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Communications

Getting the message

The time has come, the Walrus said, To talk of many things
Lewis Carroll in ‘Through the Looking Glass’

We’re not exactly up-to-date but we can still communicate with the world.

 

Communications

This page is about communications in general to and from St Helena. For this site’s contact details please see our Contact Saint Helena Island Info page.

Below: Post • Freight • Telephones • Internet and Email • Radio • Television • Communications Companies • Issues • Read More

If you are trying to contact friends or family or find a pen-pal on St Helena our Family And Friends page may be helpful.

Post

Below: Posting to St Helena • Delivery to/from St Helena • Posting from St Helena • Internal post • First Air-Mail • No longer ‘Royal’

Posting to St Helena

Post

St Helena issues its own postage stamps. See our Postage Stamps page to learn more about these and also the island’s early postal history. You may also be interested in our collection of St Helena postcards.

Snail Mail

We can send and receive post, both letters and small packages (larger packages require sea freight).

The correct postal address for sending things to St Helena is:

Recipient’s Name
House Name or ‘Near …’ (few St Helena houses have numbers)
Area (e.g. Jamestown / Half Tree Hollow)
Island of St Helena{5}
STHL 1ZZ
South Atlantic Ocean

Note that the postcode (‘zip code’) ‘STHL 1ZZ’ applies to the entire island, and also that the ‘South Atlantic Ocean’, while strictly unnecessary, does seem to help prevent letters being routed to California, South Carolina or Australia!

Some people have Post Office Boxes, as we do. There is no letter delivery to your home or office - you have to collect your letter from the main Post Office in Jamestown or from a shop near your home - so a Post Office Box is easier and more reliable. Our address is:

P.O. Box 37,
Jamestown,
Island of St Helena{5}
South Atlantic Ocean
STHL 1ZZ

Note that, although 5,000 miles from the UK, St Helena has a UK postcode - STHL 1ZZ. This was introduced because mail for St Helena was regularly being routed to St Helens in Merseyside, UK.

If sending mail to St Helena it is best to complete a customs declaration at the sending post office. By declaring that the contents are of ‘no commercial value’{6} you may save the recipient from having to open the packet at the Post Office here so that it’s contents can be examined and assessed for import duty.

Delivery to/from St Helena

Your letter or parcel is first routed to the UK. From there it is routed to Johannesburg, South Africa, and thence to St Helena.

For bulkier items see below.

Posting from St Helena

When sending post from St Helena you need to take your letter or parcel to the Post Office in Jamestown, open normal office hours - there are no letter boxes around the island. At the Post Office they will provide you with a customs form and sell you the appropriate stamp. You can then drop your letter into the posting box in the Post Office building.

St Helena internal post

You will see from the above that there is no point whatsoever in posting a letter in St Helena to a St Helena destination{21}. Government departments and larger local businesses employ messengers. Smaller businesses and individuals deliver their post by hand.

Our first Air-Mail

Although our Airport didn’t start commercial flights until October 2017, our first Air-Mail was taken 50 years earlier! In the middle 1960s a Westland Whirlwind helicopter from HMS Protector landed on the Plantation House lawn, delivering Governor John Field and taking away the island’s first ever Air-Mail (photos, below{a}). Only one-way, but it was a start. Presumably the replies didn’t have to wait for the next Navy vessel with a helicopter to visit; we assume they came by sea in the usual way!

And when did this happen? Well it seems there is some dispute. See our Postage Stamps page for the full story!

First Air-Mail, 1964 (1)

First Air-Mail, 1964 (2)

 

No longer ‘Royal’

Since the final departure on 10th February 2018 of the second RMS St Helena, mail for St Helena is no longer designated ‘Royal’. It’s now just ‘Mail’. It’s still handled by the Post Office (part of the Government of St Helena), but it no longer has the stamp of royalty.

Freight

Below: Sea Freight • Air Freight

Sea Freight

MV Helena
MV Helena{b}

The Sea Freight service is operated by AW Ship Management Ltd.. The MV Helena sails from Cape Town to St Helena and back, with a capacity of approx. 250 TEU on a four-weekly cycle. The new service is not subsidised, so cargo prices are higher than with the RMS St Helena.

The ship docks at the new wharf in Ruperts.

The ship also serves Ascension Island, and has a small number of passenger cabins available for those who prefer not to or cannot travel by air.

For more about the MV Helena, including schedules, see sthelenashipping.com.

To send packages to St Helena contact Richard James International Ltd., Chittening Ind. Est., Bristol BS11 0YB, United Kingdom; +44 117 982 8575.

Inauguration

Commencement of the MV Helena service was officially supposed to await the retirement of the RMS St Helena, but actually the RMS St Helena suffered engine problems in March/April 2017 and missed an entire voyage so the MV Helena made a single trip, arriving on 3rd April with 698.36 tonnes of cargo.

The MV Helena made her first official voyage for St Helena in March 2018, leaving Cape Town on 1st and arriving at St Helena on the 7th, docking at the new jetty in Ruperts. Because the infrastructure wasn’t yet ready she could not be unloaded onto the jetty - the cargo had to be lifted by the ship’s cranes onto waiting barges and carried round to the Jamestown wharf! At the time of writing the Ruperts Jetty still has not been officially opened, so cargo continues to be unloaded this way.

Passengers

Since February 2019 the MV Helena has the ability to carry a few fare-paying passengers, for people who cannot or choose not to fly.

History

Previously all freight was carried to and from St Helena by the RMS St Helena. Prior to that it was carried by ships of the Union Castle Line, and before that by the many ships that called at St Helena, military and civilian.

Air Freight

DHL logo

The international courier service DHL has an operation here - DHL St Helena Express Limited. This can ship packages to or from St Helena on every flight, which makes it possible for an item to travel from anywhere in the world to St Helena (or vice-versa) in days rather than months.

In October 2017 Solomons announced that from 4th November it would be operating an Air Freight service between St Helena and South Africa. Few details were announced but a contact was provided: freightagent@solomons.co.sh.

Telephones

For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen.
Stephen Hawking

Fixed-line and mobile (‘cell’) telephone services on St Helena are provided by Sure South Atlantic Limited.

Below: Calling to St Helena • Calling from and within St Helena • Features of our telephone system • Telephone History • Radio Telephones • Mobile Telephones

Telephones

Old switchboard
Old switchboard, in use until 1983, now in the Museum of St Helena
GPO telegraph insulator {1}
GPO telegraph insulator{1}{c}

Calling to St Helena

The international dialling code for calls to St Helena is 290. In most countries, St Helena is treated as a ‘high-cost destination’ and you may need to contact your telephone service provider to get calls to St Helena un-barred.

If you don’t know the number of the person you want to call, and your local international directory enquiries can’t help, call (+290) 22222 (24hrs) and the Sure South Atlantic Limited Operator will help (but only from 08:30 - 16:00h GMT Monday to Friday). Sure South Atlantic Limited have also put the telephone directory online. 93% of St Helena houses have a telephone{8}.

St Helena is on GMT with no daylight saving time:

Calling from and within St Helena

St Helena has its own automated telephone exchange which can route calls locally or overseas. For local calls dial the five-digit number{9} (there are no area codes). For international calls dial ‘00’ followed by the country code and telephone number - on some telephones international calls may be barred because of the expense{10}.

You can reach the operator and local directory enquiries on 22222 (08:30 - 16:00h GMT Monday to Friday). In an emergency: Dial 999 for fire or police; dial 911 for ambulance. For any other emergency call the St Helena Police Service.

There are payphones and telephone kiosks around the island; these take cash or telephone cards (which can be purchased at the offices of Sure South Atlantic Limited in Jamestown - open normal office hours - and some other shops, also mostly in Jamestown). A few payphones accept credit cards.

Features of our telephone system

In actual fact the island’s telephone exchange is a PABX system, as you would find in any large office. This provides a few interesting features:

However Caller Line Identification (which is how you find the number of the person who just called you - an extremely useful feature) is sadly not available.

Telephone History

Telephones were introduced to St Helena by the War Office in 1898, to improve communications with the island’s many lookout posts and signal stations. Control was transferred to the Government of St Helena in 1906 but in 1907 due to financial difficulties the system almost closed and was taken over privately. In 1914 there were 17 telephones, and The ‘Blue Book’ for 1928 records that the telephone system had 33 instruments and 41 miles of wire. The profit for the year was £39. The system was taken over by the Government of St Helena in 1953.

In the 1960s there was one telephone exchange, at Ladder Hill Fort, with a single operator who connected all calls. Dr. Ian Baker, writing in ‘One Man’s Island’ and recalling a visit in the 1960s reports:

The Consulate had a telephone, but you didn’t just dial a number. You picked up the telephone and waited. After a brief chat with the operator she asked you who you wanted. Not a number or even a house; the name of the person. The response might be So-and-so? I just saw him go by so I’ll call him for you in twenty minutes when he gets to his office. Or maybe So-and-so? No, not today, lovie. He’s gone fishing.

In 1973 a Business Line cost per month was £0.83 and a residential line per month was £0.67. In The ‘Blue Book’ for 1970/3 it is reported that:

The telephone system now comprises some five route miles of multi-core cable supported on the electricity supply poles and some thirteen and a half route miles of open bare-wire lines on telephone poles. These figures exclude individual service lines. Service in Jamestown and in the adjacent country areas is given from the cable system and it is planned to replace, eventually, all open trunk lines by supported multi-core cables. The present Manual Exchange at Ladder Hill Fort has a capacity of 120 lines. This Exchange at present controls 65 subscribers on direct lines and 131 subscribers on party lines. There are 52 party lines. The Manual Exchange is very fully loaded and as a result development of the telephone service is restricted. There are at present 11 public telephones available, two in Jamestown and the remainder in the rural areas, from which some 1,400 calls are handled annually.

The system remained manual until 1983. Due to the shortage of exchange lines, many people used a shared line (‘Party Line’) and there was an ingenious system for the parties to know for whom was an incoming call: one ring for party 1; two rings for party 2; etc., sometimes with as many as five parties sharing a line. The potential for error was immense! This ended when the island’s first automated telephone exchange was commissioned on 16th April 1983 at an installation cost of £100,000. At commissioning the system had 488 active telephones (and a capacity for 600) with three-digit telephone numbers. Governor Massingham made the first automatically-handled telephone call to George Stevens, Manager of the Government Telephone System. The first public telephone, at White Gate, was introduced in November the following year.

The Government Telephone System was taken over by Cable & Wireless on 21st August 1989.

The current PABX-based system went live over the weekend of 27-29th July 1990 and introduced International Direct Dialling and (unfortunately) local call charges. At this time the three-digit numbers were changed to four digits by adding a 2 for Jamestown numbers, a 3 for Half Tree Hollow and 4 for everywhere else. The new exchange gave capacity for 1,200 lines.

The four-digit numbers continued until 1st October 2013. From that date they all became five-digit by adding a 2 to the front (thus losing the regionalisation created in 1990). The new system designated 2xxxx numbers as landlines, 5xxxx numbers as mobile users on a contract and 6xxxx as mobile users with pay-as-you-go, though mobile telephones were not actually introduced until September 2015. Only these groupings were defined.

Radio Telephones

The first radio telephone link, between St Helena and Ascension Island, opened on 7th May 1957. This was followed by a link through to the UK (via Ascension Island) in October of the same year. A link to South Africa was launched ten years later in December 1967. This system remained in use until it was replaced by the (current) satellite-based system.

Mobile (‘Cell’) Telephones

Mobile Phones

Mobile Phones cartoon

A mobile telephone service came into operation on St Helena in September 2015 (the first call made was from Sure South Atlantic Limited to the S.A.M.S. Radio 1 studio). The network is designed with a 2G GSM layer and a 4G LTE layer to support data services.

Local SMS service was available at launch with international SMS available from November 2015.

Mobile numbers use the ranges (+290) 5XXXX and (+290) 6XXXX.

Due to the topology of St Helena with deep valleys and guts, there will be some small areas with no coverage.{d} Sea coverage is not part of the planned coverage area.

For pricing information please contact Sure South Atlantic Limited.

Roaming{11} was introduced shortly after service launch. Roaming handsets need to be 900MHz GSM and Band 3 1,800MHz LTE. NB: users on Facebook™ in 2018 reported that roaming often does not work here, or is very expensive, but that most mobile telephones will accept a SURE SIM Card, which can be purchased at the airport or at their offices in Jamestown.

Some satellite telephone systems also work here, with limited coverage.

Internet and Email

There’s a statistical theory that if you gave a million monkeys typewriters and set them to work, they’d eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. Thanks to the Internet, we now know this isn’t true.
Ian Hart

Below: Accessing the Internet in St Helena • ‘Wi-Fi Hotspots’ • ‘State of the Island’ report, 2015 • SAEx • Internet History

Internet and Email

Internet services on St Helena are provided by Sure South Atlantic Limited.

Many St Helena organisations have websites but this is far less common than in the UK or America. Local people will not use the Internet to find out local information - a telephone call is cheaper, or just ask a friend! Organisations tend to have websites only if they wish to communicate with Saints or Non-Saints overseas.

A Google™ search for ‘Saint Helena’ will bring up many sites that are in California, which has a town called ‘Saint Helena’, or South Carolina, which has an area known as ‘Saint Helena Island’. For this reason it is best when using Google™ to append to your search ‘-napa -carolina -california’, which will remove many of these irrelevant results.

Satellite ground station dish

You may find that websites hosted on St Helena are slower to respond than those hosted elsewhere. Our Internet link goes via satellite and this is due to limited satellite capacity{12}.

Accessing the Internet in St Helena

Assuming you are a visitor you will not have a telephone account and will need to use one of the few Internet Kiosks, mostly in Jamestown. Beware that these are expensive!

If you are staying longer you can sign up for an Internet access package, billed on your telephone account (this should be available even if you are renting accommodation but check with your landlord). This too is likely to seem expensive by the standards of your home country, and the connections will seem slow. All our Internet traffic is routed via a satellite which is expensive and has limited capacity.

58% of St Helena households have Internet access{8}.

For Broadband pricing information please contact Sure South Atlantic Limited.

‘Wi-Fi Hotspots’

Because Internet access is so expensive on St Helena, and bandwidth so limited, the convention often found in the US and Europe whereby larger corporations provide free Wi-Fi access to all comers just does not happen. Wi-Fi access is provided in certain locations (all of them currently in Jamestown) by Sure South Atlantic Limited, but at a cost. See www.sure.co.sh/wifihotspots.html to learn more.

‘State of the Island’ report, 2015

State of the Island, 2015, Fig. 11

St Helena’s isolation and reliance on satellite technology, means that internet services are limited and expensive compared to many countries, and are a major barrier to development. The top residential package offered in St Helena provides 13.3 megabytes of data at a speed of 1.5 megabits per second, and costs £180.50 per month. In comparison, unlimited broadband, at speeds 10 times faster than those available in St Helena, can cost less than £20 per month in the UK. However, starting from a low base, improvements have been made over the last three years in both price and quality. This is supporting the aim of a greater proportion of households and businesses having internet access. For each of the various broadband packages available, data allowances have more than doubled, download speeds have quadrupled and prices have fallen by 23%. Figure 11 illustrates the changes seen in two popular packages - Gold (£92 per month) and Bronze (£23 per month).{e}

SAEx

SAEx Cable Route
SAEx Cable Route{f}SAEx Cable depth diagram
SAEx Cable depth diagram{f}

Since 2012 it has been proposed that St Helena should be connected to the South Atlantic Express (SAEx) submarine fibre optic cable that is being laid from South Africa to Brazil.

SAEx1 will feature six fibre pairs with a minimum combined capacity of 72 Tbps and will be the only system connecting South Africa directly to the USA, and added with the partner system’s fibre pair link from Fortaleza, will offer a truly diverse trans-Atlantic network, which will then connect to the Indian Ocean Rim market, via a second phase from South Africa to Asia (SAEx2){f}.
More at www.saex.net.

A cable connection would replace the current satellite system providing far greater Internet capacity at a fraction of the cost, and also improve telephone communications. There would be a cost to get St Helena connected, estimated at £10m, and initial indications were that the UK Government would not foot the bill, saying that telecommunications for St Helena is the responsibility of the St Helena Government. Sure South Atlantic Limited investigated and concluded that they too would not pay the cost of connection. A campaign began in 2012 to get St Helena connected to this cable - more at www.connectsthelena.org.

In October 2016 S.A.M.S. Radio 1 reported that connection might be possible in 2019. And in October 2017 the Government of St Helena announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with South Atlantic Express to provide a branching spur to St Helena. Governor Lisa Phillips said:

This cable, when combined with the Airport and the plans to produce energy from renewables, is St Helena’s passport to prosperity. We will be able to do much more on St Helena with unlimited broadband, but it is the capacity of the cable relative to St Helena’s demand that is a key opportunity. Our remoteness has always been a constraint, but here we can turn it to an advantage. SHG is working hard to put this in place in the next three years and this is the start.

The Government of St Helena has been promised EDF{13} funding for the spur. The cable is expected to be ready for service in 2020.

Internet History

Dial-up Internet connection was first introduced to St Helena in 1996, but this required a call to Ascension Island and out onto the Internet from there. The first local dial-up service was introduced in 1999.

Permanently-on (‘broadband’) Internet connections were launched in November 2007 with island-wide availability completed by the end of 2008. The dial-up service ended in 2010. Wi-Fi Internet was first offered in February 2008 (the first ‘hotspot’ being at Ann’s Place).

Radio

Below: Military Radio • Radio • Other Radio

Military Radio

Royal Navy Wireless Station, 1940s

1941 photo ‘Deadwood Station’
1941 photo ‘Deadwood Station’
Direction Finding

Radio Stations

Other radio station pages:

Active stations:

• S.A.M.S. Radio 1

• S.A.M.S. Radio 2

• Saint FM Community Radio

Closed stations:

• Radio St Helena

• Saint FM (2004-2012)

• S.A.M.S. Pure Gold

Related:

• Amateur (‘Ham’) Radio

• Diplomatic Wireless Station

• St Helena Radio History

We know the Royal Navy operated a military radio station on St Helena during World War 2. Sadly we know almost nothing about it (its operations were shrouded in war-secrecy), so the following is rather sketchy, but we think reasonably accurate. The badge (left), on a Christmas Greeting from 1943, is part of the little firm evidence we can find of its existence.

The station was in what is now Half Tree Hollow, along what is currently Wireless Station Drive. It was a concrete block built structure and we do not know if it was demolished or is now one of the houses along there.

It is understood from local stories circulating at the time that the St Helena station worked in conjunction with one on Ascension Island in Direction Finding - using radio to locate German ships and submarines operating in the South Atlantic. The principle is simple. If St Helena and Ascension both receive a signal transmitted by an enemy ship, and if both note the direction from which the signal originates, then where the lines cross on the map is the location of the vessel. The diagram (right) illustrates. For a more detailed explanation see the Wikipedia.

We also think it may have had a role in coordinating naval operations in the South Atlantic, using the sub-Atlantic cable to relay messages to and from London.

Finally we know they monitored the frequency 500kHz, which was by way of being an international distress frequency at the time. Watch was kept carefully because earlier the distress call sent by the SS City of Cairo had been missed on the island. Apparently although Cable & Wireless also monitored the same frequency the RN Station was in a better position and often received signals that Cable & Wireless could not. Apparently the Admiralty station in the UK (‘GZZ’) often called St Helena in the early hours of the morning, perhaps to check that the operator was awake! They were also responsible for receiving and decoding ‘Admiralty General Messages’ send to the island’s military commanders, transmitted from Rugby in the UK every day at 3am and 3pm. This function was later replaced by the Diplomatic Wireless Station.

If you can provide any further information, please contact us.

Note that it had the callsign ‘ZHH’ - as is employed today by St Helena Radio{14}.

St Helena Radio

St Helena Radio{14} (callsign ‘ZHH’) can be found on VHF Channel 16. It is the primary communications channel for all visiting ships, including yachts. Formerly operated by Sure South Atlantic from 29th November 2018 responsibility passed to the Police.

A continuous watch is kept by St Helena Radio{14} on International Distress Frequencies MF 2,182KHz and VHF Channel 16. It also monitors HF channels ITU channel 1217, ITU channel 807 and ITU channel 414, providing radio assistance to visiting ships or yachts as well as local boats. It also acknowledges, relays and assists with distress calls for St Helena, Ascension Island, or for any vessels at sea within the reception range of St Helena.

Other Radio

There was a weather radio station located on St Helena in the 1960s, on the air under the British callsign GHH. This station operated with a 1 kW Racal transmitter and an inverted V antenna system. Jamestown Meteo was in use for the teletype transmission of weather information to England on two shortwave channels, 6824kHz and 9044kHz. The reception of station GHH was reported occasionally in Europe and in North America, and a few QSLs have been received. There is one prepared QSL card from station GHH in the Indianapolis QSL CardCollection.

See also our other related radio pages.

Television

The focus of this page is bi-directional communications. Broadcast Radio is covered on our page Radio on St Helena and its associated pages and newspapers are on our page Our Newspapers. That just leaves television, which we include here because it isn’t worth a page of its own…

Local TV
Local TV
3m dish
3m dish at Bertrand’s Cottage

The island has had a locally re-broadcast TV service since the end of 1994. Signal from a satellite serving South Africa is receivable here, so Cable & Wireless set up local transmitters to re-broadcast the service. Initially transmissions were unencrypted but when people realised they could receive the broadcasts without paying the required monthly subscription revenues fell and the system had to be encrypted, as it has remained ever since. There is no free-to-view TV on St Helena.

Initially the system was analogue, with at first only one channel, CNN. This rose to three channels by the end of the 1990s. One local channel carried more than one supplied channel and the system switched over at a set time (which was not necessarily at the end of a film or programme, causing some complaints). This is illustrated by the TV Guide for 18th February 2011.

The system was upgraded to Digital in October 2012 making a much wider variety of channels available.

Locally-produced television was briefly available, produced by South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.), but this closed after the funding review of 2017. At the time of writing there is no locally-produced television, though a channel is reserved for it and occasionally shows government information films.

The South African satellite TV signal is receivable direct from the eastern parts of the island (Longwood and Levelwood) using a 3m dish pointing almost horizontally (a clear view of the horizon is necessary) and some people in these areas purchase a subscription directly from the South African broadcaster, giving them a vastly-improved selection of channels at a lower monthly cost.

Communications Companies

Below: Eastern Telegraph Company • Cable & Wireless • Sure South Atlantic Ltd.

The Eastern Telegraph Company

ETC Flag
ETC Flag{g}
ETC Cable-laying ship
ETC Cable-laying ship{h}

ETC Badge {2}
ETC Badge{2}{g}

Late in 1899 St Helena was connected to Cape Town, and shortly afterwards to London (via Ascension Island), by an undersea telegraph cable, allowing telegrams to be sent almost instantaneously to the UK and, via other connections, anywhere in the British Empire. The article below discusses this further. From The ‘Blue Book’ for 1899:

The Eastern Telegraph Company have now got a station here. The line was first laid from the Cape to St Helena and connection established on November 24th last. On the 15th December of the year under report, the line was extended to Ascension, and then through communication with England, via St Vincent, was established. The charge per word is 4s{15}.

It was hoped that the ability to exchange messages immediately with London might result in an increase in the number of ships calling, thus benefiting the island’s economy, but sadly this was not the case. In The ‘Blue Book’ for 1904 it was reported that only five vessels had availed themselves of this facility in the year.

On 18th September 1901 the ETC purchased (from the Moss family) land in The Briars to build its base of operations. The site today remains the base of their successor, SURE.

ETC Staff Accommodation under construction (by Boer Prisoners {4})
ETC Staff Accommodation under construction (by Boer Prisoners{4})

Cable & Wireless

Over the following years the Eastern and Western Telegraph Companies merged along with others such as The China Submarine Telegraph Company and The British-Indian Submarine Telegraph Company to form the, wonderfully named, Imperial and International Communications Ltd, which in 1934 became Cable & Wireless.

Cable & Wireless provided communications services on St Helena until their South Atlantic operations were sold to Batelco (a Bahraini Telecommunications Company) in 2013 and became Sure South Atlantic Limited.

(More at atlantic-cable.com/CableCos/CandW/index.htm.)

Cable Wireless Operations Centre, 1970s
Cable & Wireless Operations Centre, 1970s

Sure South Atlantic Ltd.

SURE logo

Sure South Atlantic Limited at The Briars
Sure South Atlantic Limited at The Briars{i}

Electronic communications (telephones; Internet/email; Mobile Telephones; Television) are currently provided on St Helena by Sure South Atlantic Ltd., owned by Bahraini company Batelco, under monopoly licence from the Government of St Helena.

For more see the company’s website.

Prior to 2013 services were provided by Cable & Wireless, and prior to that by the Eastern Telegraph Company{16}.

Issues

Below: ‘Solar Interference’ • ‘Satellite Lag’

‘Solar Interference’

Sun outage notice

All of our internet and telephone traffic is carried to and from the island by satellite. On St Helena the signals are sent and received by a large dish antenna, located in The Briars, just up the valley from Jamestown.

Because of the location of the satellite, at some times of the year, when it is at a particular point in its travel across the sky{17}, the Sun shines directly onto the dish. This has the effect of disrupting the transmission and receipt of signals, although usually only for a few minutes.

Other than launching another satellite (which is a bit beyond the island’s means) there is nothing anyone can do about this. Notices like the one opposite appear in the local newspapers to warn of the outages. If you try to contact St Helena by telephone during these times you will get an error tone - try again ten minutes later. Websites hosted on the island may also be inaccessible{12}.

‘Satellite Lag’

At present you may notice a strange phenomenon when calling St Helena from overseas (or vice versa). You speak, and then there is a delay before the other person responds. This is ‘Satellite Lag’ - it takes a while for the signal to go up to the satellite and back down to earth. There is no solution for this, but when we get The Cable it will no longer be a problem.

Read More

Article: St Helena’s part in the ‘Victorian Internet’.

By J C Grimshaw, published on jcgrimshaw.blogspot.co.uk 11th April 2011 with some additional detail from atlantic-cable.com/Cables/1899StHelena/index.htm{18}{19}

At the time of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 (Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift et al) it took twenty days for a message to travel from Southern Africa via steamer to the Cape Verde islands and on by telegraph to London. As this remained the situation at the outbreak of the Second Boer War in October 1899 a quicker and more direct route was urgently required. The Eastern Telegraph Company contracted the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company to manufacture and lay the necessary cables which were to link Cape Town - St Helena - Ascension Island and St Vincent in the Cape Verde Islands. Messages could then be routed over the Western Telegraph Companies’ existing cables from St Vincent via Madeira to Carcavelos, Portugal. From there to Porthcurno in Cornwall they again travelled over the Eastern network.

The Cable Ship Anglia laid the 3,825Km first stage from Cape Town to St Helena, completing it by 26th November 1899, and while CS Anglia returned to the UK for more cable CS Seine laid the section from St Helena to Ascension Island, a distance of 1,560Km, completing it by 15th December 1899. CS Anglia then laid 3,660Km of cable from Ascension Island to St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands, completing the task by 21st February 1900 only four months after the start of the war.

The Victorian Internet reached St Helena

Cable warning at St Helena {3}
Cable warning at St Helena{3}{j}

In 1901 the Eastern Telegraph Company contracted the same company to manufacture and lay another set of cables from St Vincent to Madeira, 2,090Km, and from there a 2,550 cable to Porthcurno. CS Anglia and CS Britannia carried out this work. To provide an alternative route in case of cable failure another cable laid by CS Anglia in the same year was that from Ascension to Freetown, Sierra Leone, a distance of 2,085Km.

In 1902 the final link in the global network of cables owned and operated by British companies was made with the laying of the Pacific cable from Canada to Australia. The Pacific Cable, jointly owned by the British Government and the Governments of Canada, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, New Zealand, Tasmania and Western Australia in a unique partnership arrangement was, effected in obedience to the strong desire of the people of the wide-spread British Empire to utilize electricity for the accomplishment of Imperial consolidation, and to ensure that ‘The All Red Line’ touched only the territories of the British Empire.

Some parts of the line had been completed considerably earlier. In 1866, the Great Eastern connected Ireland to Newfoundland, by 1870 Suez was linked to Bombay and from there to Madras, Penang and Singapore. Australia was linked to British telegraph cables directly in 1870, by extending a line from Singapore to Port Darwin and by 1872, messages could be sent direct from London to Sydney.

To complete the network, the final major cable laying project was the trans-Pacific section. The route selected was Bamfield, Vancouver Island - Fanning Island - Fiji - Norfolk Island. From Norfolk Island, two cables would be laid, one to Southport, Queensland, with a landline to Sydney, while the other would land at Doubtless Bay, Auckland and in total 14,500Km of cable would be required.

It was decided to lay the Bamfield-Fanning Island section in one continuous length. At the time no cable ship existed that could carry the cable to do this, so the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Company had CS Colonia built. Laying of the 6,400Km long cable began at Bamfield on 18th September 1902, reaching Fanning Island on 6th October. Fanning Island had been formally annexed to Great Britain in 1888.

Map of the Victorian Internet

The CS Anglia which had been used to connect Cape Town and St Helena then laid all the sections from Fanning Island to Australia and New Zealand during 1902.

The ‘All Red Line’ was inaugurated on 31st October 1902 and the Imperial Defence Committee was able to report to the British Government, The dependence of the United Kingdom on cable stations situated upon foreign territory has been generally eliminated.

Britain dominated the international cable networks and no other country possessed such an extensive network. In 1896 there were 30 cable-laying ships in the world, 24 of them owned by British companies. The Eastern Telegraph Company controlled almost 50 per cent of the world’s submarine cables while other British companies owned another 30 per cent of the cable routes. These figures underestimate the extent of British domination of worldwide telegraphic traffic because, apart from a number of transatlantic cables, most of the submarine cables owned by non-British companies were local links connecting to British long-distance routes.

Eastern Telegraph Company Station, c.1900
Eastern Telegraph Company Station, c.1900

More about the cable and its history at atlantic-cable.com/Cables/1899StHelena/index.htm.

Laugh at funny Communications humour - LOL

Credits:
{a} Paul McCartney, Hobart, Australia{20}.{b} Government of St Helena{c} Chris and Sheila Hillman{d} Sure South Atlantic Limited announcement{e} SHG State of the Island report, 2015{18}{f} www.saex.net{g} atlantic-cable.com{h} St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society (SHATPS){i} Tourist Office{j} atlantic-cable.com/Cables/1899StHelena/index.htm ‘courtesy of and copyright © 2013 Andy Parker’

Footnotes:
{1} Photographed at the Man & Horse Signal Station. ‘GPO’ is ‘General Post Office’, the old name for the British post & telecommunications entity.{2} Issued during World War 1 to help distinguish genuine employees from German spies!{3} As far as we know this sign is still there. The cable, of course, isn’t.{4} According to a handwritten note on the back of the photograph.{5} Or St Helena Island, or St. Helena, it doesn’t seem to matter which.{6} Assuming, of course, that they are.{7} There is only one!{8} Source: 2016 Census.{9} Until 1st October 2013 they had just four digits. If you are given an old four-digit number, just add a 2 to the front: hence 2900 becomes 22900.{10} Contact Sure South Atlantic Limited for latest prices.{11} That is, the ability of a visitor with an overseas mobile telephone to connect to the local network, or of a local mobile telephone customer to connect to a network overseas.{12} Which is one reason why this website and all the Burgh House sites are hosted in the UK.{13} European Development Fund.{14} Not to be confused with our former national radio station, Radio St Helena.{15} £0.20{16} You can read a history of Cable & Wireless and its antecedents at atlantic-cable.com/CableCos/CandW/index.htm.{17} Pedants will observe that the Sun does not travel across the sky, it only appears to due to the rotation of the Earth, but this is an explanation of Solar Interference not a treatise on astrophysics.{18} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.{19} See more blogs.{20} Paul’s father was the island’s doctor in the 1960s and Paul accompanied him here. Paul visited St Helena in June 2018 and kindly gave us permission to use these family photographs.{21} The story goes that one Christmas a chap decided to post all his local Christmas cards, so he took them to the Post Office, bought stamps and posted them. A few days later he was stopped by the postman{7} and asked if he would mind taking ‘some letters’ and delivering them to his neighbours. The ‘letters’ were his Christmas cards…

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