RSPB workers prepare to board an RAF flight from Ascension Island to UK after being stranded because of coronavirus 190520 CREDIT FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE
RAF

RAF Help Rescue Conservationists Stranded On Remote Atlantic Island

The group was put on RAF flight after sailing for 12 days across the Atlantic.

RSPB workers prepare to board an RAF flight from Ascension Island to UK after being stranded because of coronavirus 190520 CREDIT FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE

The Royal Air Force has helped rescue a team of conservationists stranded on one of the world's most remote islands.

A group of 12 from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) were left stuck on Gough Island, part of a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic, during the coronavirus outbreak.

The team arrived on the island, which is around 1,700 miles west of South Africa's Cape Town, at the end of February - working on a restoration programme aimed at saving endangered seabirds from being eaten by giant invasive mice.

But as coronavirus lockdown measures across the world saw international borders close around them, the group had to undertake an unorthodox and lengthy journey home. 

After weeks of planning, they were eventually able to secure a route via Ascension Island.

The conservationists spent 12 days sailing nearly 2,000 miles north through rough seas on their expedition yacht, before getting on an RAF flight back to the UK.

Kate Lawrence, who was part of the group and lives in New Zealand, said: "Sailing in that boat for 12 days, looking at the endless blue ocean around me, made the world feel quite big, in contrast to the previous ease of air travel and the rapid spread of COVID-19, which makes the world seem so small.”

RSPB workers repatriated on RAF flight from Ascension Island after being stranded because of coronavirus 190520 CREDIT FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE
The conservationists were flown into RAF Brize Norton (Picture: FCO).

Once the team arrived on Ascension Island, the RAF's base commander there, Wing Commander John Kane, quickly worked to get the group on the next RAF flight available.

An RAF A400 transport aircraft, carrying essential supplies for the island, arrived five days later.

The conservationists were then flown back to the UK on the aircraft, touching down at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

The charity aims to return to Gough Island in 2021, if conditions allow.

Most of the group had planned to spend a year on the island before the project was postponed.

Cover image: The team of 12 was flown home by the RAF from Ascension Island (Picture: FCO).