Location: Jamestown, St. Helena
When we sailed into St. Helena on Monday, the sky was partly covered in clouds. The outline of the island disappeared in a shroud of fog as rain threatened to fall. The volcanic rock from which St. Helena is made was black and ominous. The jagged cliffs were surrounded by mist, and if it weren’t for our spectacular Whale Shark welcome, I would’ve wondered what kind of world we were about to enter. After today’s adventure, however, any feelings of arriving at a rocky, uninhabited island (save Jamestown, which we explored yesterday) have been completely erased.
Around 9:00 this morning, we boarded a bus to take a hike around St. Helena. The bus took us up into the mountains, through a forest and fields peppered with cows, and down a windy road into Sandy Bay. Our two guides, Aaron and Julie, then took us on a one-and-a-half-hour hike that ended in emerald green tide pools on a black, gravely shore. Along the way, we passed an arrangement of rocks that told us “Lot’s Wife’s Pond” was to the right and “Fizzle’s Pie” (at least that’s what I thought the rocks said) was to the left. My understanding is that “Lot’s Wife’s Pond” was underneath a rock on the cliffs. We were hiking around that was also called “Lot.” Anyway, it was just passed this point that we saw nesting Masked Boobies on top of one of the cliffs. It was a pretty amazing sight to see, considering we were also able to see the fluffy chicks underneath them. After hiking along a reddish rocky path that often dropped off into breathtaking sites, we all had to use a knotted three-strand rope in order to get down to the tide pools.
Since the weather was just sunny enough to dehydrate us, stopping at the tide pools for both a swim and lunch was close to heavenly. We cooled off and saw some amazing marine life (namely red crabs that looked a lot like Sally Lightfoot crabs, snails, limpets, damselfish, triggerfish, and a voracious octopus eating a crab) and reviewed a little bit of Oceanography and Marine Biology. We learned that St. Helena is a product of two volcanic eruptions and that most of the original vegetation on the island was eaten by hogs and goats brought by the Europeans in the 16th Century. The island’s vegetation is dominated by introduced species, yet scientists are still trying to quantify/classify the species endemic to St. Helena. By the time we hiked back to the bus and drove back to town, all of us were pretty exhausted. Some of the shipmates stayed in town for the afternoon to buy snacks for our next passage, while others came back to Argo. One of the best surprises of the day was the sighting of a Devil Ray off the side of Argo. Some might call it a “majestic flap-flap,” others might call it “scary”…I think it was pretty amazing.
Thus ends day 21, yet another day full of surprises, amazingness, and the wonders of St. Helena.