The weather today is even better than yesterday – the swell has eased and as we head to Nightingale Island, we have high hopes that we will be able to land, and hike up onto higher ground to see the yellow-nosed albatrosses that nest on this remote island. Landing at Nightingale is onto a rocky outcrop, with a challenging climb up the hill assisted by ropes. We are rewarded with numerous sightings of the Tristan thrush and the yellow-nosed albatross. We also see the distinctive Subantarctic fur seal (in this case a bull), with the cream and chocolate fur, and snub nose.
Nightingale is also home to a large colony of the Northern Rockhopper penguin, with its distinctive red eyes and yellow trim.
Later in the afternoon, we are able to also land at Inaccessible Island, which lives up to its name – an island of high cliffs, and the only landing place is a small rocky beach with slimy rocks to land on when jumping over the side of the zodiac. Given yesterday’s events, many passengers opt for the safer option of zodiac cruising, and it is a small group of us on the landing site. A short video clip below shows the NGE in front of the distinctive volcanic peak of Tristan da Cunha.
The effort pays off though…one of the local Tristan guides who has come with us manages to catch one of the rarest birds in the world – the Inaccessible flightless rail. This bird, a tiny black ball of fluff and feathers, resembles a small black kiwi. It seems to handle the celebrity moment of 10 cameras shoved in its face with aplomb, but scurries off under some washed up debris as soon as it can. Hopefully it is unscathed from its expedition onto the rocky beach from the higher ground it prefers.
The surf has picked up on the departure from Inaccessible Island, making life difficult for the zodiac drivers, and necessitating the zodiacs to ‘back up’ onto the beach to load passengers. The first group doesn’t fair well – they are dumped by a wave breaking over the front of the zodiac, so it’s a wet ride back to the Explorer.
The short video below shows the amount of skill and effort required to load a zodiac under those conditions.
Later than afternoon, we learn that Stephanie, the naturalist injured yesterday, was taken into Tristan to the hospital for further tests, and has internal injuries as well as broken ribs. She accepts the medical team’s advice that it is too risky to sail on to Cape Town, and has a month to wait in Tristan to heal until the next ship passes, mostly likely the M/V Plancius if she opts for an expedition-level ship, otherwise it is 7 days in a fishing trawler to Cape Town. There is no airport or airstrip on Tristan – departure is only possible on a ship, and one that has calm enough conditions to launch zodiacs.
Fortunately for the passenger with minor head injuries, she is well enough to travel back to the ship and continue on…otherwise it would have been another month on Tristan for her too.
We are farewelled from the Tristan island group by a spectacular sunset…the best of the entire voyage.