Life on the most remote inhabited island in the world

Tomorrow is Caitlin’s 1st birthday and I have been reflecting on just how much my life has changed over the past year.  It’s incredible to think that last year this time, we were preparing for a dinner with Lars and Trina and taking a ride out to Pig Bite beach to go and see the waterfalls.

This year, I am also making preparations, but they are for fairy cakes, drinks, snacks and nibbles, and ensuring that our house is presentable enough to host an ‘open house’ tomorrow for Caitlin’s birthday.

On Tristan, first birthday’s are celebrated in a big way and we have tried hard to bear that in mind, while also taking into account that our South African traditions are a little different (we traditionally don’t make too much of a big deal of a first birthday).  The ‘open house’ idea is hopefully a perfect compromise.



The last two weeks have been absolutely wonderful as we have both been at home and have been making the most of the time to rest and relax and spend some time together (normally bickering about who makes the most mess) and spend time with Caitlin (who is currently ahead in the polls as ‘mess maker of 2007/8’). We’ve been doing quite a bit of visiting to drop off Christmas presents, and have a bit of a natter with our island neighbours. It’s amazing that, despite living within a fairly short distance of each other, we find that we end up seeing very little of our friends in the village. Christmas does offer an opportunity to visit and we have made the most of it. We had good intentions of dropping all our gifts off before Christmas day, and had planned on averaging 4-5 gifts per day for the week leading up to Christmas! Ha! At an hour or more a visit and Erik and I only really getting going in the early afternoon, we have been lucky to average 2 visits a day – with the accompanying drinks and gossip at each house.

This year we were also really honoured to be invited to ‘family’ functions with islanders – something we hope is an indication that they don’t mind us too much! 

Christmas day in our house was total chaos, with the carpet around our tree piled high with presents – most of them for Caitlin.  Children here are the total focus of Christmas, and in many cases, families seem to forego presents for the adults in favour of the kids. We have taken most of the presents Caitlin was given and put them in our back room, and give her a new toy every now and then, as she wouldn’t know what to do with herself or the gifts, if she had them all at once.

Erik has finally given in to his beachcombing ways and now has the whole village talking about him being ‘Steptoe’ and just needing the ‘Son’. We’ve decided to take a liberty and change the name to Steptoe and Daughters, as there aren’t likely to be any more kids – well, not from this union anyway….

Sadly Hubert Green (82) passed away on Saturday 5th January. It was really very unexpected, but fortunately (is it appropriate to use that word?) seems it was fairly quick, which is a blessing, but a great loss for the island.

I went to the funeral to represent the ‘family’ and was very touched to see how funerals are conducted here (this being my first funeral attended on Tristan). The eulogy was very personal, as of course, everyone knew Hubert, and it was lovely to see so many people attending, to show their respects.

I believe the funeral procession normally starts from the hospital and consists of the priest and lay ministers, along with the ‘hearse’ and family and friends who walk behind alongside to the church. The service is normally fairly short, but there is a section for the reading of emails and messages from islanders who are currently off island and it was really touching to hear how many of them had taken the time and trouble to write to express their sense of loss and send best wishes and thoughts to the families.

From the church, we all proceeded to the graveyard, where the final internment is done. The family then, I believe, proceed home for a wake. It was all very touching and a reminder again just how different this community is in so many, many ways.

We are hoping to have a good number of fishing days before the end of January, so that Erik and the guys can complete the quota and Erik can then, hopefully, travel home with me toward the end of February.  A good friend of mine is getting married and I need to leave in Feb in order to make her wedding in March.

One of my resolutions this year is to write more often, so let’s see if I manage it…


We were a little surprised that, while the press were very quick to report on the virus outbreak on the island, and predict doom and gloom all around, that very little has been covered on the delivery of the medicines to the island.  From what we have been able to ascertain, only one newspaper carried anything about the delivery – how sad that only bad news sells newspapers.

We’d like to mention that the crew of the Gold Rover apparently all had to re-schedule their Christmas leave in order to make this delivery to the island – a selfless gesture, particularly at this time of year, and we are very grateful for their kindness and consideration.  THANK YOU SO MUCH!!  We wish all of you a wonderful and blessed Christmas and hope you actually make it back home in time.

Gold Rover in Tristan Da Cunha mercy mission

19 Dec 07

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Gold Rover has successfully delivered vital medical supplies and equipment to the isolated volcanic island of Tristan Da Cunha.

 The Tristan Government requested an urgent re-supply of drugs and medical stores following the viral outbreak which occurred there earlier in the month.A number of the island’s 271 residents were affected, suffering asthma-type complications, some of which required medical treatment and in a few cases, admission to hospital.

Following medical treatment, and the introduction of a number of public health measures by the Island’s Administrator, Mr David Morley, the viral outbreak was brought under control and there is no longer any cause for concern.

However the outbreak severely depleted medical supplies on the island, and there was no opportunity to replenish stocks before the next scheduled re-supply ship visit, due late January 2008.

A request for assistance was made through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, DfID and the Ministry of Defence. Captain Paul Minter, Commanding Officer of RFA Gold Rover, said:

Tristan Da Cunha [Picture: RFA]. Opens in a new window.

Tristan Da Cunha
[Picture: RFA]

“It was rewarding to have been able to assist in the Island’s time of need, and especially so in the light of the welcome and thanks we received when we arrived with the stores. All on board very much look forward to being able to return to visit Tristan Da Cunha at some time in the future.”

Tristan Da Cunha is part of a small group of islands situated 1,800 miles (2,897 km) west of Capetown, South Africa. The main island covers an area of 38 square miles (98 square km).

The islands were once on the main trading route between Europe and the Indian Ocean, but with the opening of the Suez Canal, it is now very isolated. There is no airstrip and re-supply is only achieved through scheduled shipping.

With this delivery of the requested drugs and medicines from RFA Gold Rover the island’s Locum Medical Officer – Laszlo Pal Dr Szabo – has declared the small four-bed hospital is now once again fully stocked.

RFA Gold Rover has now resumed her maritime security and support duties in the Atlantic.


The Gold Rover arrived on Sunday morning to calm seas and sunny skies. Arriving from Ascension, she arrived at about 11:30 and was on her way again by 11:55, her visit being, literally, a “stop and go” mission and at one stage, we were joking that perhaps the passengers would have to board with the Gold Rover still moving. 

In addition to dropping off the medical supplies for the island, she is taking two passengers with her to her next port of call, from where they will fly back to the UK.

 So far, no official word from the Admin, but will keep everyone updated.  However, we are all well, sniffles and sneezes are definitely becoming less and less and the annual sheep shearing was held on Saturday.  Things seem to be returning to normal, if you can use such a word, and we are looking forward to a restful and happy Christmas break.

Until later….

 rib-going-out-to-meet-rfa-gold-rover.jpg  The Atlantic Dawn going out to meet the Gold Rover

connie-jack-and-leon.jpg Connie, Jack and Leon unloading the Atlantic Dawn                                      

 complete-shipment-of-medicine-for-the-island.jpg  The full supply of medicine sent to the island

A question of sleep

We love Caitlin, of that, there can be no doubt, but I must admit to finding it a little challenging to feel full of that love when she is crying at 3pm in the morning – not because she’s sick, or has colic – no – she’s crying because she wants to come to bed with mom and dad.  We’ve been trying the ‘let her cry herself to sleep’ bit (which, by the way, breaks my heart) and the current status of that little campaign is:  Caitlin: 2, Mom and Dad: 0

This, of course, serves us right – we were so smug in the beginning when our wonderful child slept through from 8pm until 7am every morning – and while we pretended to be full of modesty and made little comments like ‘We’re just lucky’ in the back of our minds, we were thinking it was because we were doing something right, something brillaint and were super start parents.  Ha!!  Wonder who the superstar parents are now?

Update on Sunday 9th December

Drug Supply on its way via Falkland Islands as Tristan introduces isolation measures

Up to 50 islanders have been suffering from a flu virus in recent weeks, with asthma sufferers particularly affected, and as a result there is a concern that stocks of drugs are low. We can now confirm that a supply of drugs was airlifted to the Falkland Islands on Saturday 8th December and that the RFA Gold Rover is expected to 9th December and should arrive at Tristan da Cunha on Saturday 15th December.

The airlift entailed an 18 hour journey covering over 12677 km (7877 miles) and the sea trip will cover a distance of 3902 km or (2424 miles).   So the drugs will have travelled 16,579 km or 10,301 miles to reach Tristan da Cunha!

On Friday 7th December the Tristan Administrator David Morley, in consultation with Medical Officer Dr Lazlo Szabo, issued a Public Notice making arrangements to minimise the spread of the flu virus in the close-knit Tristan Community, see below. Ironically this means that the world’s most remote community has introduced isolation measures! Administrator David Morley confirms that ‘there has been no emergency, and it does appear that the virus is on the ebb.  But we are not prepared to take the slightest risk with anyone’s life.  That’s why I took the measures listed in the Public Notice and that’s why we’ve arranged the re supply.’

Friday December 7th 2007: Arrangements to minimise the spread of flu virus on Tristan da Cunha

Extracts from a Public Notice from Administrator David Morley
Medical advice received from Dr Lazlo suggests that, while we wait for the virus currently affecting so many members of the community to ease, we should take all sensible measures to minimise the risk of further spreading the infection.  So Dr Lazlo recommends that we all do whatever we can to avoid close proximity with each other, especially in buildings and enclosed spaces. 

Special Measures :

  • St Mary’s School will be closed for the remainder of the term. 
  • People needing to see Dr Lazio should make an appointment.
  • Only essential hospital visits should be made, with a single visitor at any one time to each patient. 
  • The Fishing Factory has shut down production for commercial operational reasons.
  • The Island Store, closed presently for stocktaking, will have revised arrangements to minimise gathering of people when it re-opens.
  • Church services will be held outside, probably using St Mary’s School quadrangle which offers both rain cover and open air.
  • Sheep Shearing Day, planned for Saturday 8th December, will initially be postponed for one week. 
  • Other large social gatherings should also be avoided.
  • Asthma sufferers with surplus inhalers are asked to return them to the hospital, nevertheless retaining on in use and one spare.

    The community are urged to be not overly concerned by the measures as they are designed purely to minimise risk to the community while we await our drug re supply.

Information courtesy of the official website of Tristan da Cunha