Friday, 15 February 2013

Ascension Island’s Heat and Sea Turtles Feb. 13, 2013 (Frithjof)

Οnce more, Ascension Island welcomed us with a mild tropical breeze and a pleasant 25° C just after sunset. Our booking at the Obsidian Hotel (the only hotel in Ascension) had gone missing in the administration there and it took a while until we managed to activate someone to come, pick us up and get us into our rooms. I quickly visited Nick John in his house in Georgetown, one of my friends in Ascension, with whom I had done a fair bit of diving during my 2 previous visits to the island.

We had some badly needed sleep after a series of rather short nights and the 8 h flight from the Falklands. In the morning, I walked across the road to the Ascension Island Government Conservation Department and spent the morning catching up on e-mail and helping my friend Adelino in Faro, Portugal, with a proposal submission.

I then met up with Nick for a dive excursion out of Georgetown – we took Caz Yon’s RIB, heading to White Island, a white-topped volcanic rock north of Comfortless Cove and Ascension’s capital, Georgetown – in fact, one of our study sites of the Painted Shrimp Expedition in September 2012. The dive was great. What a difference, diving in waters around 28°C, coming from the icy waters around the Falklands! Visibility was awesome, around 40 m, and Ascension’s wealth in fish – the first thing that every diver here notices – is legendary. I spent the dive mostly with underwater photography, trying to document much of the marine life that we had explored around here last September – in fact, I restrained myself from collecting, picking up only a few Rhodoliths which had some suspicious epiphytes that we had not noticed last September.

Riding the fast RIB back into Georgetown, we came past Long Beach, Ascension’s main nesting beach for sea turtles, noticing several of them occasionally coming to the surface. We decided for a 2nd, short dive – which was well worth it: I met several of these green turtles (Chelonia mydas) resting on the sea bed at around 10-12 m water. To me it looked like the turtles, which have almost certainly been hard working for the previous night, crawling ashore, digging nest holes and laying eggs, were congregating here to have a much-needed rest in these shallow waters. Fantastic! The turtles were completely fearless and did not bother to move as I came close. A great photo opportunity.

We got back into Georgetown, then drove to English Bay for refilling the scuba tanks at the Ascension Dive Club. A nice dinner at the Obsidian followed, after which we had a stroll down to Georgetown Harbour, where several fishermen hauled 2 medium-sized (approx. 30 kg) yellowfin tuna (albacore) ashore.

Aldo Jacob and Frithjof arrived at ASI

Rhodoliths dominating Ascensions inshore benthos 

Holothuria manningii endemic sea cucumber 

 Leaving Georgetown Harbour with Nick

Green turtle off Long Beach Ascension 

  Resting green turtle off Long Beach Ascension

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