Ho! Henderson Island to Starboard

8 Nov

November 4, 2018

Day 31

Noon Position: 24 44S 128 17W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SSW 6 – 7

Wind(t/tws): ESE 18 – 20

Sea(t/ft): E 6 – 8

Sky: Light Cumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1023, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 77

Water Temp(f): 74

Relative Humidity(%): 68

Sail: #2 three reefs; main 2 reefs, close reach (55 – 60 AWA).

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 146

Miles since departure: 4123

Avg. Miles/Day: 133

Henderson Island was hull up when I rolled out of my bunk at 7am. At eight miles off, it was but a thick and unmoving line atop the undulating horizon. This didn’t change much as we approached.

Wind overnight pushed us west such that I thought for a time we might have to take Henderson to leeward. But Mo hunted her way back, and even when, with daylight, wind went decidedly SE, we still made clear by six miles.

I had hoped to do a fly-by of Pitcairn, but Henderson is equally as fascinating, though for quite different reasons.

I’ll thumbnail the items of interest here (from Wiki).

-The Pitcairn Island Group is made up of Ducie Atoll, Henderson Island, Oeno Atoll, and Pitcairn Island, all of which are British possessions. At a landed area of 14 square miles, Henderson is, by far, the largest of the four. Compare Pitcairn, the only inhabited island in the group (by a 2014 census, the population was a small 57 residents) at 3 square miles. Henderson’s elevation is about 50 feet.

-Henderson is one of the last two raised atolls in the world that remain untouched by civilization (the other is Aldabra in the Indian Ocean). For this reason, the island was made a World Heritage Site in 1988.

-Henderson is lush and densely wooded. So, why no residents? Inaccessibility: it is surrounded by step cliffs that often cut away into the sea. Lack of water: there is only one brackish spring on the island. There is evidence of a 12th century Polynesian group living on Henderson, but it is presumed they were supplied by neighboring islands and went extinct with the others.

-Of the 51 flowering plants, ten are endemic. All four resident bird species are endemic (a fruit dove, a lorikeet, a reed warbler and a flightless crake). About a third of identified insects are endemic. Quite an accomplishment for such a small place.

-Henderson was discovered by the Portuguese explorer, Queiros in 1606 and named San Juan Bautista. It was discovered again in 1819 by a British Merchantman, Captain Henderson of the Hercules, who named it after himself.

-The crew of the whaleship Essex landed here in 1820 after their ship was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale (this is the story that inspired Meliville’s Moby Dick). They discovered the only drinking water on the island, a brackish spring available at half tide, ate up the easily accessible food in a matter of a week and departed for South America. Three men stayed behind and were later rescued. These men discovered skeletons in a cave that later proved to be ancient Polynesians.

-As a publicity stunt, American Robert Tomarchin and his pet chimpanzee lived as castaways on Henderson two months in 1957. He was rescued by the Pitcairners.

-Henderson is home to the largest plastics debris deposits anywhere in the world, a whopping 37.7 million items can be found on windward beaches.

That struck me as an interesting history for a small, uninhabited island 3,000 miles from the mainland.

The two anchorages are extremely exposed roadsteads on the west side and not the least bit tempting. But I did feel that pang to explore a coastline, to nose into a protected bay and drop the hook after a long passage.

Not now. Not for us. Onward for us.

Winds are easing but are still south of east. At best, we make south. In the afternoon, I had canned dolmas for lunch with what was left of last night’s lentil stew. Then I rewired the handheld VHF radio charger and drained water from the two forward bilges; then I backed up the computer and took a sun sight.

Work-a-day stuff. Henderson was the high point.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


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