Georgetown - Ascension Island
Ascension Island was so close…& yet so far. We arrived and anchored slightly ahead of schedule. This was intended to be a brief, 7-hour stop. Passengers who intended to go ashore were required to read & sign liability waivers – apparently the ‘island’ had been sued in the past by a cruise ship passenger who was injured as a result of his own negligence. They were taking no chances – we were given a lengthy list of rules & regulations, to include restrictions on such basics as renting/driving a vehicle on the island or swimming in local waters. We were basically prohibited from doing much of anything, accept spending money in a few of their available shops. After signing waivers, we then had to wait for a ‘Day Pass’ to be delivered to our cabin which we were instructed to carry to shore and present to local officials.
We never made it.
The first ‘tender’ was loaded with about 120 passengers by 10:30 – much the same as Easter Island, Ascension Island is subject to large swells preventing a ‘tender’ from safely docking. The ‘tender’ made it to the dock area but unfortunately, the weather turned adversely and the sea swells had grown so large that the ‘tender’ was unable to pull alongside the pier – one of the Officers was in water up to his knees trying to land the ‘tender’, and reported conditions to the Captain. Cheryl and I were waiting in line in the holding area for the next available ‘tender’ when the Captain announced he was cancelling the port in consideration of safety issues. Good call, but certainly not a popular decision. Many folks had this destination on their ‘bucket list’ – not because of the attractions because there are few – but for the sake of simply being able to say, “I was there.” Georgetown is the only real community on the island along with four small villages – total population is less than 1,000. Ascension became strategically significant with the exile of Napoleon to St. Helena, our last port. The British were concerned that it could be used in an attempt to rescue Napoleon – thus, a small British naval garrison was established on the island back in 1815. After Napoleon died, Ascension had become a victualing station and sanitarium for ships engaged in suppression of the slave trade from the West African coast. Today, there’s a US Navy base, and also a satellite relay station for the BBC. They say it’s a great place for sports fishing, and also a haven for sea turtles that lay their eggs on shore each year. Beyond that…not much.
By 1:00pm, our anchor was pulled and to the Captain’s credit, he decided to circumnavigate the island while our Travel Guide identified various points of interest. By 2:30, we changed direction and began our 3-day journey to Brazil. At dinner, Holland America provided free beer & champagne as an expression of their apology for cancelling the port – certainly not necessary, but typical of Holland America whenever passengers are inconvenienced in any way.
I’ve since learned a little more about Jacob’s Ladder on the island of St. Helena (from two days ago). This is that long improvised stairway that leads up the slope of the natural amphitheater that surrounds Jamestown. The residents were telling us it ‘breaks your heart going up and breaks your neck coming down’. Come to find out, this is an 1829 military installation designed to link Jamestown with the garrison on top of Ladder Hill – soldiers at the fort had to haul ammunition and supplies along the makeshift route. The ladder is 900 feet and has 699 steps! Here it is 3 days after our decent – we are STILL limping!
Captain’s Log: Updated to include our most recent stops in Cape Town, Walvis Bay, & St. Helena – please CLICK HERE