After the discovery of the island by the Portuguese in 1501 the first permanent settlement of the island was established in 1815 by the British to prevent a takeover by the French. The British were afraid that the French would use Ascension to help Napoleon to escape St. Helena and therefor built a military base. Now about 800 people live on Ascension to work at the different relay, radio or military bases or do some research at the Conservation Center. They usually have two-year contracts which can be extended easily.

00_Welcome_to_Ascension_belonging_to_the_UK_Overseas_Territories
00_Welcome_to_Ascension_belonging_to_the_UK_Overseas_Territories
01_View_of_Long_Beach_and_Cross_Hill_at_sunset
01_View_of_Long_Beach_and_Cross_Hill_at_sunset
02_Landing_jetty_in_Georgetown
02_Landing_jetty_in_Georgetown
03_Ascension_Island_Government_building
03_Ascension_Island_Government_building
04_Church_in_Georgetown
04_Church_in_Georgetown
05_Beautiful_brandnew_playground_in_Georgetown
05_Beautiful_brandnew_playground_in_Georgetown
06_The_little_hospital_in_Georgetown
06_The_little_hospital_in_Georgetown
07_The_old_exiles_building_of_the_military_in_Georgetown
07_The_old_exiles_building_of_the_military_in_Georgetown
08_The_landing_and_working_jetty
08_The_landing_and_working_jetty
09_Fort_Hayes_is_now_a_museum
09_Fort_Hayes_is_now_a_museum
10_Fresco_in_honour_of_200_years_Ascension_in_2015
10_Fresco_in_honour_of_200_years_Ascension_in_2015
11_The_Ascension_coat_of_arms
11_The_Ascension_coat_of_arms

To go on shore there is only one place - the pier in Georgetown. Although the main wind direction is southeast there usually is a swell coming from the north. This means that landing by dinghy often is an adventure itself. You have to wait for a wave and then quickly depart via a steel ladder, at least there are also some ropes to hold on to. Then there is a steep stairway up to the main dock. If the swell is too strong or there are storms from the north you will not be able to go ashore.

Georgetown, the main village on the island, is very small and except a small shop (has a lot but very expensive), a bank, one hotel, a small club and the Conservation Center there is not much more. Once every three to four weeks the RMS St. Helena comes from Capetown and brings fresh vegetables, fruits and dairy products. So everybody comes to the shop at nine in the morning on the day after the arrival to get some fresh things. After four weeks without any possibility to buy fresh things we did just that and were able to get enough for our upcoming long trip.

28_One_of_the_old_vents_of_the_main_volcano
28_One_of_the_old_vents_of_the_main_volcano
29_Two_Sisiters_the_youngest_vents_on_the_island_with_scoria_cones_in_front
29_Two_Sisiters_the_youngest_vents_on_the_island_with_scoria_cones_in_front
30_Lots_of_lava_rests_on_Devils_Riding_School
30_Lots_of_lava_rests_on_Devils_Riding_School
31_Parts_of_lava_at_Devils_Riding_School
31_Parts_of_lava_at_Devils_Riding_School
32_Road_to_Green_Mountain_Park_the_highest_peak_with_859_meters
32_Road_to_Green_Mountain_Park_the_highest_peak_with_859_meters
33_Endemic_Plants_Site_where_the_last_endemic_plants_are_protected_with_a_fence
33_Endemic_Plants_Site_where_the_last_endemic_plants_are_protected_with_a_fence
34_Some_of_the_critically_endangered_species_of_ferns_and_grasses_of_Ascension
34_Some_of_the_critically_endangered_species_of_ferns_and_grasses_of_Ascension
35_Ginger_plants_(Alpinia_speciosa-Ingwer)_blooming
35_Ginger_plants_(Alpinia_speciosa-Ingwer)_blooming

Ascension was made by one volcano and only 1% of it is above water. You can see lots of different vents on the island next to lava flows, lava domes, scoria cones and pumice deposits. During our trips by car we could see this fascinating landscape with the volcanic formations. The volcano is dormant which means he is “sleeping” at the moment but could be active again some day. The last time volcanic activity was observed was in 1838 in the north of the island. 1836 Charles Darwin came with the HMS Beagle to visit the island and wrote a paper about the geology. One of the places he spent a lot of time is Devil's Riding School. There you can walk on lava rests which feel, sound and look like parts of potter's clay towards a former crater lake, where round and white stones mad of calcium are lying around - called Devil's Eyeballs.

35_Ginger_plants_(Alpinia_speciosa-Ingwer)_blooming
35_Ginger_plants_(Alpinia_speciosa-Ingwer)_blooming
36_Ginger_hedge_on_the_top_of_Green_Mountain
36_Ginger_hedge_on_the_top_of_Green_Mountain
37_The_beautiful_flowers_of_ginger_(Alpinia_speciosa-Ingwer)
37_The_beautiful_flowers_of_ginger_(Alpinia_speciosa-Ingwer)
38_Two_Boats_Village_and_Clarence_Bay
38_Two_Boats_Village_and_Clarence_Bay

Darwin also visited the settlement on Green Mountain, with 859 m the highest mountain of the island, where the marines had established a garden to supply vegetables and fruits for the garrison. Since the gardeners lamented that the island had no trees Joseph Hooker, a friend of Darwin, decided after his visit in 1843 to proposed a plan to increase vegetation on the mountain. Records show that over 330 different species of plants in form of seed and seedlings from botanical gardens in Europe, South Africa and Argentina were sent to Ascension. They were mainly planted on Green Mountain in organized forests, shrublands and pastures. Only the strongest survived and today you find the only man made cloud forest of the world. This also meant that the endemic plants (only growing on Ascension) were decimated severely. From the former 25 species growing on Ascension before the arrival of humans 10 were endemic, only 7 survived until today. Those you can only find on a few places around the island. One species was only recently found again during a survey in 2009. The Conservation Center tries to replant those endemic plants in long term studies. This is difficult because they are outcompeted by the introduced plants and herbivores. For example on Green Mountain we saw lots of rabbits running through the forest. So the areas were the endemic plants are found have to be fenced and taken care of regularly to protect them. However the Ascension Island Conservation Department is working to find a balance between the native and endemic flora, as well as find out which of the over 400 introduced species are beneficial and those that are just invasive weeds. It is not an easy undertaking. For example the Mexican Thorn (Prosopis juliflora) is very invasive and since the first record in 1960 has spread extensively across drier lowlands. Or the Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) which spread rapidly in the lowland areas in less than 20 years.

39_Wild_bananas_forest_(Musa_sp)_at_the_top
39_Wild_bananas_forest_(Musa_sp)_at_the_top
40_Banana_hunting_at_Green_Mountain
40_Banana_hunting_at_Green_Mountain
41_View_of_the_Letterbox_Peninsula_with_fog_from_the_old_NASA_site
41_View_of_the_Letterbox_Peninsula_with_fog_from_the_old_NASA_site
42_Spire_Beach_from_above
42_Spire_Beach_from_above

A positive thing for us are the wild banana plants (Musa sp.) on Green Mountain. You are allowed to cut down and take bananas if they are ripe. Since we did not know it beforehand we were not adjusted for harvesting bananas. But since Tom always takes his leatherman he was able to cut down a tree with good looking bananas. Unfortunately the fluid in those trees and on the bananas is very sticky and leaves dark spots on clothes when dried. But since those are fresh and organic bananas we did not mind too much.

Around the mountain top we also encountered some beautiful flowers on the bushes there. So I took out the information booklet and found out that those beautiful flowers are Ginger (Alpinia speciosa). We really did not know how Ginger looks like until now.

Before we leave Ascension we definitely will get some more fresh bananas for our trip across the rest of the Atlantic Ocean.

43_Lava_flow_at_Letterbox
43_Lava_flow_at_Letterbox
44_On_our_walk_down_to_the_Letterbox_Peninsula
44_On_our_walk_down_to_the_Letterbox_Peninsula
45_Letterbox_peninsula_is_a_protected_area
45_Letterbox_peninsula_is_a_protected_area
46_Parts_of_pyroclastic_eruptions_on_Green_Mountain
46_Parts_of_pyroclastic_eruptions_on_Green_Mountain
47_Lava_in_Comfortless_Cove
47_Lava_in_Comfortless_Cove
48_The_blow_hole_at_North_East_Point
48_The_blow_hole_at_North_East_Point

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