Ascension : Ascension Island Government Conservation Department
Submitted by The Islander (Conservation Office) 21.01.2010 (Article Archived on 04.02.2010)
Ascension is an island which reveals itself slowly. Arriving as a volunteer for the Conservation Department, its initial impact can be daunting.
Alasdair Cameron - Conservation Department Volunteer
Ascension is an island which reveals itself slowly. Arriving as a volunteer for the Conservation Department, its initial impact can be daunting. The drive from the airport is littered with rusting metal, unsympathetic development and towering installations, while the stark red and black landscape looks as though it has been pulled from the grate of a fire.
Yet these are merely first impressions, and as is so often the case, they are only one side of the story. Within a few hours of arrival, Ascension also reveals its own fragile beauty in the smooth lines of Sisters’ Peak, the lush canopy of Green Mountain and the wheeling seabirds which soar over the endless sea.
Working with the Conservation team on Ascension is an exercise in variety. Despite its small size, the island is a place of contrasts, and this is reflected in the habitats and wildlife found here. The morning can be spent counting turtle tracks on the beach, while the afternoon may be in the cool of the shade houses, where the team work to re-establish the unique plant species which evolved here.
On the far side of the island, towards Letterbox, explorers are rewarded with glorious isolation, breathtaking views and an abundance of sea life. Here the team monitor the nesting bird populations, which have been making a remarkable recovery on the mainland since the successful eradication of the feral cat population.
It is too soon to tell what my most abiding memory of Ascension will be, but already, at the end of the first week, there are many to choose from.
Alasdair Cameron is an environmental campaigner based in London. He is volunteering for the Office of Conservation until February.