Reception at the Royal Geographical Society on 27th July 2017

National Geographic Pristine Seas Film Premiere in London

Report from Richard Grundy, with additional photos from Peter Millington

A large attendance of Tristan Government representatives, Tristan da Cunha Association members, scientists and other Tristan da Cunha stakeholders met at the Royal Geographical Society at 6pm on 27th July 2017 to attend an evening programme titled 'In Celebration of Tristan da Cunha'.

Opening slide shown in the RGS Lecture Theatre

Hosted by the National Geographic Society and the RSPB, the evening's MC was Paul Rose, leader of the Pristine Seas Expedition to Tristan da Cunha held in January and February 2017.

The evening celebration started with welcome drinks in the famous RGS Map Room. Many guests had attended the workshop to plan Tristan's Blue Belt Commitments held the same day at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall and here they greeted friends and colleagues gathered for the unique event.

Proceeding to the prestigious RGS Ondaatje Theatre, the scene of many famous geographical presentations in the past, Paul Rose welcomed everybody and outlined the huge success of the Pristine Seas Expedition.

Pristine Seas Expedition Leader Paul Rose giving his introductory speech of welcome

Following Paul, the large audience was addressed by the enthusiastic Jenn Caselle who was Chief Scientist of the Pristine Seas Expedition. Jenn is from the Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and made those present aware of the brilliant work the expedition was able to carry out in excellent weather conditions which allowed the full scientific programme to be carried out.

Paul also introduced Jonathan Hall who is Head of UK Overseas Territories at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Jonathon was also a member of the Pristine Seas Expedition where he worked alongside members of the Tristan da Cunha Conservation and Fisheries Departments led by Trevor and James Glass, the latter present this evening.

There followed the premiere of the National Geographic Film which held the audience spellbound and afterwards was followed by spontaneous applause. The photography was stunning, particularly the drone photos of the Tristan da Cunha Islands, especially those approaching the Tristan Settlement and those hovering over Nightingale Island's High Ridge. Many sequences were taken under water and the whole showcased the amazing land and sea scientific work carried out by the expedition team. It was also fitting that the Tristan community was set at the heart of the film, with Heads of Department Dawn Repetto (Tourism), James Glass (Fisheries) and Trevor Glass (Conservation) joining Chief Islander Ian Lavarello in being interviewed to promote the island as it seeks a sustainable future in harmony with its special environment, now recognised by the Gough and Inaccessible Islands World Heritage Sites.

A copy of the 35 minute film will be sent to Tristan da Cunha and it is hoped also to show it at a future Tristan Association Annual Gathering. It is likely to be broadcast across the world and will no doubt play a pivotal role in making a wider audience aware of the very special Tristan da Cunha Islands.

Tristan Administrator Sean Burns addresses the gathering

Once applause for the film at last died down, Paul Rose introduced Sean Burns who thanked National Geographic and RSPB for organising the splendid evening as well as all those attending from the UK and overseas. Sean reported on a successful three days of workshops, two at the RSPB's Bedfordshire HQ held earlier in the week, leading up to the main Blue Belt Workshop at the FCO during 27th July, all working towards the Tristan da Cunha Government's commitment to establishing its own version of a Marine Conservation Area by 2020. Sean emphasised how successful Tristan already was in achieving Marine Stewardship Award for its sustainable lobster fishery and its partnership with the RSPB and other agencies to monitor and protect its precious wildlife habitat. He outlined embryo plans to extend studies to ensure that Tristan's marine ecosystem would be protected and enhanced in the future by working together.

Celebration drinks and delicious food being enjoyed in the RGS Main Hall

All then gathered in the main RGS foyer where we were treated not only to a choice if wines and soft drinks, hot and cold food served by staff, but were also presented with a copy of the National Geographic Pristine Seas, RSPB and Tristan da Cunha Government Expedition Report titled 'Ecosystem Assessment of the Tristan da Cunha Islands'. This lavishly produced, spiral-bound publication is packed with beautiful photographs, maps, tables, statistics and report and is a most welcome addition to the bibliography of the islands.

Overall, it was a privilege to attend this special event 'In Celebration of Tristan da Cunha' at what is regarded as the most important geographical venue in the world. It was a special night for many Tristan da Cunha Association members who attended, including former Administrator Mike Hentley, now Vice-Chair of the association and islander Hazel Carter with her husband Barry. We were all most grateful to be invited and thank the organisers for a splendid evening. Looking around the packed Main Hall we hope many of the young scientists getting to know Tristan for the first time will join the Association and attend our own Annual Gatherings held in Southampton on the Saturday after Easter each year.