EXPLORATIONS AND DISCOVERIES
(a) Inaccessible Island.
MY husband was able to do what no previous missionary had been able to accomplish in visiting personally both Inaccessible and Nightingale Islands in the island boats and exploring them. I give below his own account of the visits. First of his visit to Inaccessible:
"There is something weird and terrible about uninhabited islands. Inaccessible, seen from a distance, looms up as a huge black mass of rock capped with cloud like the smoke of a volcano. On the side nearest Tristan there is not a break in the precipitous cliff rising to about 2,000 feet. The whole island is not very large, about four square miles in extent. From the outside it is by no means an inviting-looking spot, but the interior is well wooded with island trees, ferns, and high tussock. The climate is somewhat milder than Tristan from its lower elevation. Mr. Douglas, of the Quest, described the interior country of Inaccessible as 'a beautiful landscape of broken country, clad in verdure with a stream running through it.' This stream emerges as a fine waterfall, pouring in a strong volume of good fresh water into a pool on Salt Beach. The pool is deep, and big enough for several persons to bathe or swim in.
"Inaccessible is, however, well named, as, though a landing can often be easily effected at Salt Beach on the side visible in clear weather from Tristan, when you do land you cannot ascend to the top without the utmost skill and nerve in climbing. One man said, 'You must hold on by hands, feet, and teeth to get up.' The beach at Salt Beach landing is a considerable stretch of shingle close to deep water, though it shelves down, and rises to a low and narrow stretch of green bank with ferns, grass, and a few trees and tussock running all this side of the island from point to point, and on which the Tristan islanders usually fatten three or four bullocks very successfully. Inaccessible is quite fit for human habitation by a small number of families possessed of boats, and, if there is no emigration to the mainland, some of the Tristan people may one day have to settle over there permanently to relieve the over-population. As it is, the Tristan boatmen make the journey across three or four times at least each year in search of birds and eggs for food purposes, and driftwood to build or repair their houses and carts. The island has never been inhabited save by sealing crews for a time, and the two brothers Stoltenhoff, who resided on it for two years and endured great privation, having no stores and for a good while no boat. They were rather at feud with the population of Tristan, who looked on Inaccessible as a necessary appendage to their own island, and accused the brothers of killing the livestock—goats, I think they were—running wild on the island. The Government sent and removed the Stoltenhoffs, but their name is given to a little islet near Nightingale.
"It really is no light undertaking to voyage in an open canvas boat across the rough open strait between Tristan da Cunha and Inaccessible. I think it is quite as bad as it would be crossing the English Channel in a row boat in a rough sea—no joke at all. We put up a record trip on our voyage, getting there and back in one day, which has never been done before nor since. The usual plan is to stop the night at least, and it is certainly safer, for navigating these rough seas amid rock-bound, current-swept, and surf-beaten coasts in the darkness is surely a venturesome undertaking. The island boatmen, trusting to a very intimate knowledge and something to luck, simply feel their way by the kelp. They listen for the surf also. There was no moon, few stars, and there were rain and wind squalls on our return, though we had a fair wind and a quick voyage over.
"We started too late for Inaccessible in my opinion, but there always was delay in getting off, too much talking and waiting for this and that. But we got our work over very quickly and efficiently when there. The bullock was rounded up, shot, and soon skinned, cut up and loaded into the boats. Meanwhile, I went exploring, and collecting specimens of plants, stones, and other souvenirs of my visit. Patrol Leader Donald Glass and Joe Glass soon had a fire going and a billy boiling for a cup of tea, and we managed a fairly good meal of fish and potatoes. It was later than we thought when we started back, as by a mischance no one had any watch or clock with him, and my watch was out of action. As we got away with two of the other boats, we noticed that the wind was dropping off and veering a good deal, and a change was brewing. Just as we left, the boat which had tried to get to Blendon Hall Beach returned to Salt Beach, where we were, but we could not stay to speak to them, and they landed and camped all night on the beach, while we proceeded on our return journey under all sail. We kept pretty much together all the way over until off Long Bluff at Tristan, and then it got so dark we could not see our consorts at all, but we could hear them shout now and then. My lantern would not light as the wind was too high, but we struck matches once in a while, and so did the others, and the tiny sparks showed up a long distance. We hardly knew when we were off the Settlement— a light on the wireless pole or a fire on Hottentot Point would have been a big help; but I do not think anyone imagined we should get back that night.
"When we got off Little Beach we fired the big rifle they nickname ' Rabbit's Ears ' twice over, and we saw lights come directly in the windows up on the Settlement, and soon noticed people emerging with torches and lanterns and making for the beach at full speed. We were all a bit used up, and cold, hungry and wet, and some were seasick too. It was just 11.30 when we got out of the boats on to the beach at Tristan again.
"I got some very interesting impressions of Inaccessible. Like Tristan, it is surrounded by quantities of kelp. The waters round the island are crowded with fish, but they are also much infested by sharks, and big catfish and octopuses. It is much richer than Tristan in sea-shells also. We saw a number of flying fish on our way across, and these do not come near Tristan. I was told later—I do not know with what authority—of a gigantic sea-snail which lives in these waters—quite a monstrosity in sea-snails. I did not secure one, but from Andrew Swain I got one about as large as a half-crown. I had not seen it in any museum, but as I had no alcohol it went bad and I was forced to destroy it.
INACCESSIBLE ISLAND, WITH THE "QUEST" IN THE OFFING
"There are great quantities of sea-birds at Inaccessible, species not now found at Tristan, including albatross, splendid big fellows. The solitary thrush or ‘starchy' is plentiful and nests here, and we secured some eggs of it. There is also the Tristan finch, or 'canary' as they call it. But, of course, the most interesting bird of all is the island cock, of which I was fortunate in procuring the first specimen known to science, and which we are going to send to South Kensington and the Cape. It is a small bird of the rail species, I think, wingless, unable to fly, but can run with great speed, shelters in the tussock, and lives in a burrow. Its eggs are not known, it does not migrate, and it feeds, I understand, on insects and worms. Its radius once extended to Tristan, but it is now solely found on Inaccessible. There was also a large species on Tristan, but it is now extinct, though only in recent years. It is black and brown in colour with pink eyes. The Shackleton-Rowett Expedition knew of the island cock from the islanders, but Mr. Wilkins, the naturalist, was unable to procure skins on his visit to Inaccessible, and he left me some materials and directions in case I should be able to capture specimens of this very remarkable bird. There are no rats at Inaccessible, and in this it has an advantage over Tristan.
"The best landing-place for exploration purposes is Blendon Hall Beach, but it is full of reefs and rocks and is much exposed to surf, and it is often impossible to land there. The Tristan people have placed some sheep as well as cattle over on Inaccessible, and this year (1923) they were much perturbed by hearing that some of the livestock had vanished mysteriously. Suggested solutions of their disappearance were that they had been taken off by some dishonest whale crew, killed by a wild dog said to be on the island, or simply had died from bad weather or floods.
"The ocean currents throw up considerable quantities of driftwood, and we secured some useful pieces at Salt Beach, but more is found in Blendon Hall Beach, the exposed side of the island. ' Sea beans ' drift here from West Africa and South America. Inaccessible is often enshrouded in fog, and in former years had many wrecks on its iron coast. The most notorious was the Blendon Hall, Indiaman, in 1821, after whom the landing-place is named. The crew and passengers, fifty-two persons, after enduring great privations for several months, were rescued by the Tristan da Cunha islanders led by Corporal Glass. The Shakespeare was wrecked on the island in 1883, and the Helen S. Lea in 1897. The Tristan people received and provided for all the shipwrecked crews in each case."
My husband's trip to Inaccessible was made on February 3, 1923. I give my own brief version of the matter from my diary:
"Bob Glass woke us up this morning at the rather unearthly hour of three o'clock, as three boats were going to start for Inaccessible and my husband had asked to go with them. I got up and prepared breakfast directly, but it was not till after five o'clock that the men went down to Little Beach to get the boats ready, and even then there was a long delay before the start was made at about 6.30. I went down with a number of women and children to see the boats start, which they did hoisting sail and giving the usual three cheers, to which we all responded from the shore. They always cheer when going to the other islands, but not if going round this island to Seal Bay or Sandy Point. I went home to my domestic duties, and then served as my husband's deputy, reading morning prayers at nine o'clock to a good congregation, in the afternoon taking the Mothers' Union Quarterly Service (which my husband usually takes) and giving an address on the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
"Towards evening I got a bit anxious. Some of the women had ridden on donkeys right out to Bluff to watch for the possible return of the boats, and only came home at dark, saying, ‘No signs of them.' I wanted to hoist the lantern on the wireless pole, which shows a long way out at sea, but some said, 'They will not be back now till tomorrow,' so I did not put it up. However, I put supper on the table for my husband in case he should get back by any chance, and I also fetched wood and water—a thing which he usually does. Mrs. Repetto said, 'Don't stay in the house alone; bring baby and come over to me,' so I went across at length, and it got so late I lay down and went to sleep. I think everyone was asleep, and it was long past eleven o'clock wrhen someone heard guns fired at sea and there was a loud shout of ' The boats are coming!' We soon had fires and lights going, and in less than half an hour all the women were running down to the beach with hot drinks. It was a very unpleasant night, horribly dark, blowing and pouring with rain, and foggy. Joe Repetto carried the lantern for us, and Mrs. Repetto and I the hot drink. My husband helped pull up his boat and said he had enjoyed the trip very much, but I could see he was fagged out, so we left the people to unload the boats and went home, where he got some supper, and it was one o'clock before we were all in bed."
Inaccessible certainly contains ironstone, and it is reported vaguely to hide diamonds and other valuable minerals, though neither my husband nor the Quest party discovered any. Bob Glass has a certain experience in these matters, and I quote his words to Mr. Lawrence Green, of the Cape Argus, when that gentleman visited us on H.M.S. Dublin. This is Mr. Green's account as given subsequently in that paper:
"'See here, Mr. Argus,' he whispered, drawing me on one side; ' I have been over to Inaccessible Island prospecting for diamonds. Look what I found.' He produced a curious species of rock, and asked me to take it to Cape Town and have it tested. I promised to do so, and Bob Glass continued with infinite craft in his eyes, ' I think it would be worth while someone in Cape Town sending a ship here. It might be diamonds, and I could show them where I found the rock.' So here is a chance for any adventurous spirit to prospect for diamonds under the guidance of the genial Bob Glass."
(b) Nightingale Island.
I give my husband's narrative of his visit of exploration to Nightingale Island in his own words. He writes:
"On January 31, 1924, I set sail from Little Beach, Tristan da Cunha, in company with four small open sail and row-boats to visit the uninhabited and little-known Nightingale Island of the Tristan group. Nightingale has several small adjacent islets. The crews of the boats, including myself, numbered twenty-seven hands all told, and two of these were Boy Scouts. Nightingale is about twenty miles by sea from the nearest point on Tristan and about nine from Inaccessible. The islanders do not visit this island so frequently, as there is seldom a good sailing wind from the Settlement, and the water on the island is almost undrinkable, being strongly alkaline. The island has, I think, been only visited three or four times in the past fifty years—by the Challenger in 1873, the Odin in 1904, and the Quest in 1922. For a time also a few sealers camped on the island.
"We slept ashore three nights in a large cave high over the sea, which also offered shelter to hundreds of sea-birds of a dozen species, some of which had young. All night long we were enlivened by weird calls, notes like a hoot of strange goblins in the semi-dark, shrieks in a dozen keys,' He ho-he ha-ha he. Take a walk, take a walk!' At dawn the bird occupants flew with a rustle of wings very surprising. Even as the boats crossed over, the sea was white with this host of birds. There are literally thousands upon thousands of petrels, molly mawks, sea-hens, penguins, and what the people call 'wood-pigeons' (a sea-bird, in reality 'starchies '), also a sort of finch, night birds, stormy petrels, and the big albatross. The beautiful 'king birds' are also plentiful, but the ‘island cock,' the bird of my discovery on Inaccessible, has left here, as it has Tristan. The thousands of penguins in their rookeries are a truly remarkable sight. There are large rookeries, too, on the small adjacent islets, ' Alec's Island,' White Island, Stoltenhoff Island, and ' Old Man Island.' The penguins, though moulting, were fat and lively, but we noticed many dead young ones and many spoiled eggs. They nest right up far ashore in the tussock here. Nothing molests them—men, rats, cats, and dogs are all absent. The molly mawks here thrive both in the tussock and in the open valleys, as well as on the cliffs. I saw one rookery in a beautiful but swampy valley containing over five hundred of these handsome, spirited birds. It was right in the interior of the island.
"We got ashore at a place called by the islanders 'New Landing,' after a fine crossing. There is smooth, deep water, and the boats ran right up to the 'step-off' rock, which is as good here as any artificial quay. Nightingale has no sand, few beaches of even small size, and is all rugged cliff broken up into countless caves of all sizes and heights. 'Old Landing' is nearly half a mile farther on, and is on a narrow shingle beach under low cliffs. 'New Landing' is in the corner of a natural harbour, almost completely protected by ‘Middle Island' and a reef of high rocks, except when the wind blows in one direction, which is seldom. Huge fields of kelp surround the island, and in ' New Landing' bay the kelp has spread immensely, as there is seldom a strong enough sea to injure it. Nightingale proper is quite a small island, about a mile long east and west and three-quarters of a mile wide.
THE FLIGHTLESS RAIL (ATLANTISIA ROGERSI)
"Nightingale has a very limited flora, even more so than Tristan, as many of the plants found at Tristan are not met with here. The island tree (Phylica nitida) is present only in small numbers, though of good growth, for the island is neither so cold nor windy as Tristan and has many sheltered valleys. It has a drier climate, too. There is little grass, a few flowers, and not much besides ferns and moss, bog-weed and rushes. Cranberries do not seem to grow at all, but wild celery is in plenty. The whole island is covered with high tussock, over a man's head, and very hot and difficult to get through, as we found. There are no animals on the island. The surrounding sea is lull of fish, all the Tristan varieties but in much greater numbers, very fearless, and they can be caught ashore with a barbless hook. There are now no seals, but the sea is shark-infested. Cray-fish abound as at Tristan. The sea-birds are tame and fearless, and the ground is tunnelled by countless petrel holes, so that it gave way under our feet in all directions. There were plenty of flies, but no moths or butterflies, but we saw many green tussock grubs and small caterpillars. " There is one stream of running water near ' Old Landing,' and two or three small spring ponds in the interior, and one of these on high ground. They never dry up, but the water is horrible. They are practically bog ponds. The water is black or brown, and full of animal and vegetable matter. We drank with a wry face, for it was beastly stuff, strongly alkaline. The men jokingly nicknamed it ' Nightingale beer.' We had brought some big jars of Tristan water over and I drank this after only a taste of the other. Nightingale water made some of our party sick, but did not seem to hurt others. The men had come over to search for driftwood, and there was one large spar at ' Old Landing,' having been first noticed by the Quest party two years before. It was 73 feet long and 8 feet round. We went up to it in a boat, but found it too heavy to tow, so landed ten hands with axes to cut it up into lengths. It was cut into five portions and towed up to 'New Landing,' and there split with wedges after much difficulty, as the tools were few and poor. I got back to ' New Landing' just before sunset, but the landing party came on later. The sea-birds were home-coming for the night in vast numbers—a very picturesque sight.
"'New Landing,' with its shelf of bare rock backed by high, gaunt cliffs with the sound of the great Atlantic surges in our ears, was indeed a remarkable spot for a summer camp. Under the starlight there soon rose the smoke of our camp fires, and round the dancing flames were grouped little companies of men and boys in seafaring and Scout garb spinning yarns and smoking pipes and cigarettes. There was a savoury smell of frying fish and potatoes. The fish was just caught. The Boy Scouts were assistant cooks. The petrels and pigeons squeaked annoyance at the disturbance of their ancient peace. The wood-pigeon is a big bird, black and grey, with a long beak, and utters a rather 'cawing' note.
"At length we returned to the big cave, scrambling over some steep sloping rocks, dodging the rush of the tide in one low place, carefully avoiding some deep slimy water holes in others, and when we settled for the night lying so cramped as almost to be touching one another. The roof dripped in many places. Indignant birds flew round and screamed half the night, but no one minded, and I managed to sleep on my bed of dry tussock and clean sacking. At daylight a man called ' Show a leg ' and 4 Stow hammocks,' and we got up rather stiffly and climbed down to breakfast, a repetition of our supper. Washing was perfunctory, for we had only two cakes of soap and one towel between us, and no fresh water to spare. The menu for three days was unvaried: fried or boiled fish and potatoes, or fried sea-birds, very fat and very oily and fishy. Some of the party began to be upset by this diet, and were glad to be on the way back to Tristan. We had no salt or flour, and only a little tea. It was hot weather, but we could not swim or bathe on account of the sharks. Two men swam after some wood, while two others with loaded rifles watched for sharks.
"We started back in uncertain weather, and were caught half-way across by a fog. We had some difficulty in consequence in finding Tristan. One boat sprang her mast, but we got it jury-rigged pretty smartly. I was the first to sight land, and relieved all of some anxiety. Our trouble went on till we landed, for we were four hours crossing, but it took eleven to get back. We had every sort of weather, fog, rain, contrary wind, and, added to this, we were short of food and water and we broke two oars. We had to row right round the island, and this is much the longest way back. I was fagged out, and so were my crew when we landed safely at Little Beach once more.
"I should add that while at Nightingale I ascended both the small peaks, which are about 900 to 1,000 feet high. I called the higher ' Bancroft's Peak,' after my old school near London."
(c) The Caves.
One of our most interesting explorations on Tristan was that of the big adjacent caves under what is called by the islanders the "Hill Piece," and on the sea face of it the "Red Hole." The two caves are named respectively the "Water Cave" and the "Guano or Dry Cave." On this occasion I accompanied my husband in a small dinghy boat rowed by Fred Swain, Bob Glass, and William Rogers, and Alice Swain, a small schoolgirl daughter of Fred Swain, was with me. It was a warm day and the sea fairly smooth. We were soon away from Little Beach and round Hottentot Point and across Red Hole to the landing-place under the cliff and among some rocks. We had to watch our time and jump smartly to avoid the rush of the tide, and there was a bit of sharp climbing over some high, tangly rocks to get to the mouth of the water cave. It is sometimes called " Fresh Water Cave," as it is not salt water but fresh that percolates from above. It is about 100 yards in length. In places the water is quite deep. We waded along the shallowest part carefully, and the water was very cold and up to the waist. Little Alice and I remained at the entrance of the cave, only getting as far as we could into the interior over the rocks. There is a sort of shingly beach and one small dark cave chamber at the end. At one time night birds hid in the cave, but they seem now to have deserted it entirely; indeed, these birds seem now to be leaving Tristan. They used to be easily caught by the curious expedient of lighting fires, which attracted them down. Their eggs are very good eating. The cave once harboured seals, but has not done so for many years now. It was another hard scramble over more rocks to get to the Guano or Dry Cave. This cave also is nearly a hundred yards in length; it is fairly lofty, the floor is dry though much mixed with guano, but it is now probably more sand than guano, as the birds have deserted it. It has in it many huge blocks of yellow sandstone. My husband brought away geological specimens as souvenirs of this cave exploration.
A mile or so farther on is Run-away Beach, with one considerable cave with a high roof and shingle floor. It is situated just above high-water mark, and it was here during our last year that a big sea-elephant was caught and killed. The islanders have a superstition that the coming of the sea-elephant betokens the near approach of a ship.
(d) Sandy Point.
Sandy Point is on the north-east side of the island, and is usually got at by a boat journey from Little Beach round Big Head and along the coast past various small headlands with local names such as " Jew's Point," " Rookery Point," " Half-way Beach," and so forth. There is a nice small flat and a landing on sand, but often the boats land higher up, on the shingle, and the men walk down. There is usually more surf here than at Little Beach. There certainly was on February 24, 1924, when we made our expedition to Sandy Point. Two big boats were going down, Fred Swain was taking one and Tom Rogers the other— his boat, the Canton. I got up at four o'clock and made cakes and tea to take with us. Mrs. Bill Rogers was to accompany me, and we left Little Beach about 7.30, leaving baby with Mrs. Repetto. We got off quite smoothly, and on my way I passed a big penguin rookery and noticed numbers of molly mawks on the cliffs. This part of the island is well wooded, and the people generally come this way in the small boats to get firewood. The scenery is a succession of high points of land intersected by deep gulches, and the boat keeps following the sharp curve of the island. We passed one or two small apple orchards, the best of which are at Rookery Point. We also passed " Half-way Beach." It is nearly eight miles from the Settlement, and it was here that the belongings of the Rev. and Mrs. Barrow were landed when they arrived in 1906, as it was too rough to land them nearer the Settlement. The morning mist in which we started was soon dispelled and it cleared up for a fine day. Some of the small boats had preceded us, and others followed with various parties of men and boys and women and girls, all bound on the same errand as ourselves, which was to help harvest the apple crop.
When we arrived at Sandy Point my husband, who had gone in Fred Swain's boat with Alice Swain, Johnny Repetto, Dick and Andrew Swain, was on the beach to assist us in landing. We found it was running quite a swell, and we had to watch our time to disembark. They were very careful with me, and lifted me ashore and set me high and dry on the sand, so I did not get even my feet wet. I found my husband had made a fire, assisted by his Scout boys, and we sat down and had our breakfast. Then, with the help of Tom Rogers and John Glass, I got up the rather steep slope of the mountain to the orchards. The trees this year were full of apples, though mostly of a small size. They seldom prune the trees, and they had grown wild, so that it was like making one's way through a miniature jungle. Among the apple orchards are a few peach-trees, but they do not bear well now. This particular orchard belonged to Andrew Swain, Fred Swain, Mrs. Frances Repetto, Old Sam Swain, and Tom Rogers. Everyone, however, said to us, " Take as many apples as ever you can carry from off any trees you like, and be sure to take only the best ones."
We had to wade through damp grass almost knee high to get to the trees, carrying sacks. I picked apples until I was tired, and then I lay down in the driest spot I could find to wait for the others. I soon got more than I could carry away or my sack would hold, for Tom Rogers, John Glass, and Peter Repetto all gave me plentifully of the best. After some time everyone seemed to have gathered enough, and many sacks were lying on the beach ready to be loaded into the boats. I was assisted to scramble down the hill-side to the beach, and, as it was well past midday and the sea seemed inclined to make up again, it was decided that our party should put off at once for the Settlement. Some of the small boats were already off, the boys and young men having had rather a difficulty in getting them out, and some of them had to swim out in their clothes, but they did not seem to mind the wetting.
We had a job to collect our crew, but when we got off I took the rudder and steered the boat carefully, following the directions given me. It took some hours hard pulling with some sailing, for it was over ten miles, and when we arrived Mrs. Fred Swain was on the beach to meet us with a teapot, and, after a hot cup of tea, I was glad to make my way to her house, where she had kindly prepared dinner for us.
(e) Up the Base.
On April 23rd we made our expedition up what the islanders call "The Base" by way of Bugsby Hole and Goat Ridge. My husband had previously ascended the Base by way of Burnt Hill, but I was desirous of seeing the views for myself, for they are very fine as one reaches some 2,000 to 3,000 feet above the sea-level. Bob Glass came round early to the Parsonage, suggesting it was a suitable day for us to make the climb. It was fine, but a nice cool breeze was blowing, which meant open views over the sea. Mrs. Robert Glass, Donald Glass, the Boy Scouts, P.L. and Joe Repetto were ready to accompany us and carry knapsacks with light refreshments.
Bugsby Hole is a steep mountain slope at no great distance from the Settlement across Hottentot Gulch and on the road towards the Potato Patches. It is a green slope besprinkled by loose boulders of all sizes. We got so far up and then climbed along the side of a valley between two ridges working higher and higher over difficult rocks with advice and some assistance from our guides, and at length struggled on to the Base itself, where we rested while the two big lads, Joe and Donald, made a fire and boiled some tea. The scene from this height was very beautiful, a panorama of lofty peaks, the great Peak in the distance; far below, ravines covered with grass and great ferns, and the Settlement looking like a set of toy houses in a child's farmyard game; and in front of us the blue waters of the Atlantic stretching glittering in the sun and reaching to the horizon.
We should much have liked to try our luck on the Peak itself, but we were rather tired with the steep ascent and not in very good condition, as we had been short of stores for some time now and the lack of sufficient good food tells. We had also to face the climb down, so my husband went up no farther than what is called the "Second Base," a few hundred feet above the first Base, and then returned, and we made our descent by very much the same road as that by which we had come. Our guides very kindly remarked that "I was as good a climber as any Tristan-born woman"—quite a high compliment. The climbing is no light task at Tristan, for there is no easy pass up to the Base anywhere, and we seemed often to be overhanging appalling gulfs, scrambling along by the uncertain help of ferns and tussock, which might give way in one's hands. I brought down a small collection of ferns and mosses as souvenirs of the climb.
(f) The "Pyramids."
Close to what is called Runaway Beach, and in the midst of the "Patches" upon the borders of the cliff, rise a curious collection of what are, or rather were, miniature volcanic cones or craters, named by my husband the "Pyramids," from a fancied resemblance to them. They consist of lava, stone and earth, and are grown over thickly with grass. The largest is a couple of hundred feet high, and has a fine circular open crater of considerable depth. They only serve to illustrate the fact that at one time Tristan must have been a centre of immense volcanic activity, and one of the "hottest" spots on earth. We were thankful this was so only in prehistoric times. The " Pyramids " nowadays are sources of recreation to island donkeys and the children, who both seem to enjoy the pleasure of a scramble up their rather steep slopes.