140228 Ascension Team and Ensign


At the end of February, Flying Officer Andrew Garrett, Officer Commanding 356 (Felixstowe) Squadron Air Cadets and Cadet Flight-Sergeant Sophie Leigh-Pearson joined 11 Cadets and 3 members of Staff from Norfolk and Suffolk Wing, RAF Air Cadets as they embarked on an Adventure Training Expedition to Ascension Island.

The Island of Ascension lies 8 degrees south of the equator and is a terrain unlike any other.


At the coast there are large open areas consisting of pumice and clinker (Lava fragments), and as there is no shade its extremely hot in the height of the day. As you move towards the interior of the Island the contour of the land climbs steeply up to the peak of Green Mountain (2500m above sea level), and the scenery changes dramatically. Whereas at the bottom it is like a desert, the top of Green Mountain is a Cloud Rain Forest.......

  140228 Ascension Ascension Isle World Map  140228 Ascension Ascension Isle Map 

The purpose of the expedition was threefold:

  • To see what life is like on an RAF outpost
  • To assist in the local community and conservation activities
  • To undertake Adventure Training

After a Nine hour flight, out of RAF Brize Norton, on an RAF Voyager aircraft, the Cadets and Staff arrived at Wideawake Airfield ready to seize the day and start the adventure of lifetime.


140228 Ascension Voyager Flight


Day One: After an orientation tour of the accommodation at Traveller’s Hill and the main parts of the Island, there were section visits with the Med Centre, Air Ops commander (Flight Lieutenant Dawes) followed by a visit to the Met Office (to see what weather would be in store for us, and whether our return flight would be affected). During the afternoon, the Cadets got clean by utilising the Swimming Pool at ‘Two Boats’. The day concluded with a unique scene of nature, the spawning of the Ascension Land Crab.


  140228 Ascension Cadets Classroom  140228 Ascension Ascension Land Crab 


Day Two: An early start - 05:30hrs, at Long Beach, Georgetown to assist the Ascension Island Conservation team with observations of the female Green Turtles returning to the Sea after laying their eggs during the night. After breakfast, the first of the Adventure Training sessions began with the ascent of Green Mountain. Green Mountain is a peak in the centre of the island that rises up 800m, transforming from desert terrain at its base, through to a Cloud Rain Forest at its peak. During the five hour ascent and descent the team was treated to spectacular views of the island, and different species of wildlife. Just below the Peak of Green Mountain is The Dew Pond, which is surrounded by a Bamboo forest and provides a natural water source for the cottage’s domestic animals (goats and sheep) on the Mountain. The peak of the Mountain was located when the cadets found ‘the chain’……The Chain was placed at the Peak by Royal Marines, who occupied the Barracks on the Mountain during the Napoleonic Wars to provide a punishment mechanism. Essentially, the ‘punished’ Mari ne had to get to the peak, pick up the chain, swing it around his head for a number of times, and then return to the Barracks….all in a timely manner! (The chain is pretty difficult to swing now, owing to the ingress of the Bamboo!!). That evening all of us went to Comfortless Cove to paddle……

140228 Ascension Comfortless Cove


  140228 Ascension Green Mountain Trip  140228 Ascension Fg Off A Garrett and Green Mountain Chain  


140228 Ascension Peak Green Mountains


Day Three: Another early start – 08:00hrs, on Long Beach, Georgetown providing assistance to the Ascension Island Conservation team in clearing the Turtle Nesting grounds of rubbish and plant material. The problem with the plants on the beach is that the roots of the plants clog the sand and stop the Turtles from digging in the sand and laying their eggs. To get clean afterwards the Cadets and Staff once again retreated to ‘Two Boats’ for a swim. At 1600hrs, we went back to the Land Crab spawning beach, but this time for another bout of Adventure Training – this time a ‘Hash’ walk. Basically a Hash is a walk that involves following a trail of paper (Hash) to a destination. The trail, in this case over a section on the North East side of the island, had been set out by someone from the local community. After all the hard work for the day, the Cadets and Staff relaxed at the ‘Volcano Club’ – a diner located on the US side of the base and watched the film ‘Despicable Me 2’ on their open air cinema.


  140228 Ascension Turtle Nesting Ground  140228 Ascension Hash Walk 


Day Four: Early starts seem to be the main feature of this expedition! – 0630hrs, and we’re out once again with the Ascension Island Conservation Team on the beaches looking for stranded Turtles (the term ‘stranded’ refers to female Turtles that have left it very late to come up the beach, and as the Sun rises are in danger of becoming cooked in the heat). Luckily we found none…….
Breakfast concluded; it was time for more adventure training, the Cadets and Staff tackled South Red Crater – a three hour walk across pumice and clinker fields to a small peak overlooking the nesting grounds of the Sooty Terns, or as they are locally known, the Wideawake birds. After returning to Travellers Hill, the Cadets and Staff went over to English Bay for a spot of snorkelling and paddling. This was our first opportunity to witness the power of the South Atlantic as its breakers crashed upon the beach. The evening’s experience started by watching the sunset from Pan Am beach (the most directly west facing beach on the island) and concluded with the witnessing of egg laying by a female Green Turtle - and the piece da resistance, helping some Turtle hatchlings into the sea!

 140228 Ascension South Red Crater


   140228 Ascension Air Cadet Ensign South Red Crater  140228 Ascension View from Pan Am Beach  


 Day Five: Today the Cadets and Staff undertook the biggest community work – the clearance of Palms and Ginger from Elliot’s path (a foot path that rings around the Peak of Green Mountain). This endeavour took the best part of the day…..and it rained!! When finished (to the satisfaction of Ascension Island Conservation Representative – Stetson) the total distance cleared was 400m (both sides of the path). The Cadets and Staff then mounted up in their trusty vehicles, and drove down ‘NASA road’ to the East end of the Island for some more exploring and photo opportunities. That evening, it was back to Pan Am beach for more sunset appreciation.


  140228 Ascension Map Elliots Path  140228 Ascension Cadets Elliots Path  

140228 Ascension View Elliots Path


140228 Ascension Team and Ensign


Day Six: The last day, and as to not waste it, several Cadets and three Staff (inc Flying Officer Garrett) set out for one more Turtle experience in the very early hours. Down on Georgetown’s Long Beach, eight Green Turtles were witnessed laying eggs or hauling themselves off the beach after finishing. With the Turtles safely off the beach and everyone up and in uniform, the Cadets and Staff went to the Base Commanders office for a meet and greet. Wing Commander Mark Taylor has a very busy schedule, he splits his time overseeing both the Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands – and he granted us 15minutes from his busy day, for an informal conversation (resulting in a ‘Battlefield promotion’ for Flying Officer Garrett to Squadron Leader for observational skills and tactfulness!!) and a photo session - a photo session that prompted a rain storm (typical), but being RAF Air Cadets, from the UK, what’s a little rain!!


 140228 Ascension Team with Wg Cdr Taylor

Slightly damp, but highly entertained from the photo session the Cadets and Staff moved to Georgetown’s Heritage museum. The museum is the culmination of all things Ascension – from ships logs, information on the Turtle trade, to radio transmission equipment, from objects found during coastal diving trips through to the expansion of Wideawake Field owing to the Falklands Conflict. Whilst on our travels around Georgetown, we were made aware, by the Ascension Island Conservation Team that we might like to call in at their offices, as they had something to show us!! After the spectacle of ‘Turtles in a bucket’ came news of a depressing nature – owing to a change in the weather at Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands, our return flight to the UK was now approaching the airfield…….6hrs early. Beating a hasty path back to the accommodation at Travellers Hill, the Cadets and Staff packed up the camp and returned to the Airhead at Wideawake field in good order. With the flight being brought forward, this meant that the cadets were not able to go into the school in ‘Two Boats’ to educate the students on what is it to be an RAF Cadet…..oh well, just have to do that on the next expedition to Ascension Island…..?

140228 Ascension Fg Off Garrett and Flt Sgt Leigh Pearson II 

Flying Officer Garrett & Cadet Flight Seragent Leigh-Pearson


“No Adventure Training or Community activity that I had previously undertaken, as part of the RAF Air Cadets, was a match to this experience.”


Flying Officer A Garrett - Officer Commanding



Note: The trip was also recorded in the Ascension Island Conservation Quarterly Magazine –



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