National Geographic : 1964 Jan
Cloud-capped ramparts two thousand feet high loom forbiddingly above the new volcano's ash-gray cone. During the erup tion a smoking, hissing wall of cinders and boulders pushed into the sea. The flow spared the Settlement (right) but buried Tristan's main landing beaches and de stroyed its only cash industry, a spiny-lob ster freezing plant. Refrigerator ship Tris tania stands offshore as a longboat heads seaward to pick up homecoming Islanders. prevent our landing, we would have to con tinue on to Cape Town and try again on a west bound vessel. But on the night of April 8, with bare hours separating us from our lonely landfall, calm abruptly descended. Now Tristan lay, green and inviting, only half a mile away across glassy and unruffled seas. Home. Islanders Prefer Their Own Little World In October, 1961, a volcanic eruption had forced the evacuation of Tristan's 264 inhab itants, seemingly ending their rough-hewn way of life.* But after 18 unsettling months in England, amid the glitter and gadgetry of modern civilization, they had delivered an implied rebuke to the 20th century by electing to return to their harsh and timeless island. Boissevain's 51 passengers were a van guard, and they had come a long way round 8,000 miles from London to Rio de Janeiro to Tristan (map, page 70). Tristan-bound voy agers must take their transportation where they find it, and Boissevain, sailing out of Rio, offered the only transport to the island before the onset of the southern winter. The returning exiles had sailed to Rio on March 17 aboard the Royal Mail liner Amazon. I had flown down to Rio from Washington to join them for Boissevain's April 3 departure. It would be seven months before the remainder of Tristan's exiles arrived from England. As Boissevain felt her way cautiously over the bottom, uncharted since the tremors, I studied the island through binoculars. In the dawn's light, wispy clouds clung to Tristan's 6,760-foot peak. I could make out the thatched *Tristan's administrator, P.J. F. Wheeler, described the exodus in the May, 1962, GEOGRAPHIC. Carrying boxes and bags, Islanders stride toward homes they last saw 18 months be fore. Distant rocks strew slopes beyond the Settlement, which is hidden by terrain in this telephoto view. The boulders cascaded from cliffs during earth shocks that foretold the eruption (pages 66-7).