Photographer Andrew Evans arrived on the world’s most remote inhabited island just days after the bulk carrier MS Oliva was shipwrecked, creating an environmental disaster.
The ship releasing an oil slick that was to kill hundreds of endangered rockhopper penguins – and for a few days, it went unreported in the world’s media.
Evans had travelled to Tristan da Cunha in his role as National Geographic’s ‘digital nomad’, intending to capture the islanders’ way of life. Instead, he found himself witnesses the islanders’ response to a calamity.
Now National Geographic has released a video of him talking about how he broke the story of the MS Oliva.
“It was devasting,” he says. “Nobody in the world knew about this. This was an island that was completely disconnected. It’s off the grid.
“The first thing I did was take as many pictures as I could. I created a YouTube video and published it immediately from the ship. I put it out on Twitter [an internet messaging website] and it got picked up by the blogosphere.
“National Geographic got it out there in the real press, and it went to the New York Times.”
The lesson, says Evans, is that anyone with a camera and a web connection has the power to share news with the world.
In fact, Tristan is not as disconnected as he suggests. The story was also being relayed beyond the island on Tristan’s own website, which is published from the UK.
And unlike Evans, a Belgian witness had video footage of the crew actually being rescued by personnel from a passing cruise ship. However, Kanaal van KristineHannon’s shots did not appear on YouTube for another 11 days.
And efforts were being made to get the story in the UK media – but the oil spill happened in the same week as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The BBC was told about the story several times, but took days to get round to covering it.
The Today programme ran a live interview on the crisis on 22 March 2011 – the day Evans arrived on Tristan (and released a video in which he made no mention of the disaster).
Tristan penguin rescuers triumph – maybe
National Geographic Live: Andrew Evans on reporting the Tristan oil spill
BBC Today programme report – 22 March 2011
Andrew Evans arrives on Tristan da Cunha – 22 March 2012
Nightingale Oil Spill – Andrew Evans’s original video, 24 March 2012
YouTube: MS Oliva runs aground – Kristine Hannon crew rescue footage, 27 March 2012