Day 15 - January 10th
We wake up to yet another sunny day. In fact the weatherman on BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting service), who provide the island's 2 tv channels, actually mentioned Ascension the other day and for the forecast said it would be "the same the day after, and the day after that and the next".
Our breakfast is interrupted by Finn barking and on investigation we have a visitor, Fred the donkey.
At least we assume it is Fred as Johnny had told us his name last time he visited.
As this is the first day with Lynda's wrist in a splint we decide to a have nice easy morning and go the the Bullock Ponds which are up the Nasa Road and are a gentle stroll.
So after breakfast we set off down the Nasa road and arrive at the Bullocks Pond but just as we get there and pull off the road calamity strikes ....
... it is raining. Is this allowed ? Just as well we had stopped as I had to find where to turn the wipers on.
We had no intention of getting wet in the rain , so decided to push on up the Nasa road to the old Nasa base which was built on the island to support the Apollo moon missions. These day the Nasa base is used by the scouts as their expedition base.
When we get to the base at the end of the road it is pretty misty. Since our last visit in '97 the base seems to have acquired some sort of colour scheme that is half way between psychedelic camouflage and urban graffiti.
It is hard to believe that we are only 7 degrees south of the equator. It is decidedly chilly, but not enough to put the heater on in the car. So time to get back in the Landrover and try again for the Bullock ponds to see if the rain has stopped.
A couple of minutes down the road we find ourselves stopped by a land crab (Gecarcinus lagostoma). We had been warned to try and avoid driving over them on our last visit as their claws are quite capable of causing a puncture, leaving aside any considerations of being kind to the locals. On stopping we can see crabs everywhere, presumably brought out by the recent rainfall.
They can scuttle sideways at quite a rate of knots and actually live in holes they scrape out of the soft volcanic rock/soil.
Although it is not really obvious the picture below is of a vertical rock face which the crab is very firmly attached to.
These crabs return to the sea to lay eggs in sand or soft ash, which is quite a route march as where these pictures have been taken is at an altitude of around 1500 feet and probably at least a mile from the sea.
Arriving back at the Bullock Ponds sign and the sun is out so time for our stroll.
No sooner than we are out of the Landrover than Lynda has made two new friends ...
who we discover are called Neddy and Fluffy,
and Lynda then tries out her Dr. Doolittle impersonation but Neddy and Fluffy seem unimpressed.
Initially there is a lot of Guava by the path with fruit well on its way to being fully ripe later in the year.
Further on up there are a lot of Eucalyptus trees and the bark is covered in this striking orange coloured fungus (or is it lichen?). The trees seem to positively glow.
Further on up we come across a patch of Madagascar periwinkle, and one
wonders how it manages to grow when it is so arid up here. Finally after no sign of either bullocks or ponds we turn round and head back, and Neddy and Fluffy come to greet us.
We then spot a bucket of water and an empty crate which someone has obviously used to bring food up here so N&F thought it must be Xmas and they were getting extra rations when they saw us.
Time to return to Georgetown for our usual well earned beer.
Later that evening after dinner Johnny suggests that we go and visit the turtles.
We are only a short way along the beach before we come across one returning to the sea, and we creep away to let her return to the sea.
Then we find some more tracks and carefully keeping the light from our torch to a minimum we find one already laying eggs.
It is important to not disturb any turtle until it has started laying, but once started it will normally finish. A turtle can lay anything up to 100 or so eggs in one session and it is now known an individual turtle will actually come ashore on a number of evenings to lay eggs, rather than just having one egg laying session.
Lynda carefully examines one of the eggs laid and takes care to replace it afterwards, although it has to be said that when the eggs hatch out the hatchlings suffer a high rate of attrition on the way to the sea due to sea birds.
We then leave our turtle to finish laying and return to base with our torch subdued so as not to disturb any other turtles.
For more on conservation on the island visit the Ascension Island Conservation Web Site