Chapter 13: Diego Alvarez or Gough Island

On May 26th the wind was fair for Gough Island and we made good progress. Our ship had become a floating farmyard, for our live stock included sheep, geese, fowls, pig, cat, and, to stir them up and make things lively, our own dog Query, who had never before had so many interesting real live things to play with. The sow Bridget and the geese wandered all about the decks and got in the way generally. One gander was quite a character. He was blind of one eye and had a curious knack of standing with head on one side, quizzically regarding anyone he encountered. Regularly about once an hour he uttered a loud and very startling goose-call. We called him Nelson, and his mate, who followed him like a shadow wherever he went, was known as Jemima. Worsley in his watch below was being continually wakened by Nelson’s harsh noises, and on one occasion I saw his head appear through his port and heard him shout: “Be quiet, you silly beggar, you are not saving Rome now. That happened years ago!”

Bridget was a tyrant; she would not let the sheep alone, but rooted about in their grass feed, and having collected it into a nice bed for herself, lay down on it in stertorous sleep whilst the sheep looked on, advancing now and again to take an apologetic nibble at their own grass. Dell, who had taken in hand the attempt to fatten these poor animals, drove her off relentlessly to the accompaniment of much squealing.

We had a busy day squaring up after our upheaval at Tristan, and in getting ready the camping gear for use on Gough Island.

On May 27th at about 12.0 noon the island showed up. In spite of the comparatively short run we had had some difficulty in picking it up on account of winds, strong tides and no sun, which made it impossible for Worsley and Jeffrey to locate exactly our position, and the visibility was so poor that we could see less than a mile in any one direction. About noon, however, it appeared as a high mass crowned with mist.

This island lies about 250 miles south-south-east of Tristan da Cunha. It was discovered by Portuguese navigators in the sixteenth century and received the name Diego Alvarez. In 1731 Captain Gough in the Richmond sighted an island which he placed on the chart as lying to the east of Diego Alvarez and named Gough Island. For many years two separate islands were believed to exist, but now there can be no doubt they are one and the same. The name in most common usage is Gough, which seems hardly fair to its original discoverers.

On The Way To The Summit. The Apostle And Mt. Rowett Behind | Photo: Dr. Macklin
The Glen Anchorage From The Higher Slopes | Photo: Dr. Macklin

In 1811 it was sighted by H.M.S. Nereus under Captain Heywood. He effected a landing, described as being safe and easy, and discovered the remains of two huts which apparently had been set up some time previously by sealers. The height of the summit of the island was estimated by him at 4,380 feet. American sealers landed in 1825 but soon left. Morrell visited it in the Antarctic in 1829, and came to anchor in twelve to fourteen fathoms in a cove on the north side, where he was able to water his ship. H.M.S. Royalist arrived in 1887, and a survey was carried out by Lieut. J. P. Rolleston from which the Admiralty Chart (2228) was made. Towards the end of the same year an American schooner, Francis Alleyn, left a party of five sealers for six months who met, however, with little success. Amongst them was George Comer who kept a diary. He seems to have been a keen observer very interested in natural history, and his diary contains a complete daily record of weather conditions during his stay. One of the party was frozen to death whilst attempting to cross over the island, and his grave was marked by a board bearing the inscription, “José Gomez perished in the snow.” Another sealer, the Wild Rose, visited the island at the beginning of 1891 and landed a party which remained for about a year. They had little luck in the sealing. A harbour known as Snug Harbour is described by one of them as being situated at the southern end of the island lying between two large rocks known as Castle and Battery Rocks, suitable, however, only for small vessels and boats. Landing is said to be not difficult, and the higher ground easily accessible at this point.

On only one occasion previous to our arrival had scientific investigators landed: in 1904 Dr. Bruce and members of the staff of the Scotia succeeded in effecting a landing. They were ashore for one day only, and bad weather and the necessity of “standing by” for a sudden recall prevented their going far afield. Nevertheless they made full use of their time and succeeded in collecting a number of new specimens of both animal and plant life. Accounts had shown the island to be difficult of access, but I was particularly anxious to allow the naturalist and geologist with their assistants as many chances as possible for the collection of specimens and the examination of its natural features. This being mid-winter I feared that weather conditions might not be altogether propitious.

We passed along the coast, keeping a close look out for an anchorage for the ship and good landing-places for the boats. Through binoculars we saw that the island was covered with vegetation, of which tussock grass, tree ferns and island trees were the most distinguishable. In most places the land rose steeply from the sea, and down the face of the cliffs numerous waterfalls, long and thin, resembling mare’s tails, fell in long cascades. Every now and then they had the appearance of being cut abruptly in half, the wind in strong gusts catching the lower portions and blowing them away in fine, almost invisible, spray. The rocky outline of the island was marked with numerous caves and chasms, and striking features of its formation were pinnacles which stood up distinct, bold in outline, some smooth and tapering, others jagged and irregular. Steep rocky islands, sharply cut off from the shore and separated from it by narrow channels, rose sheer and straight from the sea, some bare, some crowned with a mass of vegetation, most of them so steep as to be quite inaccessible.

Of bird life we saw very little as we passed along the coast. A few sea-hens flew out at our approach, while here and there on the rocks, usually near the entrance to some cave, we could distinguish the white bodies of terns.

We rounded in turn West Cape, South West Cape, South Cape and South East Cape. Snug Harbour on the east side of South West Cape much belies its name, for “snug” it is not. Indeed, it can hardly be said that there is a harbour there at all. Although it offers a lee and a useful anchorage during high westerly winds, with no swell from south or west, to obtain any real shelter it is necessary to lie very close in to the shore, closer than is safe for any but the smallest of craft. As we passed there was a heavy swell and strong surf which made it quite unsuitable.

In the “Glen Anchorage” on the east coast we found shelter and dropped anchor in twelve and a half fathoms.

Just about this time the light began to fail, and in the gathering dusk the island had a most romantic appearance. The glen forms a deep cleft at the back of which the island rises to a height of several thousand feet, marked here and there by bold outstanding masses of rock. Most remarkable of these is the “Apostle,” a lofty solid crag which from its commanding position overlooks and dominates the glen. High up on one side is a long narrow obelisk, rising straight and steep. On the other side facing the harbour is a heavy broad mass with straight, clean-cut face crowned at the top with buttresses resembling a mediæval castle. The glen itself was in black shadow, and the last rays of the setting sun lit up the summit of the island on which was gathering a rolling mass of sombre clouds. The whole setting was very beautiful and held us momentarily spellbound, none caring to speak. Fancy carried thoughts back to the tales of childhood when gloomy keeps and dungeons, knights and fiery dragons—the myths of later years—had not ceased to be haunting realities.

I did not feel altogether at ease in this spot. Fierce winds blowing gustily down the glen caused the ship to swing continually in different directions. There was a considerable swell running in from the sea, and I knew that a change of wind blowing strongly round South East Point would make our position a very uncomfortable one. There was no moon and the night was black as pitch. I had a sharp watch set, and as it was difficult to get good bearings of the land ordered that soundings with the hand lead be taken every half-hour.

I had already arranged for a party to go ashore the next day: Wilkins and Marr to make natural history collections, Douglas, Carr and Argles to do geological and survey work, and Naisbitt, whose steady work on the ship had earned him a run ashore, to act as cook. Wilkins, as being the most experienced of these, was placed in charge. I warned them to be ready at daybreak.

The next day was fortunately fine. I took the boat ashore with Macklin, McIlroy and Kerr at the oars.

At the mouth of the glen there is a narrow beach of large boulders. On the south side a stream runs into the sea. “Archway Rock,” a large rock eighty-five feet high with a tunnel obviously drilled by the running stream, gives an imperfect protection to this side of the beach. A strong surf was running, but I managed to effect a landing under the lee of the rock, and after two journeys succeeded in putting the party ashore with their equipment. This was not accomplished without considerable wetting. A strong wind was blowing down the glen, and I was able to let the boat lie off and with the boat’s crew go ashore also. Owing to the changeable conditions I did not care to go far away from the landing-place, but I sent Macklin up the glen to get a general impression of the higher parts of the island and if possible obtain some photographs, while with the others I explored the parts around the landing-place and the glen.

The scientific party had brought with them two tents, one of which they started to set up. The other was not required, for we found on the flat piece of ground above the beach two huts, one of wood and corrugated iron, the other built of boulders from the beach and thatched with tussock grass. Both of them were in fairly good condition, and showed that the island had been recently inhabited by someone. Mice swarmed; they were very tame and showed little fear of us. All around lay instruments for mineralogical examination; picks, shovels, hand pump and hose, washing pans, mortar and pestle, rope, axes and many other things. In the huts were cooking utensils and a few unopened tins of preserved food, some of which were badly “blown.” I found on one of the shelves a half-used box of matches, and testing one I was surprised to find that it ignited readily. There was a little cave to the right of the huts above which a stone had been affixed, bearing the following inscription:

F. X. Xeigler, R. I. Garden, J. Hagan,
W. Swaine, J. C. Fenton, Cape Town,

The carving had been done by someone who knew his job for it had been very neatly executed.

At the back of the hut and along the sides of the stream were numerous trenches and excavations, apparently where examinations had been made. One had the impression that a search had been carried out for diamonds or precious metal, but that nothing having materialized the party had just dumped down their tools and decamped.

Vegetation appeared to be very luxuriant, tussock grass growing in large clumps covered the flat ground. Close to the beach and along the side of the stream there were numerous wallows, which from their shape and from the smell which emanated from them showed that sea elephants frequented the island in large numbers during certain seasons. I discovered two young bulls lying in the stream close to the sea. Ferns of many kinds grew everywhere. The slopes were covered with masses of tree fern, and amongst the smaller varieties was a very pretty maidenhair. There were several clumps of wild celery. The only trees on the island were island trees, which apparently never grow to great size, but many of which were larger and thicker than any I saw on Tristan da Cunha.

Birds resembling thrushes but of a yellowish-green colour flew down and hopped about close to us. They seemed to be quite unafraid, and were so tame that if one kept still for a few minutes they would perch on one’s feet and could be easily caught by dropping a hat over them. Sea-hens flew about overhead showing a marked interest in the invaders, or, perched on some near point of vantage, regarded proceedings with a watchful eye. They did not allow anyone to approach very close, but Argles, with a well-aimed geological hammer, succeeded in knocking over two of them, which proved a useful addition to the cooking-pot. Every now and then I heard coming from the slopes the occasional “chuck-chuck” of landrail, but the birds remained hidden in the vegetation.

I went for a walk up the glen, following the course of the stream. Foothold was bad owing to the rocks being covered by a slimy deposit brought from rotting vegetation on the slopes. The water was coloured slightly green by the products of decomposition, but was used by the shore party for drinking and cooking purposes, apparently with no ill effect.

In spite of the luxuriance of growth there is a great deal of dampness and dank rottenness of the vegetation which takes away much of its attractiveness. It is possible that this is most marked at this time of the year, i.e. June, mid-winter in the southern hemisphere, and that in summer things are drier, fresher and more pleasant. As I went along I caught an occasional glimpse of the landrails with their bright red combs, shiny black bodies and yellow legs. These flightless birds have little runways amongst the grass where it would be almost impossible to catch them alive. To draw them out I tried a trick which I had often carried out with success on Macquarie Island, imitating their “chuck-chuck” by knocking two smooth stones sharply together, but though I heard their answering calls drawing nearer they showed a great reluctance to venture into the open.

This is an island where a marooned or shipwrecked party might live in comparative comfort. Instinctively, whilst taking in all its possibilities, my mind reverted to Elephant Island, the grim and barren spot where I wintered with my party during the last Antarctic expedition, short of food and fuel, bitterly cold and devoid of everything that makes life endurable. Here there is abundance of food and plenty of wood to burn, drift wood from the beach and the island tree wood. In addition to the animal life we saw about us, the sea swarms with fish of excellent quality, and crayfish can be easily caught from the rocks. There are also large rookeries of rockhopper penguins (as we saw later) which provide good meat and in the season abundance of eggs. Small weather-proof dwellings of the type used on Tristan da Cunha could be built from the numerous small boulders on the beach and roofed over with tussock grass. True, too long a sojourn might produce some of the disquietude of Alexander Selkirk, but there would at least be no fear of starvation, and compared with Elephant Island the place is a perfect paradise. I returned to the landing-place, and with McIlroy and Kerr put off in the boat and rowed into the belt of kelp where I was anxious to see what kinds of fish could be caught about the island. It was unnecessary to bait the hooks, a spinner bait or bright piece of tin was sufficient. The fish bit readily and we quickly collected all we required for food. The variety found in the kelp and about the shore is a reddish-coloured fish with strong horny spines. It is excellent to eat. From the ship with strong lines and hooks we caught “blue-fish” weighing up to forty pounds, which also make good eating. Watts and Green, who are tireless disciples of Izaak Walton, were responsible for many of these catches. Crayfish were obtained by lowering a weighted net baited with fish. Usually we hauled this up full of them with others clinging to the outside. They were to us a great delicacy.

In the afternoon Worsley and Jeffrey, with the assistance of Dell and Ross, carried out a series of soundings from the boat with a view to charting accurately the anchorage. Later they went ashore and measured the height of Archway Rock.

I sent in the boat to be put ashore three of the geese which we had brought from Tristan da Cunha. As the boat neared the beach they did not wait to be lifted out, but jumped over the gunwale into the water. They swam round the Archway Rock and made a landing at the foot of the small glen which opens to the sea there. We did not see them again, but I was in hopes that they would settle and breed.

Jeffrey, who is a keen observer and takes a close interest in things generally, discovered a very pretty maidenhair fern, a number of which he assiduously set about collecting with roots complete for taking home. On returning to the ship he placed them carefully in a large pot. Having inadvertently left this on deck, he returned to find that Bridget had discovered them and with much appreciation had eaten the lot.

The Quest Seen Through Archway Rock, Gough Island | Photo: Dr. Macklin
Dell Rocks, At The North-Eastern End Of Glen Beach | The Photograph Shows The Steepness Of The Cliffs On Gough Island | Photo: Dr. Macklin

Before returning the party picked up Macklin and brought him off. He had followed the main glen to where it divided into two, taken the one to the right till he reached the grass-covered higher slopes of the island, made a traverse to the base of the “Apostle” and returned by the other glen. The following description is from his diary:

After leaving Commander Wild I set off up the glen, following as far as possible the course of the stream. To appreciate the keen enjoyment of a walk like this one must have spent many weary months knocking about at sea in a small ship. The little stream was very beautiful as it wound down the glen with its deeps and shallows and little torrents. Every turn produced a new and attractive picture, and the setting behind with the Apostle standing out dominant and high was really magnificent. One had to proceed carefully, for the stones and boulders were very slippery. Sometimes it became necessary to leave the stream and take to the bank, but nowhere was the going good. Having passed several waterfalls, I came to a long straight stretch running between steep sides covered over with branches of island tree to form a long tunnelled archway. I waded along this to encounter a high waterfall up the sides of which there was no way. I was compelled to take to the bank, climbing a steep mossy slope, and plunged in amongst the trees and tree ferns which grow in thick masses on either side of the glen, running upwards from the edge of the stream to a height of about a thousand feet. The going was now very difficult, for the waterfalls became too numerous and steep for one to continue following the stream. I forced my way with difficulty through masses of fern and island tree all soaking wet, much of it rotten and thickly covered with lichen and other forms of parasite.

The glen divided into two and I chose the one to the right, working my way laboriously till I reached at last the upper edge of thick vegetation and emerged on to grassy slopes, which were very sodden and covered with numerous grasses and mosses. The air blew pure and fresh, rather cold, but a welcome change from the stuffy atmosphere of the thicker vegetation. I was now able to get a look round. The island certainly had a curious formation with its rugged rocky pinnacles and ridges. I was attracted by the huge mass of the Apostle and determined to make for it. This necessitated descending into the glen, crossing the stream and climbing again through the thick belt. I chose wherever possible the course of small tributaries, but these dropped very steeply and had many long thin waterfalls which fell over smooth rock covered with moss, which readily came away and afforded no hand or foothold. I reached a ridge which rose in a series of thin sharp rocky pinnacles, and working along this at last reached the grass land at the foot of the Apostle. I made an effort to climb the mass from the front, but was not successful. The time limit allowed me by Commander Wild was now up and I had to make my way down again. The geological party, Douglas, Carr and Argles, who came here later found an easy way up by walking round to the back.

I descended into the other glen and attempted to work down the stream, but found myself in a narrow gorge between high, smooth walls of rock and, coming to the head of a high waterfall, could find no way down, so that I was compelled to go back out of the gorge and come down through the vegetation on the banks. This was almost as hard work as going up, and long before I reached the bottom the climb had ceased to be a pleasure and had become mere hard work, increased by the fact that I had overstayed my time and had to hurry. The fresh upland air was changed again to the hot stuffiness of the valley, and when I arrived at the landing-place I was soaked to the skin as much with perspiration as with wet from the outside. Anyone working through this vegetation at this time of year must be prepared to get wetted through, for everything is sodden.

Through being late I had to wait some time for the boat, and cooled so rapidly that I was soon shivering. Naisbitt had kindled a fire of driftwood, and I was glad to sit in front of this. He also made me a cup of tea which helped to warm me up.

A number of small and very tame mice came out to regard me curiously; they must have been introduced by the people who built the huts. One very old one crept up to the warmth of the fire—it had very shaky limbs and moved slowly and carefully—rather like a doddery old man. I was taking a great interest in it when Query came up to me, and catching sight of it sitting in the fireglow casually bit it, killed it and dropped it. The utter thoughtlessness and callous cruelty of the act!—and all the time he slowly wagged his tail, oozing with friendliness and good nature….

It is probable that anyone visiting this island in January would find conditions much more pleasant, and to a botanist especially it should appeal as a fertile field for research.

The early part of the night was fine. All round us was a beautiful phosphorescence, the sea being covered with waves of flame. Anything thrown overboard caused ripples and splashes of liquid fire and the cable was a chain of living light, the whole being accentuated by the intense blackness of the night.

Whilst passing along the port alleyway I noticed just opposite the galley a weird luminous glow emanating from two large spots set closely together. They were like the eyes of a large animal and produced momentarily a creepy feeling. Closer examination revealed two crayfish as the source of this phenomenon. The flesh of these creatures is brightly luminous, and wherever there are chinks in the horny coating and where it is thin the light shines through.

Towards daybreak of the next morning the wind increased and a strong swell started running into the anchorage. Not caring to take any undue risks with such an unpleasant lee shore, I heaved anchor and steamed out past South East Point, keeping close into the island to enable Worsley to carry out a series of soundings.

The land along the south side of the island slopes much more gradually to the summit than it does opposite the Glen Anchorage, and the vegetation which is the greatest bar to climbers is much less dense. Getting ashore would be less easy than at the glen. There are places where in fine weather a boat landing could be effected, but the beaches are very narrow and unfit for camping on. It would be necessary also before the slopes are reached to surmount a short steep cliff up which in many places a man unhandicapped by gear might with comparative ease find a way, but where the hauling up of camping equipment would be more difficult. Soundings were carried on throughout the day, and Worsley and Jeffrey made a rough running survey of the coast, mapping as accurately as possible the most salient points and headlands. The wind coming more westerly we returned at night to the Glen Anchorage.

The next day I intended putting Worsley and Macklin ashore and set off in the boat with McIlroy and Kerr at the oars. There was, however, a much bigger surf than we had encountered the previous day, and a landing at the beach was quite out of the question. I succeeded in putting the boat alongside the outer edge of the Archway Rock on to which they scrambled. This side is very steep and they were unable to reach the top which is overhanging. As a matter of fact, we discovered later that there is a way up by a “chimney” at the point nearest the beach, but it was so thickly covered with tussock grass as to be invisible from below. Up this an active man carrying a coil of rope would have comparatively little difficulty in making his way, and a landing could be effected by this route when it would be impossible at the beach.

Not willing to give up the attempt I took the boat to the far side of the beach where a considerable swell was running, but where the surf was to some extent broken by a thick mass of seaweed. The swell, however, in spite of the weed was so high and steep that we narrowly escaped being capsized and had to abandon this also. I therefore gave up the attempt for that day and rowed along the coast examining rocks and entering numerous small caves. The water was beautifully clear and the bottom easily visible, with growths of beautiful seaweed and all manner of fish and crayfish.

During the next three days the swell increased, and though we tried each day to land the attempt was attended with so much risk of damage to the boat that on each occasion I gave up the attempt.

The beaches are composed of large and irregularly placed boulders, and many rocks but little submerged and often awash complicate the approach. Our surf boat was very lightly built, and under circumstances like this there was a danger of her bottom being stove in against the boulders. There was also a risk should she get across one of the outlying rocks of being capsized and swamped by the inrushing swell. We found that the seas were so steep that when they had passed under our bottom the boat came down heavily on the water with such a resounding smack that had she struck something hard she must have immediately been stove in. Indeed our attempt at landing provided us with no little excitement, but I was fortunate in having with me amongst the crew a number of cool and capable oarsmen, and we escaped damage.

Another factor which adds to the difficulty of landing at Gough Island is the force of the gusts which blow down the glen. They come in whirls so that the boat is blown violently first in one direction and then another, and at this time of year are bitingly cold.

Examination of the records of other explorers who have visited this island shows that there has always been a difficulty in landing.

The time spent lying off an island in an exposed anchorage is a trying one for all concerned, especially for those on whom lies the responsibility of action. One has to be continually on the watch for signs of change of winds. At this time there was no moon and it was difficult to fix the position of the ship by objects on shore. The fierceness of the squalls and their continually changing direction with consequent swing of the ship created a danger of dragging the anchor. By bringing the ship closer into the shore we escaped some of the effects of wind and swell, but there was less room in which to manœuvre in case of accident. We had always to keep the sounding-lead going, and I gave orders to Kerr that he was to maintain the fires so that at fifteen minutes’ notice there could be a full pressure of steam in the boilers.

I began to feel uneasy about the party on shore, for unless we were very fortunate we might have to wait many days before we could take them off. At any time we might be driven by stress of weather away from the island, and in a ship of such low engine-power as the Quest getting back might be a matter of difficulty. I had also to consider the question of coal expenditure. I determined, therefore, to seize the first opportunity of picking them up.

During the night we had vicious hailstorms, and the squalls which blew off shore out of the mouth of the glen increased in violence.

In the morning, with McIlroy, Macklin and Kerr, I took the boat in to the beach, and using a stern anchor was able to effect a landing close to the Archway Rock. I shouted to Wilkins to get together his party and equipment and come aboard. Unfortunately Douglas, Carr and Argles had gone out the previous day and had camped for the night farther up the hill, and Wilkins did not expect them back till late. I therefore took off Naisbitt and him, with as much equipment as was not necessary for the night. I left Marr behind with a message that all were to be ready to come off as soon as possible. Getting the gear aboard was a ticklish matter, for seas came heavily over the stern, and fierce squalls with hail blowing in our faces from the hills helped to make things more unpleasant. Macklin and Kerr leapt into the sea to assist with the loading, and no one escaped a good soaking. We got off without mishap, however, and returned to the ship. During the night the gusts at the mouth of the glen had been so violent that the tent was blown in and the party compelled to move to the hut. Wilkins writes: “During a violent squall of hail and sleet our tent was literally blown from the ropes, leaving us exposed beneath the skeleton of ridge pole and guys. The wind, although not blowing a continuous hurricane, sweeps down the gullies and over the cliffs in terrific gusts at the rate of more than a hundred miles an hour.” As a matter of fact, the party, none of whom apparently were accustomed to tent life under these conditions, were asking for trouble, for they had pitched the tent broadside to the gusts and had left guys and skirting very slack. It is important in high winds to cut out all shake and flutter or the canvas will eventually tear itself to ribbons.

I had a good look round for any signs of the geese which we put ashore, but saw nothing of them. They should have no difficulty in finding ample food.

In the afternoon Worsley, with Macklin, Dell and Watts, took the boat to look at a cave farther along the coast. On entering they found that it had a large shaft open to the sky down which a cascade of water was pouring. Worsley carried out some more soundings with the hand-lead, taking a line across the mouth of the bay.

Next morning the upper slopes of the island were covered in white, the result of the hailstorms.

I saw that landing would be no easy matter, but determined to make an attempt to take off the rest of the shore party. I attempted the beach landing, but had to give it up. I therefore told the party to carry their equipment to the top of Archway Rock, taking with them a rope to lower themselves to the rocks at the bottom, from which it would be possible to pick them off. Rain and hail squalls blew all the time and waiting in the boat was very unpleasant. They had a difficult job but succeeded in massing the gear at the top. Carr descended, having secured the rope to an island tree. He discovered the chimney which had been invisible from below. It is situated on the bay side of the rock close to the corner nearest the beach. Twice Marr nearly stepped over the overhanging edge, but was warned in the nick of time by our shouts. Query, who accompanied the shore party, was lowered in a sack. Ultimately we got the whole party safely off and returned in violent squalls to the ship.

We left the Glen Anchorage and proceeded in a north-westerly direction to a sheltered spot close to the high rounded column of “Lot’s Wife,” certainly well named for it forms an unmistakable mark. We anchored opposite a waterfall in eight and a half fathoms, and Worsley, Macklin, Wilkins and Douglas went ashore. At this point there is a narrow beach with a small piece of flat land behind it from which the island rises steeply to a summit crowned with a mass of rock. Between the waterfall and the point there is a large penguin rookery, deserted at this time of the year except for a few rockhoppers, whose lives were claimed on scientific grounds. Wilkins added a number of specimens to his collection, and Macklin caught a landrail alive, which was found to be blind of one eye, this no doubt being the reason why he was able to stalk it. He materialistically designed it for the pot, but as it was a perfect specimen Wilkins asked if he might have it for his collection.

We lay at anchor for the night, and at daybreak next morning, June 3rd, set off for Cape Town.

Lot’s Wife Cove And Church Rocks, Gough Island | Photo: Dr. Macklin
Lot’s Wife, Gough Island | Photo: Dr. Macklin

Wilkins and his party during their stay on the island had accomplished some very good work. Assisted by Marr, who thoroughly enjoyed his camping experience, he made a large collection of animal and plant life and obtained a number of photographs. Unfortunately the light was not good. Douglas, Carr and Argles made a rough survey of this part of the island and carried out a geological examination of the glen and uplands. They reached the highest point, which proved to be 2,915 feet in height. To do this they spent a night in the open covered only by a floor cloth. It was bitterly cold but the vegetation was far too damp to enable them to start a fire.

Douglas, though not a botanist, made a very interesting observation. In the “Little Glen,” just to the south of Archway Rock, he discovered a grove of trees which he describes as “growing as if planted in an orchard,” attaining a height of thirteen or fourteen feet, and covering ground of about twelve feet diameter. It differs in many respects from the island tree, and Wilkins considers it to be a species of sophora which is found in New Zealand and parts of South America. Its features are intermediate in type between those of the trees found in these respective places.

Naisbitt took charge of the camp and acted as cook, which duties he seems to have carried out well.

The party left behind a considerable quantity of preserved provisions, which they carefully stored in the hut, for they had taken ashore a larger supply than was necessary for their own needs. I hope if it is the lot of any to be compelled by accident to sojourn on this island that these stores will add something to their comfort, though with all the equipment and shelter left by the mining party and the abundance of natural resources I would have no fear for their safety.

As much hydrographical and survey work as possible was carried out on the ship. An examination of anchorages, one on the north coast, one on the south coast, and two on the east coast showed that shelter might be found from northerly, southerly or westerly winds. There are no sheltered bays, each anchorage being an open roadstead. None of them can be considered safe for ships without steam, and the latter should at all times be prepared to get under way at very short notice. The Glen Anchorage affords good holding ground.

The positions of Penguin Island, the Glen Anchorage and Lot’s Wife Cove were definitely established.

A good rough survey was made of the eastern and northern coasts and a rough running survey of the rest of the island. Soundings and examinations were made for all dangers and rocks round the coast. The height of several rocks and cliffs on the eastern coast were accurately determined.

There are no outlying dangers about Gough Island.

Jeffrey carried out tidal observations during our stay.

There is no doubt that the work of the scientific parties and the observations taken on and about Gough Island, when fully worked out, will prove most interesting.

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