20 Apr 2018

20 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Two: Goodbye to St Helena

My plans for the final morning at St Helena changed at the very last minute. I had been booked to go on the free historical trip that the Plancius had laid on for everybody to see Longwood House where Napoleon lived when he was on St Helena. I was even more keen to see Jonathan who is a Seychelles Giant Tortoise which is believed to be around 186 years old. Jonathan didn't arrive on St Helena until he was about fifty in 1882. More details about Jonathan & a photo can be found on his wiki page. However, while the zodiacs were being lowered into the water, a Whale Shark appeared on the other side of the ship. As it seemed to be sticking around I had a quick word with Mike & Glenn to say I was going to miss the historical trip. I didn't want anybody hanging on at the quayside expecting I would be going & was a bit late in arriving.
Glenn, Mike, John & Jemi decided to carry on with the historical tour
Instead I stayed on the Plancius. As predicted, we had confirmation that as soon as the Expedition staff had got everybody who wanted to go ashore, then one of the zodiacs would accompany us & let us get in the water. Actually, the conversation was more along the lines of Hans & Martin from the Expedition staff saying they were just as keen to get in the water as us. Having got changed into shorts & t-shirt & grabbed one of the snorkels & masks, it was then a matter of whether the Whale Shark would hang around. Unfortunately, it wasn't prepared to wait for around half an hour & so we had to make do with some views from the main deck. Still it isn't everyday that I get to look straight down onto a Whale Shark. We had a quick look around for the Whale Shark from the zodiac, but still no joy. So, it was Plan B. The wreck of the RFA Darkdale lies in the harbour with its mast just breaking the surface. She was the Royal Navy ship that was torpedoed & sunk on 22 Oct 1941 with the loss of 41 sailors. Only two of the crew who were on board at the time survived, along with another seven who were ashore.
The memorial to the RFA Darkdale
Martin took the zodiac over to the wreck & tied up nearby. We were then able to snorkel for the best part of an hour over the wreck. The wreck lies in 30 - 40 metres of water, so it is too deep to be able to dive down onto it. However, some parts of the wreck like the large engines were sitting a lot closer probably only 15 - 20 metres below the surface. As I was exploring the wreck, I spotted a Green Turtle below me & managed to find a couple of the others who also saw it. There were masses of small & medium sized Fish around the wreck. Far too soon, we were asked to head back to the zodiac & were dropped back on the Plancius. Although, I hadn't been able to swim with the Whale Shark in the sea, it had been good to see my first Green Turtle in the Atlantic. I stayed on deck for a couple of hours looking, but there were no further appearances from the local Whale Sharks.
Goodbye to Jamestown
We left in the early afternoon for Ascension Island. At this point, the combination of the snorkelling & two very long hectic days on St Helena caught up with me & I headed off for a couple of hours of much needed kip. I awoke to find I had missed a couple more Whale Sharks and more views of the local Seabirds as the Plancius was sailing away from St Helena. I was on deck for distant views of a Humpback Whale, but too brief to get any photos this time. St Helena was a great place & personally I could have spent another day or two enjoying the island & still left with things I would have liked to do.