Sunday, June 5, 2016

Ascension Island, April 2016

Ascension Island is a very remote outpost, used mainly by military and communications companies because of its proximity to the Equator in the South Atlantic Ocean.  It is mostly a volcanic landscape, but there is one mountain that is Green Mountain with growth on it.  This is a picture of some wild ginger growing near some old ruins of a building on Green Mountain.
This is the typical lava plain and cinder cone views common across this little island.  It is said there are 41 cinder cones that make up Ascension Island.
The golf ball is a radar station on the US base.  The US maintains an airstrip called the Wideawake, named after a local bird here.
The lava can be red or black and many of the hilltops have communication gear on them.  The BBC maintains a major relay station here, and the European Space Agency monitors the rocket launches of the Ariadne rockets from French Guiana from here. Antennae and wires cover a lot of the ground in this remote outpost.
A lot of barren ground here, too.
The caves in this hillside have rock 'dripping' over their entrances.  Very cool!  We walked across this landscape to view them up close.
Land crabs are famous here.  Once a year, they migrate en masse to the ocean to spawn.  They descend from the hills, swarming like rivers of crabs across the land.  It's apparently quite something to see!  It's also against the law to kill one of these critters, so when they are on the move in their annual migration, one must be very careful driving around on the roads here.  A crunch can get you a hefty fine.
The orange and purple crabs gather to mate.
Consider yourself warned about the land crabs.
The remnants of NASA's observation and listening post on Ascension.  It is said that this was where the first words from Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon were heard.  They were received here and relayed on to Houston to become famous.  Now the grounds are being taken over by wild guava plants and the wild donkeys love them to eat.
Catching a free ride to shore with the supply ship's barge.  They don't want dinghies at the landing here when the supply ship is in port and will give us rides to keep our little boats out of the way.  The landing steps here are the same style but are even more challenging than St. Helena's.  These are said to be the oldest remaining concrete steps set by the East India Trading company still in use.
 The old warehouses on the shore just beyond the wharf.  They are now offices and storage for goods that come off the ships.
 An old cannon in front of the public meeting house.
 Eye to eye with a land crab.
 The governor's residence up on Green Mountain.  This is the only hill with green growth on it.  Long ago someone recognized that the cloud forest provided enough moisture to grow things and they planted lots of fruits, flowers, veges, and bananas up here.  The organized growing is no longer done and they are trying to now get into using greenhouses and hydroponic growing methods.
 The clocktower on the old building.

 Ascension Island is home to the second largest green turtle nesting site in the world.  The entire island is considered a marine park and the turtles come ashore here and dig their nests in the sand at Long Beach and lay thousands of eggs here every year.  We saw several turtles making their way back to the ocean in the early morning light after a night of digging.  Jason and others went ashore to watch the females dig their nests at night and lay their eggs.  They were also treated to many new hatchlings emerging from nests and making their way to the water in the dark.  The beach was covered in humps that represent nests.
 YOLO  at the left at anchor at Ascension Island.

We drove up to the tops of several of the peaks and got right up into the clouds here.
Different layers of rock from different eruptions.

Looking down at the yachts at anchor in Ascension.  The RMS St. Helena delivers goods here, too.
Rabbits run around on the island, too, but folks here don't hunt them or eat them.  This little bunny was spotted hiding in the greenery.  He looks just like the ones we get at Higgins Lake.  What a cutie.
The road goes through this arch in the rocks up on Green Mountain.  Wild raspberries, ginger and other fruits line the walks up here.
Another old ruin on Green Mountain.
Bananas grow up here and if you want bananas, you come up here and pull down your own bunch. We got a nice hand of bananas in the rain the day we climbed up here and they lasted several weeks.
Not sure of the name of this fern, but it looked like many bunches of small grapes hanging along the wall.  We were up in a cloud forest microclimate here and the growth was so different from the lower parts of the island.

The facade of an old stone building up on the mountain.  We hid behind this wall as rain sheeted in to soak us the day we gathered our bananas.

The stonework here is pretty picturesque.
The lower elevations are pretty lunar looking with lots of lava fields.

Star shaped succulent plants growing along the roadside.

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