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Do they mean us?

Some poorly researched pieces to amuse

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Hell, that’s why they make erasers.
Clarence Darrow

Most of the people who write about St Helena have never been here, and what they write can be fascinating… and wrong!

This page is in indexes: Island Detail

Do they mean us? [Saint Helena Island Info:Do they mean us?]

Below: The Daily MailShark Attack!The ‘Rusty Lifeline’Interesting pictureAirport ‘scrapped’!Serious misinformation!‘Facts’ from the CIA ‘World Factbook’Not here…Daily Express: ‘Top 10 facts about St Helena’Daily Telegraph: “Napoleon’s final resting place: in pictures”Daily Express: ‘Top 10 facts about St Helena’Not where it says

We’ve featured below articles we’ve come across that describe St Helena inaccurately in some way. If you spot an article worthy of inclusion on this page, please contact us - if we can verify it we’ll include it.

In each case we’ve provided a link to the original article, though we can’t guarantee that these will still work or produce the original content - maybe the authors will take down or amend their errors.

There is no mistake; there has been no mistake; and there shall be no mistake.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

The Daily Mail

The Mail on Sunday{a} on 30th April 2017 wrote another of its ‘anti-foreigners’ rants featuring our airport. It was headlined:

Jet finally lands at £300m airport British taxpayers built…

In the interests of balance (not, admittedly, a feature of the Daily Mail) we’d like to point out that a) their cost figure is too high - the actual budget was £285m, and b) that this was actually the (roughly) 50th flight to land at St Helena Airport. Then the body of the article quotes an unidentified and slightly under-estimating DfID spokesman saying “32 flights have successfully landed so far”, thus making a nonsene of their own headline.

The rest of the article is also full of inaccuracies. For example, the island is not:

waiting to receive vital supplies

as these have been delivered by the MV St Helena. And the final notable error is the Daily Mail missing a point that, if they’d bothered to do their research properly they’d have loved to make. They say:

the island’s government has had to pay for this week’s charter flight

Actually it was DfID, or in Daily Mail terms ‘the British taxpayer’ who paid for the flight!

Shark Attack!

On 22nd April 2017 a woman was attacked by a shark while swimming off Ascension Island. She was treated at Georgetown Hospital and then flown to the UK for further treatment. She is expected to make a full recovery.

This was reported in many UK newspapers and we are told that, in many of them, they referred to the attack as having happened:

off St Helena

completely omitting to mention that it was actually 1,300Km off St Helena, i.e. Ascension. Sadly by the time we heard of this all their websites had been corrected, so you must regard this story as hearsay (but we’re sure its true).

The ‘Rusty Lifeline’

The Guardian{b} decided to write up the discussion about compensation for tourism providers due to the delay in opening the airport. The report was a reasonable discussion of the subject but contained a few notable inaccuracies:

  • It described the RMS as:

    …the island’s rusty lifeline
  • Regarding Legislative Council{1}:

    …represented by a 49-strong council…
    The chairman of the legislative council’s economic development committee, Henry Lawson…
  • And the headline described the airport as:


The RMS has just been repainted, and we’re sure Lawson Henry and the other eleven Legislative Council{1} members will be impressed by their description. Planes can land at the airport, just not full-size commercial ones.

Interesting picture

Keen to get the boot into the Tory Govrnment’s aid budget, the UK Teleraph{c} on 21st June 2016 ran a piece:

UK government spends £285million on airport that’s ‘unsafe’ for most planes.

This would normally be ordinary UK knock-about politics and therefore uninteresting, except that the article features this picture and caption:

Thanks to its remote location and unspoilt natural beauty, the island is popular with adventurous hikers, whale watchers and wildlife enthusiasts [Saint Helena Island Info:Do they mean us?]
Thanks to its remote location and unspoilt natural beauty, the island is popular with adventurous hikers, whale watchers and wildlife enthusiasts

It’s a nice picture, but it wasn’t taken on St Helena. We are informed that it is actually on Lundy Island, North Devon - about 8,000Km north of St Helena.

The article also describes us as being:

…in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

which we are not (we’re about 2/3 of the way across), but let’s not be picky. At least they got the ocean right.

Airport ‘scrapped’!

At the beinning of June 2016 The Guardian{d} led with the headline:

St Helena airport costing £285m of UK money is scrapped over safety concerns

On 9th June 2016 The Guardian amended the headline to read:

St Helena airport costing £285m of UK money is delayed over safety concerns

…and amended the text to clarify that it is still planned to open the airport - as soon as the wind shear issue is sorted. Unfortunately, the BBC also picked up on the Guardian’s story, reporting the airport plan as having been ‘abandoned’ before also later amending their report to read ‘delayed’. Many others have covered the story, with varying degrees of inaccuracy.

A lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.
Charles Spurgeon{2}

Serious misinformation!

Maybe next time the US CDC{e} updates its website it might want to start by reading our website… The version extant in January 2016 had some serious errors:

Get travel vaccines and medicines because there is a risk of these diseases in the country you are visiting:

Hepatitis A: CDC recommends this vaccine because you can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in Saint Helena, regardless of where you are eating or staying.

Typhoid: You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in Saint Helena. CDC recommends this vaccine for most travelers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.

Rabies: Rabies is present in bats in Saint Helena.

All of the above statements are completely untrue and there is no risk on St Helena, to travellers or anybody else. There are actually no bats on St Helena and there has never been a recorded case of rabies.

‘Facts’ from the CIA ‘World Factbook’

It’s worrying that the CIA is publishing{f} such obvious errors:

Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population

Not a very good estimate - around half of all Saints are working abroad, mostly in the Falklnds, on Ascension Island or in the UK. Later they contradict themselves: under ‘Economy - overview:’ we read “Because there are few jobs, 25% of the work force has left to seek employment on Ascension Island, on the Falklands, and in the UK.

National holiday:
Birthday of Queen ELIZABETH II, third Monday in April (1926)

Actually we have many national holidays, of which St Helena’s Day is the most important (The Queen’s Birthday is not significantly celebrated by Saints).

National symbol(s):
Saint Helena plover (bird)

Again, only lists one of our National Symbols.

Economy - overview:
…Because there are few jobs, 25% of the work force has left to seek employment on Ascension Island, on the Falklands, and in the UK.

Actually the island has close to 100% employment. People leave for better paid jobs, or for opportunities not available on St Helena.

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 6%; industry: 48%; services: 46%

There must be a large number of very secret factories, of which nobody has ever heard…

Electricity - from fossil fuels:
100% of total installed capacity

The CIA should check our Renewable Energy page!

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 0

Somewhat out of date - not true since December 2012! We actually have four radio stations, all on FM.

Not here…

There’s a photograph that sometimes appears in articles about St Helena:

Wherever it is, it isn’t here [Saint Helena Island Info:Do they mean us?]

We have no idea why, because wherever this photo was taken, it wasn’t here. We think its regular reappearance is simply because it’s a scenic, action-orientated photo, and writers copy from each other without checking that the photo they are copying is valid. An example of its use is at

Daily Express: ‘Top 10 facts about St Helena’

The Daily Express has updated its ‘Top 10 facts about St Helena{g}’ - and this time they got it right…almost!

They list their ‘facts’ as:

1: Saint Helena is in the South Atlantic, 4,000Km east of Brazil, 1,900Km west of Africa. It covers an area of just 122Km².

They got the island’s name wrong, but it’s a common mistake

2: The Portuguese discovered Saint Helena in 1502 but from 1676 it was governed by the British East India Company.

1659, actually. 1676 was Halley, as 4: below.

3: Saint Helena is now Britain’s second oldest remaining Overseas Territory, after Bermuda.


4: The comet discoverer Edmond Halley set up an observatory on Saint Helena in 1676.


5: Napoleon had high praise for the coffee on Saint Helena.


6: Charles Darwin had a five-day stopover on Saint Helena when sailing on The Beagle in 1836…


7: …and he described the island as “a curious little world within itself”.


8: The first ever aircraft landing on Saint Helena was made exactly one month ago at the island’s newly built airport on September 15, 2015.


9: The island is named after St Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great and alleged discovered of the True Cross.


10: St Helena is the only place on earth where the mating of whale sharks has been seen by humans.

Strangely we now have the island’s correct name!

Then they spoil it all by including the following photograph…

Daily Express [Saint Helena Island Info:Do they mean us?]

… which is actually of Ascension Island.

Daily Telegraph: “Napoleon’s final resting place: in pictures

In the Culture, Picture Galleries section{h}:

sample picture [Saint Helena Island Info:Do they mean us?]
sample picture

The page indexes fifteen interesting pictures of St Helena, ranging from Napoleon’s Tomb to the Airport. It would be great except for the title. Yes, Napoleon Bonaparte did die here, on 5th May 1821, and was buried in Sane Valley. But nineteen years later his body was dug up and shipped back to France. His “final resting place” is actually at L’Hotêl Les Invalides in Paris, France.

Daily Express: ‘Top 10 facts about St Helena’

From the Daily Express{i}:

Uncaptioned picture [Saint Helena Island Info:Do they mean us?]
We don’t understand this picture at all. We think it is probably Mt. St Helens, in North America. The last time our volcano erupted was about 14 million years ago and there were no cameras to record that event (or people either).

The island of St Helena in the South Atlantic was discovered by the Portuguese navigator João de Nova on May 21, 1502.

Actually he was João da Nova. And these facts are also in dispute but everyone accepts them so we’ll let that pass.

1: He named it after St Helena of Constantinople, the consort of Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus and mother of Constantine the Great.

We’re not sure why there are three items about Saint Helena, the person. Is there nothing more interesting about our island?

2: She is a patron saint of archaeologists, converts, difficult marriages, divorced people, empresses and the island of Saint Helena.
3: She is said to have been the daughter of the British King Coel, on whom Old King Cole may have been based.
4: St Helena has only one newspaper, one radio station and one internet service provider.

Actually we have two newspapers and four radio stations. But we do only have one ISP.

5: St Helena has been a British Overseas Territory for longer than anywhere else except Bermuda.


6: St Helena is said to have discovered the cross on which Jesus was crucified.


7: She is said to have protected her son by placing one crucifixion nail in his helmet and one in his horse’s saddle.


8: The British used St Helena as a prison for both Napoleon and some 5,000 Boer War captives.


9: St Helena is ten miles long, five miles wide and has an international dialling code of 290.


10: Charles Darwin visited St Helena in 1836 and described it as “a curious little world within itself”.


Not where it says

The article in the Mail & Guardian, South Africa{j}Ship out to isolated St Helena before the planes land” (Mail & Guardian, South Africa, 13th February 2015) has the following image and caption:

Fisher’s Valley, not Jamestown [Saint Helena Island Info:Do they mean us?]
No easy access: Jamestown provides a difficult entry point to the island of St Helena.{k})

The image is great, but the caption is wrong. This is actually a view of Fisher’s Valley, on the other side of the island!

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Do they mean us?]

Laugh at funny dotheymeanus humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Do they mean us?]


{a}, Retrieved 1st May 2017{3}

{b}, Retrieved 23rd September 2016{3}

{c}, Retrieved 22nd June 2016{3}

{d}, Retrieved 10th June 2016{3}

{e}, Retrieved 19th January 2016{3}

{f}, Retrieved 19th January 2016{3}

{g}, Retrieved 15th October 2015{3}

{h}, Retrieved 11th June 2015{3}

{i}, Retrieved 20th May 2015{3}

{j}, Retrieved 13th February 2015{3}

{k} Tourist Office


{1} Effectively the island’s parliament. More on our Government page.

{2} Often quoted by, and frequently mis-attributed to James Callaghan or Winston Churchill.

{3} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.


Take Me Anywhere But Here!


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