The Tristan Times reported yesterday that the Yacht Tarion, en route from Brazil to Cape Town, was destroyed on the rocky coast of Tristan da Cunha on May 3. The yacht encountered bad weather and engine trouble so the owners decided to put into the Tristan settlement, Edinburgh, on Sunday, April 30. However, heavy winds on Tuesday drove the boat onto the rocks near the settlement where it was soon smashed to bits by the surf.

map of Tristan da CunhaA dramatic photo on the Tristan Times website shows the boat rolled over on its side in the waves at 8:30 Tuesday morning, and another taken later in the day shows a bunch of wreckage strewn along a nearby shore. The owner of the vessel, Mirek Bartos and his father Mike were both able to make it to shore safely. They were taken to the island hospital where they are recovering.

The accident repeats a long tradition of the Tristan Islanders rescuing people from shipwrecks. An excellent book by Peter A. Munch describes the way the first settlement of 1817 was enlarged three years later by additional people saved from a shipwreck. Throughout the nineteenth century a number of additional shipwrecks continued to add to the population of the community. Typically, from many of them, some of those saved would be so entranced by the place that they would stay and become part of the settlement.

In time, saving people from shipwrecks became an important aspect of Tristan folklore. Since they looked upon their boating skills as a defining part of their heritage, their history of saving people from shipwrecks exemplified, for them, the best part of their self-identity—their courage, kindness, pride, and generosity.

Whether or not the newest shipwreck victims will respond to the Islanders’ hospitality by asking to remain is not clear, but when and if they do leave (which may take a while since boats call infrequently), they will doubtless appreciate the fact that their rescuers were close at hand and helpful.