|Position:||07° 55’ S / 014° 25’ W|
This morning started with high temperatures and some light drizzle outside. We were close to Ascension Island, which was ahead of us, hiding in the morning mist. Suddenly the mist disappeared in a matter of minutes and the island was right in front of us. We had some wildlife around the ship: Flying fish in/over the water, Bulwer's Petrels, Brown Boobies, Sooty Terns and Black (White-capped noddies) in the air.
After breakfast and customs formalities we were able to leave Ortelius. There was some swell at sea, but it did not prevent us from going ashore.
Passengers leaving the ship in Cape Verde disembarked first and cleared immigration with their luggage – it was quite an exciting final zodiac ride and a challenge to step from the zodiac onto the pier at Ascension without getting wet! The rest of us were all on shore by 12.15 pm and had an hour to wander around Georgetown centre, which consisted of a few colonial buildings and a pretty church, with donkeys wandering around on the cricket pitch, and lines of verandah-ed bungalows. The local guides with transportation soon met us (in the car-park next to the 20-mile-an-hour speed limit!), and we drove first to the big colony of nesting Sooty terns via the American Wideawake Airbase. It was hot. The terns were nesting on the arid lava fields not far from the shore. After a short walk we were able to observe the terns from fairly close, ensuring not to disturb them or change their behaviour. The colony site, with hundreds of birds on the surface of the lava, was very impressive. Our next destination was Green Mountain – a tall mountain in the east part of the island covered with tropical vegetation. We drove almost to the top of the mountain on very narrow, steep roads with numerous turns. On the mountain it was another world - very different from the lower-elevated, arid parts of the island. Here it was much cooler. Low clouds covered the top of the mountain, continually blowing through. Lush vegetation full of brightly-coloured flowers surrounded our rustic unpaved road. We continued on foot from the location of the former Green Mountain settlement/farm to the old fortress near the mountain crest, which overlooked an area on Ascension designed for water-collecting. It was pleasantly cool and we spent some time there, taking photos and enjoying beautiful views of the island. Soon we were back in the cars and heading to our next destination – another historical stop where a battery once stood, still containing old cannons, located just above Georgetown. After that we were driven back into town to do a little exploring and maybe to visit the museum (partially set within another fort) or hang out with ‘locals’ in a bar. There was also a zodiac shuttle available to a small, but very beautiful beach for anybody who wanted to go for a swim. The time passed quickly and those of us who had chosen to stay on the ship to Cape Verde went back to Ortelius for dinner. However, our adventures were not over yet. After dinner it was decided that despite a bit of swell, we could go ahead with the evening excursion to see Green turtles preparing their nests and maybe laying their eggs on the beach after darkness had fallen. 13 intrepid Ortelians were soon back in zodiacs for another ride to shore through waves and swell in complete darkness! It was a short walk to the “turtle” beach. The turtle-viewing was well -organized by local guides. We met up with some of our departing companions at their hotel, then walked together (using flashlights and feeling our way carefully) to the gathering point. Then it was up to the turtles! We were extremely lucky to see hatchlings emerging and scrambling towards the open ocean AND to watch a large female making a nest in the sand in which to lay her eggs. Maybe our colleagues in ‘Hotel Obsidian’ got to see the egg-laying itself; we returned on board around 11 pm, thoroughly contented with our day. Some of us, who had chosen to stay onboard Ortelius for the evening, were able to watch Common dolphins hunting Flying fish in the ship’s spotlight! After everyone was back and the zodiacs were safely stowed, we headed to the bar for a nightcap (Rolando had kept open especially) and the ship started her journey towards Cape Verde. It had been a long and very enjoyable day on Ascension Island and we were looking forward to a late breakfast in the morning…