Tricky return journeys via Ascension Island and Cape Town

Gough project team members return home by sea and air

Reports from Fiona Kilpatrick on Tristan and Sean Burns on Ascension Island

Bringing home members of the Gough Restoration Programme Team from the island after the 2020 project was cancelled by the RSPB in March due to coronavirus pandemic fears has proved a logistical challenge due to the strict lockdown arrangements imposed in South Africa.

Five members of the team who lived in South Africa were picked up by the Ovenstone fishing vessel MFV Geo Searcher on 5th April 2020. The ship arrived at Cape Town on Easter Sunday 12th April, but was not allowed to dock until the following Thursday 16th April and passengers had to remain on board for a further period of quarantine and were expected to be allowed ashore on Tuesday 28th April.

Yacht Evohe approaching Gough Islanda

Chris Jones' photo shows the Evohe at anchor off Gough Island on Friday 28th February 2020.

Meanwhile, another eight team members were picked up by the sailing yacht Evohe, which had been used to transport thirteen team members from Cape to Gough in February 2020. As these people needed to return to the UK, the yacht headed north and transported the group all the way to Ascension Island where they arrived on Tuesday 21st April. As they had spent so long at sea they were given clearance to come ashore the same day and spent five nights in guest house accommodation. They departed on the RAF flight on the morning of Sunday 26th April along with other Ascension-based people who needed to return to the UK and elsewhere. Ascension Island Administrator Sean Burns added that 'We are very grateful to the RAF for their help repatriating the team to the UK'.

Of the Gough Restoration Project Team members assembled on the island in February 2020, only the three RSPB Field Biologists Michelle Risi, Christopher Jones and Alexis Osborne remain to over-winter ready for the scheduled annual arrival of SA Agulhas II in September, which will presumably go ahead.

Sean Burns with eight members of the Gough Restoration Project team

Photo taken at Ascension Island's Wideawake Airport on Sunday 26th April shows Ascension Island Administrator Sean Burns (far left) with the eight members of the Gough Restoration Project Team, Marina Burns (5th from left) Head of Administrator's Office, Xander Halliwell, (just under the tail of the aircraft at the back) and alongside Marina Wing Commander John Kane (Base Commander).

Wideawake Airport, Ascension Island

Scene at Wideawake Airport on 26th April showing the RAF plane preparing to take off for its flight to the UK.
Ascension photos from Xander Halliwell.

Note on Sean Burns

Sean Burns is Tristan da Cunha's longest-serving Administrator after completing 6 years and 5 months over two terms on the island. Sean arrived in September 2010 to serve a first term dominated by the MS Oliva wreck on Nightingale Island in March 2011. He departed in October 2013 to serve as Deputy, and later Acting Governor, on St Helena. Sean returned to Tristan da Cunha for a welcome second term in November 2016. Sean took up a third South Atlantic post when he became Administrator of Ascension Island in March 2020. It is significant to be able to record how joined-up the UK Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha is during 2020.