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Life on a tiny rock in the South Atlantic during a global pandemic

Blog by Michelle Risi, Gough Field Assistant

Being on one of the most remote islands in the world during a global pandemic is seemingly one of the best places to be. It is a very strange time for us as we follow the news of an ever changing world while our days continue to tick over with little change. The Covid-19 pandemic has not affected our day to day island living but it has affected our plans for this year in the biggest way possible! After 18 months of hard work towards this big goal, we (Chris, Alexis and myself) had hoped to be part of the Gough Island Restoration Project, one of most important conservation projects which will restore Gough to a seabird haven free of any invasive mammalian predators. When news broke that the project would be postponed the world seemingly came crashing down around us, it has undoubtedly been a whirlwind of emotions; shock, denial and devastation, but given how swiftly countries have moved into lock down status to flatten the curve, we are 100% supportive of the difficult decision that had to be made.

A view from Gough Island. Credit: Derren Fox

In the time prior to the postponement, we had welcomed the first group of the restoration project team members to Gough who were responsible for implementing the initial stages of the project by erecting essential temporary infrastructure. During the brief time that we have spent together, everyone’s passion and dedication to the project was extremely evident, a lot of important tasks were accomplished, and all progress made will undoubtedly put the project in great stead for the time when it goes ahead. It was amazing to see how people from all around the world (UK, US, AUS and RSA) united and bonded. Unfortunately, this time has now come to an end as the restoration team members make their journeys home. For us remaining behind on the island, we are sorry to see their friendly faces go as we prepare for another winter on Gough, which will unfortunately consist of documenting another year of mice impact on Gough’s winter breeders. A challenging task, but one that only reinforces our drive of wanting to see this project through.

Alexis with the first group of the Gough Island Restoration Project team who made it to Gough! Credit: Adam Naylor

I did not want to end this blog on a depressing note as we have accomplished so much in a short space of time. Everyone involved has expressed keen interest to come back to Gough when the project goes ahead so we all feel positive about working together again. In difficult times such as these we all have to focus on something positive that keeps us going, and for us, it is certainly working towards a mouse-free Gough Island!

Due to the often miserable winter weather on Gough we spend quite a bit of time indoors so I thought I would end with some tips for living in isolation which will hopefully make your days of social isolation a little easier:

  • Wake up at the same time every day, and make your bed.

  • Listen to good podcasts when doing your daily chores, we love No Such Thing as a Fish, Radiolab and Ologies, and if you are interested in learning more about epidemiology during this time try This Podcast Will Kill You.

  • Try and stay active every day, if you can’t go outside, we enjoy doing Yoga with Adriene, a great YouTube channel.

  • Get creative in the kitchen, nothing beats freshly baked goods.

  • Try something new (journaling or channelling your creativity).

  • Playing board games or card games.

  • Checking in with your friends and family often.

  • Focus on something that you are grateful for.

I know everyone at home is going through a very difficult and uncertain time, and we sincerely hope everyone stays safe, you are all very much in our thoughts.


To keep up to date with all the latest news please follow our Gough Island Facebook and Twitter pages, or contact us on the email below:


The Gough Island Restoration Programme is being carried out by the RSPB in partnership with Tristan da Cunha , BirdLife South Africa and the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa and Island Conservation . The programme is part-funded by the RSPB, the UK Government, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other generous individuals and organisations.

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Nov 15, 2020

Have you guys done any diving, snorkeling etc. on the island? I am very curious as to what happens underwater over there.

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