We continued our walk and covered maybe a hundred individual nests and counted the colonies on at least seven stacks. We were so busy in amongst the cliffs and the lava field that I barely looked up to see our progress. When I did the BBC transmitters still seemed to be the same distance away, but then I triangulated with the gold balls behind us and estimated we were about two thirds of the way along. At last I could see the large oil storage tanks that was our final destination. It still took a good half hour to reach them. There was no footpath, you just had to pick your way from rock to rock, and try not to trip up or get your ankle twisted in any holes you came across.
As we kept on stepping close to the cliffs and stacks to do the monitoring, I was grateful I did not yet have the knowledge that Ascension Island is shaped like a mushroom. Underwater surveys have revealed that the waves and water have eroded away significant amounts of the submarine rock, and that large chunks of the cliff are overhangs into the ocean. Well most of it has lasted a few hundred years, I expect another couple of hundred won’t hurt, but Ascension may end up with a lot more stacks in future, although the older ones wash into the sea, and some of the island’s precious infrastructure could either get isolated, or tumble in to the sea when the rock breaks.
I caught up with Simon, Anselmo and Ray just as they reached the gravel surface of the little car park at the end of the track. I looked back, and could see Ian struggling on behind. It was a good ten minutes before he finally reached us, lobster red face and barely able to breathe, let alone talk. Ray grinned at him and released the pipe from the water bottle stored in his backpack and Ian took as big a suck as he could muster. Then he had a cigarette. We all laughed so hard and Ian grinned from behind the smoke, “Not doing that again, no way” he wheezed.