A CREW of Scottish adventurers are to set sail across the Atlantic to the world’s most remote community known as “Edinburgh of the Seven Seas”.
It’s cold and windy, sits on the slopes of a volcano, and has the same name as Scotland’s capital. But that’s where the similarities end.
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is the only settlement of the UK’s smallest and most far flung territory, Tristan da Cunha, the most remote permanent settlement in the world.
More than 6,000 miles south of London, 1,500 miles west of Cape Town and 2,000 miles east of Brazil, its population of under 300 people must cope with some of the most extreme weather on earth.
Now a group of intrepid artists are going from one Edinburgh to the other as part of an ambitious voyage to raise awareness and report on life in the capital’s namesake on the far side of the world.
The voyage is being run by the Clipperton Project, a Glasgow charity which seeks to take artists, scientists and educationalists on expeditions across the globe to build personal knowledge and global understanding.
Clipperton is the brainchild of 41-year-old Gibraltan Jon Bonfiglio. “Scotland is our home base, but we are a global organisation,” said Bonfiglio, who first hit upon the idea of a non-profit expedition scheme as a way of taking adventure out of the hands of the super-rich. His dream was that voyages of discovery should be open to people with diverse economic and professional backgrounds.
“The end product of all the voyages is active global citizens. We get a lot of different types of people, with a high number of cultural producers from writers to teachers,” he adds. “The Clipperton Project is about doing things right on the cusp of possibility, and making people realise they are capable of amazing things.”
The voyage is not just a holiday for its diverse participants. Everyone on board is expected to help sail the vessel, the Angra. An ocean-going Brazilian schooner with a crew of 12, she needs all hands on deck to cope with the South Atlantic weather.
Crew are vetted to make sure they are ready for survival in extreme conditions, as rescue is often days away. The crew for the trip to Tristan da Cunha is made up of Scots, Latvians, Peruvians and artists from the rest of the UK, each with a specific project to carry out on the voyage.
The crew of the Angra will set sail from Brazil on 18 January, reaching the island just over a week later after crossing the South Atlantic using only sail power.
Tristan da Cunha’s remoteness is part of the attraction for the Angra’s passengers. Without any regular connection to the mainland, the islanders cannot even receive regular post. One of the jobs for the Clipperton team will be hand-delivering fundraising certificates from BBC Children in Need to the local primary school.
The island is also the subject of Edinburgh playwright Zinnie Harris’ award winning Further than the furthest thing, telling the story of the islanders when they were forced to flee a volcanic eruption in 1961. Without any airfield, the only way on or off the island is by boat. Helicopters can land, but none are capable of making the journey from neighbouring St Helena without refuelling.
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas did not receive its name until 1957, but the Scottish connection stretches back much further. When settled in the early 1800s, one of the first residents was William Glass, a Kelso-born soldier in the British Army sent to occupy the outpost. The Glass family are one of eight established on the island, all tracing ancestry to the pioneering Borderer.
It may be 6,500 miles away, but the voyage should bring Edinburgh and its distant namesake closer. The hardest part will be getting there.