Capturing the Diversity – 2/3 the power of the island

As we walked back, I was staring right into the eastern array of the World Service transmitters.  Five huge Faraday cages supported a network of wires from which the BBC World Service pumped out its content over the Short Wave.  Peter Gillies, the manager of the power station, had given Edsel and myself a tour of the facilities earlier on our first trip in return for us talking to him about mapping all the amenities on the island.  This oil fired station at the time created most of the electricity on the whole island, save for a few smaller generators at the airfield and US Base, and the small wind farm near Travellers Hill.  Of all the electricity generated by the power station, up to 70 % went into powering the BBC transmitters.  I was gobsmacked by the sheer quantity of power throbbing through those wires.  The position of Ascension slap, bang in the centre of the ocean meant it could beam radio to both western Africa and South America.  Originally it would use tapes of programmes shipped down from London, nowadays the live World Service feed is directly downloaded through a satellite dish near the power station and broadcast out through the transmitters.  A big chunk of the power stations other use was to produce desalinated water for most of the island.  Peter showed us the drawings of the electricity poles and the water pipes, and in the centre of Georgetown and Two Boats we got maps of where the streetlights were and the sewage pipes leading to the small treatment plant next to Long Beach.

He also dug out some very old maps of Ascension Island.  I loved these as it showed how different elements of the island had changed.  One map, barely 100 years past, showed that the roads went different routes to get across the island – and I wondered why they had been abandoned.  I also saw the pipeline that came down from the water catchments.  Ash and I had walked past these catchments on our route around the Bishop’s Path.  Large concrete surfaces had been pasted onto the south east facing  mountain side to catch the prevailing  rain and cloud mist that were often covering this area.  The water was channelled down to small hole at the bottom, and from this a pipe connected under the ridge, through a series of holding tanks where the flow could be controlled a lot better; and then dropped past Two Boats to Georgetown and the main storage tank opposite the church.

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