Tristan Wool

There can be very few places in the world where woollen products are commercially made with every stage of the process being carried out by hand.   On the island of Tristan da Cunha, shearing is done using hand shears, and all the wool treatment processes including carding, spinning and knitting are done by hand.

Sheep have been on Tristan since the early 1800’s. All the sheep are individually owned, but they are normally handled as one flock. It is the Agricultural Department that look after the sheep and carry most of the costs, taking care of all the routine treatments throughout the year, and one man from the Department attends to the ewes at lambing time. The owners of the sheep look after ear marking (each owner has his own pattern of cuts that are made in the ears for identification) and shearing, and finally the owner looks after the slaughter and butchering of his own animals.

A whole lot of woolly jumpers!

The flock has resulted from the importation of a number of breeds over the years. The main breeds in evidence in this mixed flock are Scottish Blackface, Cheviot, Suffolk, Carrodale, and a recent (but not too successful) addition of Dorper. We are currently making all efforts to introduce another importation of ‘new blood’ into the flock, this time hopefully bringing in Cheviots by using AI. We have come to that choice because the Cheviot breed is known for being hardy in marginal conditions, with a good carcase and with good wool quality.

Wool is often seen as a by-product of the sheep industry. Around the world, in these days of artificial fibres, wool no longer has the importance that it once enjoyed. It is difficult to imagine how important wool was for the early settlers on Tristan, since they had so little contact with the outside world and no other means of producing clothing to help them through the cold winters.

Shearing takes place in December, or sometimes January. Shearing takes place with pointed hand shears, the same sort of shears that shepherds around the world use for local clipping around the sheeps’ tails. The annual community event called ‘Shearing Day’ has already been covered in a previous article. The wool is generally packed tight into recycled plastic sacks, and taken home to be stored in islanders’ garages.

Clipping by hand

The work required to turn the bags of raw wool into a yarn that can be used for knitting takes a number of stages, all of them carried out by hand. Firstly the wool is washed. Once the wool is dry, it is picked over, this task being done to start pulling out the fibres, to separate the clumps into smaller pieces of wool and at the same time to discard foreign bodies and pieces of marker paint that were used to mark the sheep for identification. The next stage is perhaps a bit unexpected – the wool has a trace of cooking oil added to it and mixed into the pile of pieces. This oil allows the wool to flow better in the following two stages.


Carding and then spinning come next. In the carding process, two cards are used – these are like wooden paddles which have on one face hundreds of little wires protruding from the surface. The fibres of the small pieces of wool are pulled out, untangled, and left in loose spirals of fluffy wool by the skilled use of these cards, one the wires of one card being pulled against the wires of the other one.

The fluffy spirals of wool are then spun into yarn. Many of the ladies on the island use locally-made spinning wheels that are rotated by hand and that use the momentum of the wheel to power the spinning of the fibres together, although some treadle-powered wheels are also used on the island.


The yarn coming from the spinning is then doubled up, two pieces of thread being spun together by using the spinning wheel in the opposite direction. The fully formed woollen thread is then wrapped up in a skein, which is then once again washed to remove the oil that was added some five stages ago. After drying the skeins, the wool is then rolled up into the familiar balls of wool that we all know knitters to use.

Skeins of wool drying on a line

The knitting skills that some of the islanders have need to be seen to believed. I have seen one of these speedy knitters working away at a speed that seemed to be impossible, with only occasional reference to some scribbled pattern notes on a scrap of paper. Yet she was working on a complex garment with the words ‘Tristan da Cunha’ built into the pattern, and she held a conversation at the same time!

The range of products that are made by the island knitters includes sweaters, socks and woolly hats. Sometimes they are made as a gift to family or friends, (here or overseas), sometimes they are made to order, and sometimes the more standard items are made for stock, to be sold perhaps to visitors to the island who may be expat staff or tourists from one of the occasional cruise boats or navy ships that come to visit.   They are also available by ordering via the web site, . If you order a garment, you must of course be prepared for a long delay while the item is made for you and while the long process of shipping to Cape Town takes place. But you will receive a high quality hand made item that probably has no equal anywhere.

Who will make the garment for you? A register is kept by the ‘Tourism Department’, and in true Tristan fashion they rotate the ladies that they ask to produce each particular order. Believe it or not, out of a total population of 260 people, nearly 50 ladies are on the register. This gives a clear picture of the importance on the island of the cottage industry of knitting.

Woollen products in the island shop

Ratting Day

This is another important event in the annual calendar of Tristan da Cunha. One of the more taciturn staff members of the Agriculture Department surprised me some weeks ago; while another member of the team and I were discussing the coming Ratting Day, the strong silent type leaned over and said “Ratting Day is lots of fun”. He was right!

It all started in 1884. The trading ship called the Henry B Paul was shipwrecked on the east coast of Tristan. It has been suggested that the wrecking of the boat was deliberate, as part of an insurance fraud. The wreck changed the island for ever, because a number of black rats swam ashore. It was, in effect, a very black day. Within a week of the shipwreck, rats were seen at the Settlement.

The number one problem of rats is their ability to multiply. It is said that three breeding pairs can multiply to a million rats in twelve months, under ideal conditions. This may sound far-fetched, but if conditions are right baby rats can be sexually mature in just five weeks, there can be up to 14 young in each litter, and the gestation period is only 21 days. That is why rats are a problem in every city in the world.

When the rats arrived on Tristan, they had almost everything their own way. There were no natural predators, with the possible exception of the Arctic Skua, but in the case of the Skua the bird is diurnal and the rat is nocturnal, so only rats that were already sick would expose themselves to attack from Skuas. There are no foxes, no owls, no stoats, no raptors, no snakes. No enemies for the rats. At the same time, food was plentiful. Fish debris was being washed up on the shore, there was plenty of vegetative matter for the omnivorous rats, and particularly there were millions of birds that nested in burrows and on the surface of the ground, and which provided the rats with an everlasting high-protein food supply of eggs and chicks. It was convenient for the rat population that the different bird species nested at different times – the supply chain was assured. In a very short time the rats populated virtually the whole island. As the rat population increased, so the bird population was decimated, and some bird species even became extinct.

At the time, the severe reduction in the bird population was serious to the Tristanians, because they themselves had a diet which was quite heavily dependent on sustainably taking birds for meat and for cooking fat. Also of course the rats ate the islanders’ crops, particularly the potatoes, and they broke into food stores where they ate or damaged food that was being stored for the winter.

Rat control became a part of the islanders’ busy lives, with traps, dogs, sticks and later toxic baits all playing a part in the control of the black rat. At some time in the 1940’s Ratting Day started, being organised by the residents as a joint community action to try to address the problem of rats.

This, then, was the origin of rats, and the origin of Ratting Day, on Tristan.

We felt great excitement at being able to witness this annual event that is so much part of the cultural heritage of Tristan da Cunha. In common with all the main annual events, and in common with organised work days such as Unloading Day and Fishing Day, the day officially started with the sounding of the Gong. This traditional touch came as no surprise to anyone – it had already been firmly established the day before that Friday May 26th was going to be Ratting Day. If it had transpired that the weather changed and that the day was going to be bad, the following Monday would have been substituted. The weekends here are sacrosanct. But this particular Friday we were blessed with great weather.

Picnic on Ratting Day – Bee with our friends Roxanne and Clinton. Note two things – the island of Inaccessible in the background – and the rare (for this time of year) green salad in the foreground.

The five teams that had registered for the competition this year set out to their chosen grounds, together with dogs, children, sticks, spades, crowbars and essential supplies. They all went west, targeting known areas of large populations of rats in the Valley and around the Patches and in the ground of the western plain between the Patches and the escarpment.   These had been competition-winning areas in previous years. However, as we have learned, 2017 is different. Heavy rainfall and bad flood damage has changed the habitat for the rats. We must assume an awful lot of drowned rats, because one particular team worked an area in which they had seen great success in previous years, but this year they spent three hours with no rats at all being seen.

One of the ratting teams in action.

The process of ratting takes skill and hard work. Each team looks for signs of rat tracks on the ground; this takes accustomed eyes, to interpret on the ground the linear traces of the passage of the rats. Once it is established that rats have taken up residence in the area, it is a question of following the tracks and finding the hole that leads to their nests. Often these holes lead under boulders, and using bars and spades the ratters have to remove the boulder and dig down the lines of the holes to where the rats are lying. Suddenly, a rat makes a break for it, knowing that he has been cornered. He might be caught by the edge of a spade, or by a well-aimed boot. Outside this circle of action, there are the dogs, poised for action. Very few rats escape this cordon.

Once each rat has been killed, the next step is to cut off its tail. The tails are all collected in a plastic bag, to be measured and counted at a later time – this is a competition, after all. Prizes and prestige are both available for the winners. The winners will celebrate in traditional style, while those who are not winners this year will no doubt need some form of solace to see them through the evening.

Music while you rat – on the back!

The next phase of the day is the counting and measuring of the tails, and the prize giving ceremony. This all takes place at the Vet Clinic. Each ratting team presents its bag of tails, which are checked, counted, measured and recorded. The ‘most tails’ prize (1st and 2nd) is awarded to the team with the most tails per person in the team, to allow for differences of team size. There are also prizes for the longest tail, and there is a consolation prize for the team with the least number of tails per head. The longest tail this year was impressive – a record-beating 30.2 cm, while altogether 399 tails were counted. This may sound like a lot of tails, but it compares poorly with last year’s figure of around 930. This fall in numbers could be due to the floods taking their toll on the rat population, or perhaps the fact that rather fewer teams entered the competition this year.

A doctor, a vet, the Island Vet and the Chief Islander check out the tails.

And so on to the closing event of the day, a dance in the Philip Hall. And there was all-round agreement that “Ratting Day is lots of fun!”

The Girl From Barra

For the second time in two weeks, the flags on Tristan da Cunha were at half mast. In both cases this was an expression of solidarity over the atrocities in the UK – Manchester and London. The vile Manchester bombing, and the idiotic murders in London, have rocked the people here.

It is a reminder as to how very British this island is, even though Britain lies some 6,000 miles further North. This ultra-remote island is one of the British Overseas Territories, and its origins go back to the time in the first years of the 1800’s when there was a British garrison here. The people here are very loyal to the Queen, and in many respects they are more British than the British.

From the perspective of the people of this remote island, it is even more difficult to understand the wave of ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ attacks than it is for other people around the world. Their thinking is:- how is it that people can move to another country that is generous enough to offer them shelter, then for these people to take all the benefits they can in terms of free housing, unemployment benefit, free medical care, and so on, and then turn round and bite the hand that has for so many years fed them? Even worse, and even more hypocritical, is to go out on a murder rampage and pretend it is in the name of Islam.

The truth of the matter is that the murder of innocent individuals has nothing to do with Islam. The Koran expressly forbids such actions. There is however a provision that gives soldiers who are carrying out a military action, as decided on by social and religious leaders, the expectation of enormous privileges and pleasures in the afterlife if they die in the name of Allah. The modern self-styled fundamentalists are breaking the rules. Just because they cry out “In the name of Allah” as they carry out their atrocities does not at all give them the backing of the religion. They might as well cry out “on the name of Pooh Bear” or “In the name of Alice in Wonderland”

One trouble is that Islam does not have a pyramidal hierarchy. It has no Pope, no Archbishop. And no single person within the faith is standing up and saying (as they would on Tristan) “Not in my name, Buddy”

I am not at all anti-Islam. For fifteen years I worked in four different countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Indeed, in Saudi Arabia one farm I was developing was on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca. And to drive to Hail where we had another farm, I had to drive through the holy city of Medinah. But I feel that if the diverse and widespread leaders of Islam do not stand up together to expose the hypocrisy of the fundamentalists, then Islam itself will come under unprecedented pressure from the outside world. Otherwise, they as a whole will be tarred with the same brush as their idiotic traitors. There is a saying “If you are not part of the cure, you are part of the problem”.

Coming from the west coast of Scotland, and having forbears who lived for generations as part of small island communities, I relate strongly to the Western Isles. Way out in the Outer Hebrides, there lies a tiny remote island called Barra. Some weeks ago, a young Barra girl called Eilidh McLeod made the journey of a lifetime to travel all the way to Manchester to enjoy a concert by her musical heroine called Ariana Grande. There, as a result of a universal traitor, she lost her life.

We look out from our house on our remote island deep in the south Atlantic, looking past the half-mast flags and out over the sea to the north. And we are deeply conscious of how desperate it must now be for the people of the community of the remote island of Barra, who have lost one of their precious children.

Life on Tristan (1)

In order to try and describe how our life has been for the first four months on Tristan, I have to start by describing some overall details of this exceptionally remote island.

Tristan is a volcano, and quite a new one at that. Some 200,000 years ago there was the series of eruptions that caused the island to be formed in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to the previous volcanic formation of some islands in the area (such as the tiny islands of Nightingale and Inaccessible) the ocean floor around Tristan is relatively shallow – only around 2,000 metres deep, as distinct from 4,500 metres deep over much of the Southern Atlantic.

Once the main landmass was formed, the forces of nature immediately started to attack the classic conical shape of an isolated sea volcano. Around the coast, wave erosion cut into the coastline, heavy rain caused erosion from the high ground, and at the same time new mini-volcanoes appeared, providing a complexity to the classical conical shape. This dynamic process is continuing to this day, and it will continue into the future. The 1961 eruption, which happened to be very close to the settlement of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, was just a part of this dynamic process.

Tristan remains a classic conical volcano; the island is round like a clock face, and it is possible to pin-point features around the coast by reference to the clock. For example, Edinburgh is at 11 o’clock, Sandy Point is at 3 o’clock, Stony Beach is at 6 o’clock, and the Caves are between 7 and 8 o’clock.

The ‘Clock’ of Tristan

The four places mentioned in the last paragraph are the four places where there is flat-ish ground and where there is some form of agricultural activity. In the past, particularly between the 1950’s and the 1970’s, there was quite a lot of agricultural work at Sandy Point – including the growing of potatoes, and the planting of apple trees and forestry trees (largely conifers and eucalyptus). Sandy Point enjoys a much more benign climate than the rest of the island, being in the lee of the strong prevailing winds, and the forestry trees have been very successful. However, access is the problem. There are no roads on the island other than on the Settlement Plain, and sea access is hazardous and only possible when the weather is right. In the past people made quite frequent journeys to Sandy Point, but now calm sea days are devoted to the fishing for crayfish and the men of the island have no time to tend the apples and to grow potatoes in this difficult terrain. I have been told that up to about twenty years ago, every year one day was designated as ‘Hapling Day’ (Apple-ing Day) and up to three longboats full of apples returned to the Settlement, but that is now all in the past.

Nowadays, the three outlying flatish areas are used for the grazing of cattle, which are very much left to fend for themselves. I have been lucky enough to go out to The Caves and to Sandy Point by joining teams of men going out to slaughter cattle for meat. In each case the process was much the same. The party set off in the ‘Government Launch’ with an oar-powered boat in tow. On arrival off the beach, the shore party transferred to the small boat and rowed ashore, leaving two qualified boatmen in the launch – it is not possible for the launch to land, and two men are needed for safety reasons. The islanders have enough experience of the hazards of the sea to have developed strong safety procedures.

View from the pasture land at the Caves, looking south towards Stony Point

When I went to The Caves, the oar-powered boat was taken ashore in relatively calm waters, but frighteningly close to the roar of breakers on a reef. The boat was beached at speed so that it rose up onto the gravel beach and as one the men jumped ashore, and we all pulled the boat up well clear of the water. Even with the boat high and dry two shore-lines were tied so that there was no risk of the boat departing on its own.

Our boat at the caves

[Pic – LT2 – Caption = Our boat at The Caves]

The slaughter process was done with rifles, not unlike shooting deer. The cattle were pretty wild since they are never handled. Just one cow was shot, butchered, loaded up into big plastic bags and carried to the boat.

On the return journey, two men stayed in the small boat with the meat while the rest of us transferred into the launch. The men in the small boat were then able to handle the boat and tie it up when we were back in the harbour. For me, it was interesting and exciting to see the island from a different vantage point.

Returning to the harbour

The second meat trip I did was to Sandy Point. I had read a lot about this place in Agricultural Officers’ reports dating from the 50’s and 70’s, and I was very anxious to visit it. The opportunity came up at short notice. On that day I had organised a Field Visit to our little Greenhouse project for members of the Agriculture Committee. When I started work at 6.30 that morning I learned that three of the five people expected would not be coming – they each had arranged to do more important things. I also learned that a boat was going to Sandy Point, departing in about an hour. So I cancelled the Field Visit, borrowed a lifejacket, picked up a bag with a sandwich (thanks to Bee) my waterproofs and a camera, and headed to the harbour.

The journey around the coast was uneventful, but the seas were higher than had been expected, and landing the small boat on shore was going to be challenging. The communication between the men on the oars as we approached the beach was interesting – voices were louder than usual and there was an evident tension. For the ‘final landing’ we made it – just! The boat was not maintained stern-on to the waves, and we broached. The starboard gunwale had six inches of water pouring over it, and most of the men ended up waist-deep in the water having exited the boat rather more quickly than they had intended!

Sandy Point – steep ground and trees

I remained with members of the group until the steer was shot – that way they knew where I was and the risk of a shooting accident was avoided! Incidentally, I did notice that the procedures for gun safety were well developed and strictly followed. These are high-powered rifles, and when not required for cattle slaughter they are stored in the armoury in the Police Station.

All habitation on the island is included in this view of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas


It is an inevitable fact that because we live on an island (and an exceptionally remote island at that) we all notice and comment on any ships and boats that we see. Ship movements have always been important here. In the early days of the community there was great excitement whenever a ship was sighted, because it could present an opportunity to do some bartering. Meat, crafts, vegetables and water were exchanged for fuel, hardware, medicines, clothing and other manufactured items. There was also the possibility of some mail being delivered. So at the first sight of a ship the cry would go up “Sail Ho!” and the men would stop whatever they were doing, collect their ‘sales bag’, and set off on the sometimes perilous journey out through the surf to the ship.

It is not really that different now. The house that we live in is quite high up in the village, and we have an excellent view of the sea from the house. No-one now cries “Sail Ho!”, instead we listen on the Harbour channel of the VHF to see what is going on.

One category of ship that we see is the ‘passer by’ – that is the ship that is not in these waters in order to have some direct contact with the island, but which happens to be passing this way. They are not numerous. In fact, in the four months that we have been on the island, we have seen just three such ships! They were all huge long tankers, partly hull-down on the horizon, heading east to go around the Cape of Good Hope. Strangely, of the three that we have seen, two were on the same day.

Two sailing yachts at anchor

No-one would say that Tristan is a natural destination for cruise ships. The classic pattern of cruise ships is for the passengers to do visits during the day, and for the ship to move on at night to the next wondrous destination. That is not exactly possible here!   But there are some speciality, small scale cruise ships that especially visit off-the-beaten-track places, and some of them come here. The risk that they take is that they sell their cruise to include this ‘most remote island in the world’ visit, and there is then disappointment when weather prevents anyone from landing. That happened recently, when on the 24th of March the Silver Explorer was due but the seas were enormous and for safety reasons it was out of the question for the crew to attempt to get anyone ashore. A luckier boat was the French cruise ship Le Lyrial; she had just 160 passengers on board, and they were able to do a stop-off between St Georgia and Cape Town. Of the passengers that we met, they all seemed to be French and Belgian, and they all seemed to really enjoy the charm of the Settlement that is called Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.

Cruise ship Le Lyriol on a calm day

At the other end of the scale, we have had a few intrepid yachtsmen coming here intending to make a visit. In January this year there was a sailing race from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro; although the race route of course ran substantially north from here, there were a few who decided to bend their route on their return to Cape Town, and to have a visit to this island. I believe that all these visiting yachts were from the Royal Cape Yacht Club, which Bee and I visited with a friend when we were in Cape Town. The first returning yachts were unable to arrange a landing, so they sailed on to Cape Town. These were the Ray of Light and Regardless. Then two yachts came and anchored here at the same time – these were the Rotary Scout and the Scatterling. Then a couple of days later two more yachts came along, but also sailed past and did not stop – these were Marie Galate and Black Cat. Then five weeks later we were treated to a visit from real adventurers; these were the two guys sailing the catamaran Sea Oyster. They also had completed the Cape Town to Rio race, but they had dallied on their return to cruise around some of the Brazilian islands before coming along to Tristan. The sailors, called Jimmy and Stan, had been at school together in Switzerland. They timed their departure from the island quite well – check out the photographs for a view of harbour conditions during their departure, with a similar view taken just 20 hours later. They were so prudent to leave when they did, and to get a good offing away from land before the storm broke that night. There is absolutely no shelter here, no natural harbour. If boats anchor in the lee of the island, there is always the risk of the wind changing and increasing in strength, and of the boat being at risk on a lee shore.

Jimmy and Stan – intrepid yachtsmen
Sea Oyster shortly before her departure from the island
Just a few hours later, the storm-bound harbour

On the 18th of March we were treated to a visit from what must be one of the most beautiful tall ships in the world. The Dutch-registered square rigger, sailing barque Europa, was at anchor here for two nights.   With around 18 Dutch and British professional crew and some 40 young trainees, the boat provides adventure and discipline. The crew I spoke to were fascinated by Tristan, and they mentioned particularly the friendliness of the people, the scenery, and the cute houses.

Sailing Barque Europa at anchor

This is a lead into my next blog. I realise that these pages have given very little information on the scenery of the island and on the Settlement itself, so that might be what I will write about next.


Finally, just a quick note to say that our very poor internet system has just got much worse! Indeed, for the last two weeks I have been unable to get into my gmail account. So – if anyone needs to contact me, you can ring if you know the number, or leave a request in the ‘comments’ section here for me to ring you, and the friend who looks after these posts for me will relay your enquiry.

Cape Town to Tristan da Cunha

Our departure from Cape Town was scheduled to be on Thursday 17th, but it was (initially) delayed a day.  Unfortunately, our hotel had no availability on the night of the 17th, and we had to move to another place. The delay was caused largely by the decision to load stone which was needed for some urgent repairs to the harbour wall on Tristan.

We were to travel on the ship called the Baltic Trader; eventually we had the call to be ready for our transport to the ship on the Sunday morning (20th) at 7.30, which was later extended to 9.00 for a ship departure of 11.00 – ish.   With us in the hotel was a geography teacher heading to the island on a 6-month contract.  When we arrived at the ship, we saw our baggage loaded, and then we were joined by the new Administrator and his wife and we were all taken off to Immigration.

Here there were some anxious moments when the Immigration officer refused to accept the passenger list that he was given – he was right, the list that was offered was for a previous sailing!  Anyway, the matter was resolved quickly and with good humour, and we felt that we were a step closer to our departure to Tristan da Cunha.

Once the main engine was started up, we had feelings of “all is well” which lasted quite briefly, in fact until the engine was shut down again!  There was a flurry of activity among the ship’s crew, and we learned that the cooling water intake was obstructed.  The diving company arrived promptly, and before long they had the obstruction cleared – large pieces of plastic 1 tonne bags, oddments of rope, and bizarrely a crisp packet.  This collection of plastic debris was almost inevitable, given the huge amount of plastic that was drifting around inside the harbour.

A diver goes in search of our cooling water blockage

Two small tugs arrived, and we were given a ‘dead pull’ straight away from the harbour wall, to distance us from the worst of the floating plastic before the main engine was re-started.  Finally, at around 4.30 in the afternoon, we left the harbour, leaving an angry tug-boat crewman contemplating his hawser which had had to be cut as a result of a jam on board our ship.

Someone cut my rope!
Somebody cut my rope
Leaving Cape Town – Table Mountain on the skyline

The weather and hence the sea state when we left was challenging, particularly for the first day out, with a quartering sea causing an uncomfortable motion, but day by day it moderated and by Wednesday it could be described as perfect, with a gentle following breeze, an almost cloudless sky, and a sharp horizon.

On the Tuesday we went past a group of whales – perhaps six or eight of them heading in an easterly direction.  I think that altogether there were five days when whales were sighted, but none of them were very close.  The further west we cruised, the more we were accompanied by birdlife, including yellow-nosed albatross and wandering albatross to remind us that we were  deep into the Southern Atlantic.

Yellow-nosed Albatross

Although for some dizzy hours we managed 8 knots, we spent most of the time with head winds and our speed was reduced even as slow as 3.1 knots at times  –  it is an awful long way to go at that speed!

Coming into Tristan da Cunha – early morning arrival

Early in the morning of the 30th we finally made it to the island.  We had read about the unloading arrangements, and expected the manoeuvre to be exciting.  It was!  In groups of six the passengers were ushered into a metal box about the size of a confessional (not that I would know!)   A hook from the ship’s derrick was attached, and we were hoisted way up into the air and over the side of the rolling ship.  We were then landed on a motorised pontoon that was waiting alongside.  The object of the exercise was for the crane operator to judge the touch-down of the confessional with the pontoon going down in the swell, to give us a soft landing.  In our case he mis-judged the landing and we arrived on the pontoon with a spine-jarring crunch.

The Confessional

The unloading and getting ashore gave us our first experience of Tristanian boat handling and stevedoring skills, which were impressive to say the least.  Details to follow in later blogs.

I will outline some details of our arrival on shore later, but there is a quick foot-note here.  We were so lucky to get off the ship when we did – that morning the wind rose once again and unloading had to be called off.  It was a week before unloading was able to restart and before we saw our luggage.