| Posted by
A Historic Look
The quest for fresh water on Ascension Island has been the
of everyone since landing there. This was one of the
main reason why passing ships did not land there.
The Quest for Water
In the 1670's a Dutch traveller John Struys and 300 of his countrymen
werer nearly left on Ascension by the British after they where captured
on neardby St Helena. Not finding any water the British relented and
they where taken home.
It was not until 1701 when William dampier was Marooned on the island
after his ship the Roebuck sprung a leak and sank.
He and his crew went ashore and set up camp. It is said that they
follwed a goat to the water. The site has been nown ever since as
Dampiers Spring or Dampiers Drip.
His writings though suggest that the spring that beras his name is not
the site he actually found. He describes the site fog bound and beyond
the mountain peak. This suggest that he in fact found water in what is
known as Breakneck Valley on the South east of the island, where as
dampiers is on the West.
1815 saw the first arrivals of the garrison. and under the charge of
Captain James White (HMS Peruvian) they were ordered to dig for
water. He instructed Lieutenant Hobson and crew dug a well near long
beach but this proved unfruitful. Three more sites where dug nearer the
water but they only produced salt springs.
Captian Dobree (HMS Zenobia) reported to Admiral Cockburn of the
lack of fresh water, stating that only 2 sites had been found, Dampiers
and another, that were useful enough to supply water for 50 crew.
William Roberts was sent to Ascension by Cockburn in 1816 to take over
control of the island.
He set about trying to improve conditions. Dampiers Drip now had a
permanenet prty there living in caves collecting the water.
Pipes and guttering were built to allow the capture of the water, which
was put in to barrels. These were then carried by Mule down to
He also improved teh road which then enabled carts to be used which
could carry 70 gallons of water a day down to the capital.
In 1823 General Edward Nicholls took over from Roberts and oversaw many
new projects, including, New Buildings, Water Tanks, etc.
Nichols reign lasted till 1828 when Captain William Bate took charge.
Conditions where still not good and he set about improving conditions,
realising that the daily transport of water was wasteful, water supplies
was his first priority.
He started by having a 500 ton water tank built in Dampiers Ravine, (a
spot he chose himself).
Left: Water cathment area on Green Mountain behind the cowshed
The summer of 1929 was taken up by the plan for the water supply. From
the tank at Dampiers a pipe system was constructed down to resevoirs and
then on to Georgetown. It was Lieutenant Brandreth who was the
mastermind of its construction.
Over the years that followed a 1200 ton tank was built in Georgetown,
and a request for pipes was sent. They were slow to arrive and so Bamboo
was used to connect the first system. The ordered pipes soon replaced
Brandreth returned to Ascenion to oversee the rest of the construction
and locate any new sources of water. In Breakneck Valley they dug and
found a spring. The problem though was it happened to be on the wrong
side of the mountain.
His solution to the problem was to dig a tunnel through the mountain to
the farm. This was dug between May and October 1932. The water from here was then
pumped up through the tunnel and into the system already completed.
1863 saw the water catchments built on the mountain. Between them the
system proved its usefullness by lasting for over 100 years. Some of the
system is still in view today.
These days the island is supplied with water from the desalination
plants that were installed at the Power station at English Bay and by
the Americans for their use.