Nightingale Island Reprise

Despite all the harm that humans inflict upon nature, nature (somehow) still survives.

I know the tragic tales of lost wilderness paradise. I am often disheartened by nature’s defeat across the globe, and I am aware of how many species our species has driven to extinction — but today I’m in the mood for good news (and I found it!). One year after I visited Nightingale Island, in the middle of the South Atlantic, following (quite coincidentally) the shipwreck and subsequent oil spill of the MV Oliva, things are looking up.

As one of the few who witnessed the visible environmental effects of this unfortunate event, I was eager to return and see for myself whether things had improved. Some of you will recall how last year I reported on the most unfortunate event in this video and blog post, which was later picked up by several blogs, including our very own National Geographic News and the New York Times.

As much as I was traumatized last year by the heaps of dead penguins laid out on the rocks and all of the poisoned, sticky seals that I saw, this year’s visit to Nightingale showed me an island washed clean by the surrounding oceans, refreshed and renewed by the forces of nature, repopulated with the birds, fish and mammals that belong there. These are all good signs.

“We’ve had more [Rockhopper] chicks born this year than last,” confided Trevor Glass, Conservation Officer for nearby Tristan Da Cunha. “But it’s still too early too tell. It takes three or four years before we know the long-term effects on the penguin population.” Ornithologists now confirm that the Northern Rockhopper Penguin counts as its own unique species, endemic to the Tristan archipelago. Several other endemic birds call Nightingale home, including the Tristan bunting and thrush, Wilkin’s bunting, and the yellow-nosed albatross who breed up near the higher points of the island.

I was so thrilled to step back onto the rocky shores of Nightingale and smell the clean air and sea — to view all the wildlife thriving in a place that a few irresponsible humans had poisoned so carelessly. Deep down I know that there’s more than meets the eye. Scientists and conservation workers have a lot of work ahead of them.

And yet as a traveler passing through, I am grateful and encouraged by the burst of life on Nightingale Island. To me, this green volcanic fragment in the sea will always stands as a reminder that most of the time, nature wins.


  1. Monica
    March 30, 2012, 1:19 pm

    As I wipe the tears from my eyes, I am very thankful for this victory for nature. Man’s carelessness will cost him dearly in the end. Working with nature is so much more rewarding than doing it “man’s way”. Thank you for this beautiful view of Nightingale Island. May it have a fully successful recovery.

  2. Ana
    May 22, 2012, 7:29 pm

    Miks te niii kahepalgelist pokiitilat teete? Venelastele fcks jutt ja eestlastele hoopis teine. Kuigi mf5lemad on Eesti kodanikud (jah kodanikud, sest kes tahab Eestiga oma saatuse siduda, siis saab ka fche Euroopa lihtsama Eesti kodakondsuseksami tehtud!). See on sulaselge diskrimineerimine rahvuse pf5hjal ja vaenu f5huamine!