On-board Diary: There´s more to Elba than Napoleon

Author: Julie Cator
Date: May 23, 2006



At midnight we slowly pulled out of Bastia harbour. It was drizzling rain with a chilly wind, so since I was on watch outside until 4am, I wrapped up warm, put on my waterproof clothes and donned my life vest. I needed to hold on tight to stay upright as the night was not totally calm. On watch you need to stay alert and scan the horizon for vessels and other possible obstacles. Despite the noise of the engines and the sound of the waves as they hit the boat, and the wind and rain against my face, it is surprisingly calming out on deck as my mind clears of all thoughts except keeping watch.

Not everyone is sleeping. After a busy two days diving, the photographer and videographer worked on their computers until the early hours, preparing their images.

No sooner had the lights of Corsica vanished from the horizon behind us, then those of Elba appeared faintly in front of us – our destination and base for the next three days.

After my 4 hour watch I woke Concha to take over from me and then collapsed into my bunk for an all too short sleep, before we pulled into the harbour of Portoferraio, the capital of Elba, situated on the north or the island.

Like most people I suppose, when I think of Elba I immediately think of Napoleon´s short time in exile here after his abdication. But we are not here for that kind of history. The Ranger is here to observe and record the underwater natural history of the island and to talk to those islanders who work to ensure that these precious habitats are maintained. Elba is in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park – the largest marine reserve in the Mediterranean, with 7 larger islands including Montecristo and Capraia, and 40 much smaller ones. The divers are keen to set off for two days of filming and photographing.

I hope to leave with a new vision of Elba in my mind. Though no doubt I will find an hour or two to visit the Napoleon museum!