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Distant shores for HMS Portland on visit to world’s remotest island

MS Portland on visit to world’s remotest island
19 January 2017
With the upper reaches of the 6,765ft volcano Queen Mary’s Peak shrouded by cloud – as it is much of the year – HMS Portland anchors off the most remote populated island on the planet.

Just days after enjoying the snow-covered paradise of South Georgia, the Plymouth-based frigate crossed 1,650 miles of the South Atlantic to Tristan da Cunha.

The island – at 38 square miles, the size of Coventry but with a population of just 265 – rises out of the South Atlantic 1,200 miles from the nearest inhabited land: Saint Helena, another distant British territory.

South Africa lies 1,500 miles to the east and South America 2,200 miles to the west. There’s no airport, just a small harbour (too small for HMS Portland, but not her boats).  

The islanders, almost all concentrated in the ‘capital’, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, are British citizens, drive on the left-hand side of the few roads and spend the pound in shops.

HMS Portland carried out a fishery protection patrol of Tristan’s waters – the sea is rich with crawfish, one of the island’s main sources of income – before dropping anchor for 24 hours in company with tanker RFA Gold Rover.

The short visit assured islanders the mother country had not forgotten about them, and allowed the sailors the rare chance to sample an island few people set foot on.

I really enjoyed some time ashore in Tristan, the scenery is stunning

Leading Chef ‘Jonah’ Jones, HMS Portland

Keen to dust of their clubs after the passage from South Georgia were Portland’s golfers who fancied a crack at the world’s most isolated – and challenging – links course.

Able Seaman ‘Smudge’ Smith broke the course record with a below-par round of just 34 (over nine holes).

“It’s a really tough course but great fun; I’ve never played on a volcano before I was on good form today and I am really proud to have broken the Tristan course record, he said.

Footballers stretched their legs on the very uneven pitch against a local side who were assisted by 99 per cent humidity… and cows wandering around munching on the grass.

The rest of the ship’s company used their time to explore Tristan. One group was led on a hike to the summit of Queen Mary’s Peak, the volcano which dominates the island.

Back in 1961 the volcano, less than a mile away from the main settlement, erupted and the Royal Navy was called into evacuate the islanders.

“It is amazing to think that the huge hill we walked on appeared from nowhere over a couple of weeks!  It is so close to Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, the islanders were very lucky they didn’t lose everything,” said Leading Chef ‘Jonah’ Jones. “I really enjoyed some time ashore in Tristan, the scenery is stunning.”

Portland weighed anchor late in the evening to continue her South Atlantic patrol. She’s now slowly edging her way northwards ahead of a return to Plymouth in the spring.

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