, first for me and the other passengers.  Lindblad Expeditions have a policy of trying to make landings where no one has been before.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a first ever landing by tourists.  According to the guides it was the third landing and would be added to the sights to visit for future expeditions.



         There was only one real good landing place on the island's coastal plain.


One of the bird species endemic to that island only, the Inaccessible Flightless Rail, was the target of the photographers and bird watchers on the trip.  I recall Tom Richie mentioning to one of the Tristan guides that someone had a recording of the bird and he thought it might be helpful in luring it out of the undergrowth.  It supposedly sounded like two rocks being banged together.  In fact, the Inaccessible Flightless Rail has a loud trilling call, various contact calls and a loud chip alarm call.  There was no recording available on Tristan and the rocks didn’t work either.



                                      Tom Richie, the expedition leader.


Prior to the landing there was a circumnavigation, then a recognisance visit by zodiacs, after which the blower came on and Tom Richie, the Expedition Leader, described the beach as rocky and slippery like bowling balls covered in slime.  True to form, the landing was extremely slippery and the beach had bowling ball sized rocks on it that made walking very difficult.  Some of the passengers collected marine rubbish while others tried to find a path in the undergrowth above the beach to the yellow scientific hut that was visible at the end of the circumnavigation.  It was a daunting task and no one wanted to venture far from Salt Beach because they were afraid to disturb any ground nesting birds that might inhabit the tussock and other vegetation.


Zodiacs landing and taking people off the island.


Inaccessible Island Flightless Rails have a battleship grey underside and are dark rusty-brown above, with black bills and grey legs.  They are shy creatures that rarely come out of their habitat.  The tape had been used by some birders to lure it out.  Another method, not used by Endeavour’s tourists, was to beat them out of the undergrowth.  .


The afternoon had heated up and, after stripping the outer layer, I began to photograph the panorama of Salt Beach.  It wasn’t until I had been there for about half an hour that I began thinking about finding the nearest bush, and I quickly clambered over the rocks towards the thick undergrowth where, if I had timed it right, I could relieve myself and get back to taking pictures.  With my eyes focused on a particular spot, I climbed even faster, until I reached a rather large Tussock bog and began to unzip.  What went on next could have come from the script of “One Foot in the Grave.”



                                               A view of Salt Beach


“You were going mighty fast,” panted someone behind me.  “What did you see?  Was it the Rail?”


When I turned around, there they were like Penguins, six people, all following me, with cameras. They had seen me take off towards the tussock.  The last in line, an 80-year-old lady with a camcorder, was determined to have the same photographs that I did.  Victor Meldrew uttered those famous words from the grave as I got over the shock of not being alone in my make-shift loo.  Scuppered!  My teeth were floating and the entourage wanted to photograph a non-existent Flightless Inaccessible Rail.  As the company was mixed, the dilemma was, do I wet my pants or tell a little white lie?  “There aren’t any Rails here just now,” I said.  And, after some pleasantries, the men took off, leaving me to moon the ladies in a last ditch effort to keep my trousers dry. 


There was no Rail sighting but I spotted a few thrushes and a lot of seabirds.  Admittedly I was surprised to see such thick vegetation, as it just looked like a grass covering from the ship – an easy walk.  But the tussock and other plants came up to my chest and it wasn’t an easy slog to get through it.


I know that on Gough Island there is a catwalk around the weather station and I wondered whether something like that could be rigged up on Inaccessible Island so that people could easily negotiate the beach and vegetation.  It would help to protect the ground nesting birds as well.


Climbing down to the beach for the zodiac ride back to Endeavour was a quiet, deliberate affair, interspersed with the odd giggle from the ladies having a nice piece of gossip to share with anyone who would listen.   But I should have wee’d me trousers as I first thought, because the weather began to deteriorate, with the seas becoming rough.   And, an incoming wave engulfed the zodiac from the stern while we were just sitting down, soaking me clear through.


With boots squelching, I returned Endeavour’s lounge, where Geoffrey Haydock was busy tuning a dodgy note on the piano and Penny was sorting through music that would be used for a future concert.  She saw the soaking trousers and came to my rescue with some dry clothes.


As the sun set, we approached Tristan, and I said my final adieu to the Endeavour and to Geoff and Penny, with whom I had an excellent budding friendship.  It wasn’t long before Jim Kelley manoeuvred the Zodiac past the jacks that defined Calshot Harbour and protected it from much of the South Atlantic’s fury.  We said so long and he landed the students, guides and me safely ashore along with a huge pile of rubber boots and other bits and pieces.




     Students from St. Mary's School on Tristan da Cunha made a first ever landing.



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Tristan : Historic First for Tristan Students
Submitted by Tristan Times (Juanita Brock) 27.04.2004 (Current Article)

Students have landed on many remote places during their GAP years and at other stages during their primary and secondary education. However, some from St. Mary’s School in Edinburgh, Tristan da Cunha – itself a pretty remote place – have gone to the head of the class as far as landing on remote Islands.

Photo(c) J. Brock (SARTMA - TdC) Tristanian Students on Salt Beach, Inaccessible Island



By J. Brock (SARTMA – TdC)


Tristanian Students on Salt Beach, Inaccessible Island


Students have landed on many remote places during their GAP years and at other stages during their primary and secondary education.  However, some from St. Mary’s School in Edinburgh, Tristan da Cunha – itself a pretty remote place – have gone to the head of the class as far as landing on remote Islands.  Nicole Glass, Kirsty Green, Glenda Swain and Sasha Green have stepped ashore on Inaccessible Island – a place rarely visited by adults, let alone school children.  As a matter of fact, it is a first ever landing on that island by students.


Thanks to the Tristanian guides, ably lead by James Glass and M/S ENDEAVOUR staff and supernumeraries, Tom Richie, James Kelley, Magnus Forsberg, Stephen Zeff, Richard White and Steve MacLean, the students, accompanied by their teacher, Mrs. Tina Glass, a Policewoman, Lorraine Repetto, and a mother, Noleen Swain, stepped ashore on Salt Beach, just below the yellow scientific hut. 


Besides the students, this was the estimated third landing by tourists and a first for M/S ENDEAVOUR passengers, who came from Britain, the United States and Germany.  Those tourists had come to the island to photograph the Inaccessible Island Rail – a flightless bird endemic to that island only.


Prior to their landing on Inaccessible Island, the four students spent the morning on Nightingale Island, where they viewed first hand the damage caused by the May 21, 2001 hurricane.  They visited the sheds that were used to house people doing scientific studies and took note of those sheds used by their families during trips to Nightingale Island in previous years.


Thanks goes to the crew of the M/S ENDEAVOUR, under the Captainship of Joachim Saeterskog, for a truly monumental day on the 17th of March 2004.  It’s gone in the Tristan history book!


This article is the Property and Copyright of Falkland Islands News Network.

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