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Charles Darwin’s experiment in terraforming Ascension Island

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A lonely island in the middle of the South Atlantic conceals Charles Darwin’s best-kept secret.

Two hundred years ago, Ascension Island was a barren volcanic edifice. Today, its peaks are covered by lush tropical “cloud forest”.

What happened in the interim is the amazing story of how the architect of evolution, Kew Gardens and the Royal Navy conspired to build a fully functioning, but totally artificial ecosystem…

The tiny tropical island of Ascension is not easy to find. It is incredibly remote, located 1,600km from the coast of Africa and 2,250km from South America…

Back in 1836, the young Charles Darwin was coming to the end of his five-year mission to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no naturalist had gone before.

Aboard HMS Beagle, he called in at Ascension. En route from another remote volcanic island, St Helena, Darwin wasn’t expecting much.

We know we live on a rock, but the poor people of Ascension live on a cinder,” the residents of St Helena had joked before his departure…

Amid this wild desolation, Darwin began to hatch a plot.

Out of the ashes of the volcano, he would create a green oasis – a “Little England”.

RTFA and have a glimpse of how Darwin and his close friend Joseph Hooker began the task of terra-forming this little cinder of an active volcanic island into a tropical paradise.

Reflect upon what is needed, what must be done in similar vein to recapture much of the life and beauty of this planet – already sacrificed to profit and greed. Good sense, science and economic success needn’t be mutually exclusive – especially in an age where greater knowledge allows us greater opportunities for combinations of all of the above.

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Written by Ed Campbell

September 1, 2010 at 3:00 pm

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