Setting Sail for Tristan da Cunha

In collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protections of Birds (RSPB) and the Tristan da Cunha government, National Geographic Pristine Seas is conducting an expedition to Tristan da Cunha and its surrounding islands. During the expedition, our team will conduct comprehensive surveys of the health of its largely unknown marine environment, and produce a documentary film to highlight this unique ecosystem and the people that steward it. Learn more about the expedition.

A bird’s-eye view of the expedition vessel en route from Cape Town to the Tristan da Cunha archipelago. Photo by Brian Canavan

With Cape Town 450 miles behind us and another 1,150 miles of open ocean before we arrive at Tristan da Cunha you could be excused for thinking that we are feeling a bit lonely. But luckily we have the great Tristan da Cunha spirit with us as we are carrying the Chief Islander, Ian Lavarello and the Swain and Green families back home to their island.

Sharing our passage with the islanders is a special, rare experience for us and we’re not at all surprised that the seabirds feel it too. Not only are we accompanied by wandering albatross, black-browed albatross, giant petrels, and shearwaters, but some birds endemic to Tristan da Cunha (this is the only place on Earth where they can be found) have made a rare journey of over a thousand miles to escort us. Here we are, rolling along in the big South Atlantic oceanic swells with Tristan skuas, Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross, and spectacled petrels for company. We’ve still got five days of sailing to do, but feel at home already!

And what a home–it’s a powerful place: Tristan da Cunha is a volcanic island sitting right between the South Atlantic Current to the north and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to the south. These ocean currents create massive upwellings of cold, nutrient-rich water from the deep, making the islands one of the world’s rarest, most productive, and important hotspots of life.

Waiting for us there are seven-gill sharks, blue sharks, shortfin mako sharks, Southern right whales, fin whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, dolphins, elephant seals, 200,000 rock-hopper penguins, albatrosses, more than a million prions, more than five million shearwaters, and 300,000 sub-antarctic fur seals which–with their 60,000 pups per year–are 80 percent of the world’s population.

This is one of the most challenging and ambitious expeditions that we have undertaken and we invite you to join us by checking this blog and our social media streams regularly. Welcome to our expedition to the remotest inhabited island on Earth.

Read All Tristan da Cunha Expedition Posts

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Paul Rose is an ardent explorer, television presenter, journalist, author, and Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society, and an Expedition Leader on the Pristine Seas team.