By Dona Bertarelli
I want to thank all our partner schools, in France and Switzerland, and the 2,000 students who are following us. Whenever I can, I will be answering your many questions throughout this journey around the planet, a journey that we are taking together to discover the wonders of our world.
With all the crew of Spindrift 2, through our observations and our encounters, not only with marine life, but also with the islands and peninsulas that we pass, with the meteorological phenomena we experience, and with the birds and the stars that accompany us during our voyage, we will help you to live this adventure, like Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s famous book. We are calling our Spindrift for Schools series - Out of the Classroom.
Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island
Day 11 at sea. Our planned routes would have taken us very close to Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island, the last outposts of the South Atlantic, but we have managed to stay at the edge of a front that is taking us straight towards the Cape of Good Hope. As a result, we are now 200 miles north of the two islands.
The volcanic archipelago is located in the heart of the South Atlantic, almost midway between Brazil (2,700 km) and South Africa (3,200 km). The islands are considered the most isolated in the world, not only because they are so far away from any other land, but also because access is so difficult due to the climate in this part of the globe. It takes seven days by sea to reach Tristan de Cunha from Cape Town. It was therefore something of a surprise to the island’s 250 inhabitants when, on November 26th, 2011, the Puma crew in the Volvo Ocean Race landed on the island after being dismasted! They stayed on the island several days before being repatriated by a cargo ship.
Tristan da Cunha is the larger of the two islands, and rises to a height of 2,060 metres above sea level. Discovered in 1506 by Portuguese navigator Tristão da Cunha (Tristan is an Anglicised form), the two islands are now part of a British overseas territory and are a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Gough Island is located in the Roaring Forties, 350km south-east of Tristan da Cunha, and is even more wild and inhospitable than its neighbour to the north-west. Today, Gough Island is a wildlife reserve, home to elephant seals and fur seals. Several thousand mice not deliberately introduced by man currently pose a threat to the island’s biodiversity and to the nesting of birds.
The waters are rich in biodiversity thanks to the island’s location at the junction between tropical waters and the cold waters of Antarctica, creating whirlpools that bring food to the surface for fish, octopuses and crustaceans, which in turn make ideal meals for birds.