Although, as far as I’m able, I like to describe these experiences as soon as possible after the event, whilst the memories are vivid, there’s usually some delay. This delay can extend to years, I’m afraid. But I didn’t realise at the time that my internet session on board 'Silver Explorer' on 8th March 2016 would be the last for some days. The next morning, the internet was ‘down’. “Oh”, the ship staff explained, “It’s because we’re close to the mountains”. But even when the ship moved to open water, there was no internet. “We’re looking into it”, came the message. On the 11th March we were told it was a hardware problem which could not be repaired until Cape Town.
I was offered a short satellite telephone call to advise my firm that I couldn’t reply to e-mails already received. A time was booked, early on the 12th March, for me to report to reception, dressed warmly. I was solemnly conducted to the bridge where my guide collected a hand-held satellite telephone and solemnly punched in the number. He then slid open the door to the outside bridge, explaining that a signal could not be received on the covered bridge. This explained the need for warm clothing – there was a strong, chill wind. Although the telephone eventually connected, the link suffered from temporary drop-outsand the howling gale meant that speech my end was almost inaudible. I gathered I’d reached the answering machine, so left a short message.
On 15th March, we spent a magnificent day on Tristan da Cunha. A number of passengers, including me, sought out the Internet Café. Despite an impressive satellite ground station immediately outside with one dish a few metres across and two more small antennae in radomes, the connection was the slowest I’ve suffered for a long time, and suffered periodic disconnections. But, with some perseverance, I managed to send one e-mail to my firm with copies to friends.
Tristan da Cunha: The Internet Cafe with Brenda at her desk and a ship's passenger using WiFi.
I returned very reluctantly to the ship on the last-but-one Zodiac at 6.00 p.m. to discover that, whilst the ‘Silver Explorer’ had waited all day at anchor, they’d managed to point the satellite antenna manually at the satellite, then reset the whole system after which the automatic tracking started to work correctly (at least for now).
Whilst it’s irritating to be out of touch, it’s also important to realise just how amazing the technology is when working, in allowing a ship to connect to the vast resource of the internet from virtually anywhere.
All my South Atlantic posts.
You can find all my pictures on the trip in the Collection Cape to Cape (still being added to, at the time of writing).
There are a few pictures of the trip in the album South Atlantic Voyage.
['Cape to Cape' collection added 5-Apr-2016]