Since its discovery in 1501 Ascension Island has been famous for the green turtles which nest upon its beaches. See my main review, Ascension’s Green Turtles, for the current day story of these amazing creatures. In that review I indicate that man is no longer a predator of these turtles but that this has not always been the case. This review relates to the time when man was a predator.
From the island’s discovery the turtles provided fresh meat for passing ships, which would collect the turtles. With the establishment of a marine garrison on Ascension Island in 1817, the turtles also became an important part of the diet of residents.
In order for turtle meat to be available all year round, a Turtle Pond was built. In 1829 the Boat Harbour was converted to the second Turtle Pond to allow the storage of a greater number of turtles. A former turtle pond, pictured above, can still be seen today at the wharf on Long Beach.
Turtles were captured, post laying their eggs, and turned upside down and held in this manner until later collected and carried to these ponds, using a special turtle harness , one of which can be seen in the local Georgetown Museum.
Pictured below is a “light railway’ in use to move turtles out of the turtle pond and onto passing ships.
Some of the turtles were shipped as far as the United Kingdom for the King and certain Lords and Admiralty who found turtle soup a great delicacy. Pictured along side are some Ascension Island turtles on the platform of Waterloo Station, London in 1901.
By the 1920’s the trade in turtles had virtually stopped, and the ponds were no longer used for this purpose, although a few were still caught for local residents’ consumption. The last documented capture of a turtle on Ascension Island was in the 1950’s.
The turtles of Ascension Island are now protected under local and international law and it is illegal to disturb or harm them in any way.
Address: Wharf end of Long Beach, Georgetown