Before desalination, this must have been the supply for all the barracks and residences, stores and everything. Rain did happen on Ascension, but apart from on Green Mountain it was very rare. We truly were on a desert island. The water catchments too, were not the first solution to gathering water. When Ash and I had come down the mountainside from our rat monitoring walks, I mentioned to him that one location I had never been to was Dampier’s Drip. It was only a short detour from our route back to Georgetown, a small track broke off at one of the final hairpins as you descend and took us to a shady tree glade hard up against where Green Mountains steep sides meet the lower plains. William Dampier was one of Britain’s most famous explorers at the turn of the 18th Century, and circumnavigated the globe. His name adorns many placenames from South America to Australasia. He had to abandon his ship, the Roebuck, in Ascension Island off Clarence Bay in 1701 and was marooned on the island for five weeks till another passing ship was able to pick him up. He must have thought what a godforsaken island Ascension was – the harsh volcanic landscape would have been much more stark than now – most of the vegetation we see today has been introduced since those days. The crew’s prime concern must have been to get some freshwater, and they must have searched long and hard before locating this little cliff. If you look up you might see that although it can hardly be described as a valley, there is a definite V shape, with outcrops of very soft lava cliffs worn into caves and hollows, and the water from the rainfall and clouds up on top could come down to this point. It became a place where water collection was common place and there are still old tanks there. Old shards of bottles have been collected up, quite perversely perhaps.
The tale of Dampier finding this crucial water source has passed into island legend and his name is attached to this location. A wonderful tale of survival in the wilds, except for one big detail. If you follow Dampier’s very accurate description of the route you need to take to find his water source, it takes you to the other side of the ridge and into Breakneck Valley. It makes more sense that a reliable water source is over the south east side of the island where the wind tends to blow from (and the water catchments were situated). But obviously someone thought that this Dampier’s Drip gave enough supply to build the tanks.
When I was in my 20s, I blundered into a job as a field biology research assistant on an island off the coast of California. Pure magic.
Thanks for sharing!