Day 18 - January 13th
Today was planned as a relatively quiet, relaxing day, but in the middle of the morning it emerged that Paddy had decided to have a rest under what he presumably thought was Johnny's Landrover, but was not. Unfortunately the Landover was driven off with Paddy still under it, and he ran off screaming. When he was found he seemed pretty shocked and on a closer examination he had a cut on one of his legs.
Johnny fetched Caz, the de-facto island vet, who gave Paddy a through feeling and prodding session and said there didn't seem to be anything seriously wrong such as broken bones etc.
Nevertheless after lunch when I got up for a walk along the beach Finn was right behind me. Paddy made no effort to get up which was very unusual. (But don't worry Paddy was just about back to his normal self by the end of our visit)
One way and another no piccies were taken today, so an opportune moment to revisit the archives and dig out some of the ones that never saw the light of day from earlier in our visit.
We have already mentioned in the diary entry for Jan 2nd, that the programme to eliminate the feral cats seems to have been totally successful, which will help the nesting bird colonies to re-establish themselves. However that still leaves the problem of the rats on the island, which probably arrived with the first ships way back in 16th century. A programme to eradicate all the rodent vermin is now underway and black boxes like the ones below can be seen all over the island.
Getting rid of the cats is one thing, but it will be interesting to see how the rat eradication program goes, as the rat breeding cycle is so much shorter and intensive than that of cats, so totally eliminating the population sounds like a harder task.
However the consultancy company involved, WMIL, have had previous experience of similar programs on small islands off New Zealand.
From this page on the Falklands Conservation website it sounds like the Falklands have a similar program underway.
Yesterday we came across some prickly pear (left above) which was one of the first plants to become a problem on the island. More of a problem now is the Mexican Thorn, Prosopis juliflora, (right above) which, depending on which version you believe, either escaped from a garden or was part of the landscaping when the Two Boats village was constructed for the BBC.
By the 1990s it was a problem and was very much in evidence on our first visit in 1997 and now in 2005 seems to be absolutely everywhere. This article in Biocontrol News and Information, (scroll to "Prosopis to Turn Turtle on Ascension"), describes how it was planned to use biological control but apparently this did not succeed
If you want to know more about the Mexican Thorn, go to the Forestry Research programme archive program http://www.frp.uk.com/documentArchive.cfm and type prosopisin in the search box and then download R7295 - Prosopis monograph complete but be warned it is a big document.
So the cats that were meant to catch the rats have gone , but apparently rats chew at Mexican Thorn seedlings so if the rats go will the Mexican Thorne become even more wide spread? The island ecology is all a bit like that song "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly". Maybe people in the UK who think that GM crops are risk free should spend some time understanding the ecology of Ascension Island.
In the UK we have one way systems because there is too much traffic, but even with so few cars Ascension can still lay claim to a one way system.
There was no sign of a speed camera on the island, but it is only a matter of time.
On the diary entry of the 7th Jan we were at the scout hut for a fishing evening.
The first Ascension Island Scout group scout hut might look a bit spartan with its immediate surroundings being volcanic clinker, but it is in one of the most enviable locations possible, looking straight out to sea, next stop Brazil.
With the fringe benefits of having its own private paddling pool for the boys.
Although they do have to share it with the indigenous population.
By the late afternoon Paddy seems to have recovered a little, although he didn't follow us in the evening when we went off to the Obsidian Hotel restaurant for a very relaxing and pleasant meal, accompanied by the islands medical team of Shub, Raxa and Milenka.