Days after setting sail from South Georgia, Royal Navy frigate HMS Portland reached what is officially known as the most remote populated island on the planet.
The South Atlantic island is called Tristan da Cunha and houses the 6,765ft volcano Queen Mary’s Peak.
At 38 square miles, the size of Coventry but with a population of just 265, the island rises out of the South Atlantic 1,200 miles from the nearest inhabited land: Saint Helena, another distant British territory.
South Africa lies 1,500 miles to the east and South America 2,200 miles to the west. There’s no airport, just a small harbour (too small for HMS Portland, but not her boats).
The islanders, almost all concentrated in the ‘capital’, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, are British citizens, drive on the left-hand side of the few roads and spend the pound in shops.
HMS Portland carried out a fishery protection patrol of Tristan’s waters – the sea is rich with crawfish, one of the island’s main sources of income – before dropping anchor for 24 hours in company with tanker RFA Gold Rover.
Keen to dust of their clubs after the passage from South Georgia were Portland’s golfers who fancied a crack at the world’s most isolated – and challenging – links course.
Able Seaman ‘Smudge’ Smith broke the course record with a below-par round of just 34 (over nine holes).
“It’s a really tough course but great fun; I’ve never played on a volcano before I was on good form today and I am really proud to have broken the Tristan course record,” he said.
The rest of the ship’s company used their time to explore Tristan. One group was led on a hike to the summit of Queen Mary’s Peak, the volcano which dominates the island.
Back in 1961 the volcano, less than a mile away from the main settlement, erupted and the Royal Navy was called into evacuate the islanders.
Portland weighed anchor late in the evening to continue her South Atlantic patrol. She’s now slowly edging her way northwards ahead of a return to Plymouth in the spring.