blank [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Read articles about St Helena (Older)

Older articles related to the Island of St Helena

blank [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Wear the old coat and buy the new book.
Austin Phelps

Read how St Helena has been reported in the world’s media.

This page is a continuation of Read articles about St Helena, containing older items. Even older St Helena stuff can be found on this blog: Much Older St Helena Stuff{1}.

Read articles about St Helena (Older) - Older articles related to the Island of St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Go to: The vet, the tortoise and the airportSt Helena on “From Our Own Correspondent”Where the Saints go diving after workWorld’s Largest Fish and One Tiny Island: Studying Whale Sharks on St Helena IslandUnder starters orders…Saint Helena’s historic isolation continues as airport opening delayedLast Boat to St HelenaRoyal Mail Ship St Helena to RetireHealthy Diet Helps 183-Year-Old Tortoise Feel Young AgainWhy St Helena, One of the World’s Most Remote Islands, May Be Overrun in 2016Lonely Planet declares St Helena one of the top regions in the world for 2016Remote St Helena island welcomes first flightThe allure and attractions of St Helenamygreenpod.com on St HelenaNapoleon and St HelenaFaslane divers called in to clear wreck in South AtlanticAn End to IsolationScottish sheriff becomes appeals judge in world’s most remote court - without leaving DundeeMeet the Banking Regulator With an 8,000-Mile CommuteAfter a Waterloo artefact? Strand of Napoleon’s hair in Dorset auctionAl Pacino dreams of playing NapoleonReady Set Sail in St HelenaShopping a daily puzzle on remote St HelenaAwaiting St Helena’s new airportRemote Saint Helena to get first tourist flights… before it gets its own airportVoyage to one of the world’s most remote islands: Travel company offers last chance to take iconic Royal Mail Ship to St Helena… before it gets its own airportShip out to isolated St Helena before the planes landThe Much Delayed Airport - An End at Last to St Helena’s Isolation: Getting Really, Truly, Terminally Away from it All on the Looney Front12 Places That Are Damn Near Impossible To Get ToNapoleon skewered in new British exhibitionThrill-seeking Liverpool pilot to film remote south Atlantic island by drone

 

The vet, the tortoise and the airport

By Joe Hollins, published on BBC Online, 21st May 2016{3}

Joe Hollins with Jonathan [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Six years ago Joe Hollins became the first permanent vet on the island of St Helena, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Here he looked after the oldest known land animal in the world, a 184-year-old giant tortoise - while at the same time seeing the island enter the modern world with the construction of its first airport.

St Helena is famously the island where Napoleon was exiled after the battle of Waterloo. I imagine he felt little joy on his arrival here, a tiny scrap of volcanic rock thousands of miles from Paris, but for me it was quite the opposite - I chose to come here, signing up for a five-year stint as Senior Veterinary Officer. And although I didn’t know it when I took the job, I would also be witness to the biggest change in St Helena’s history since the abolition of slavery.

The island of St Helena - a mere 67 sq miles of rock right out in the middle of the Atlantic, 1,300 miles from Angola and 2,000 miles from Brazil is now on the brink of joining the rest of the world.

After investment of £250m and five years of frenetic construction, it has an airport - a masterpiece of engineering perched on the cliffs, with a runway that ends in a sheer 300m drop. It’s not open yet, but it will be soon, and then St Helena, which is sometimes described as the second most remote inhabited island in the world, will feel a lot less remote than it does now.

Airport from Diana’s Peak [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

My favourite job, as the first resident vet, has been looking after Jonathan the giant Seychelles tortoise - a 200Kg crusty old reptile that I’m very fond of. There’s no older living land animal on record in the world. We know he arrived in 1882, fully mature, which means he was about 50 then, which would make him about 184 today. He could be even older.

When I first met him he was in quite a poorly state. He was very thin - feeding was a challenge because his beak was blunt and crumbly so he couldn’t cut the grass. He has cataracts and he’s lost his sense of smell so he couldn’t see where the good grass was.

I decided to supplement his diet, so every Sunday I would go down to the paddock in front of the governor’s house, where he lives, to feed him fresh fruit and vegetables - bananas, apples, cucumber, lettuce and cabbage. He has a very fleshy, almost mammalian, tongue and a long reptilian neck, very much like a snake - and he is a prolific belcher.

After a year not only was he putting on weight and being more active, but his beak became razor sharp and I had to wear welder’s gloves to protect my fingers. His libido came back as well, and he’d try to knock David, the perpetually randy younger male, off Emma, one of the three females. Not to any great effect, but it’s a very good sign.

The life expectancy of these tortoises is approximately 150 years of age so Jonathan’s already exceeded that by quite a long way. The ancient reptile has seen off many governors, but whatever he has witnessed in his 134 years on the island, not much has changed around him until now. The pace of change on the island over the past five years has been phenomenal.

Joe Hollins feeding Jonathan [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Oldest and rarest tortoises:

  • Ships used to stack giant tortoises on board where they would stay alive and provide the crew with fresh food - thus most became extinct

  • There are two families of giant tortoises left in the world: the Pacific family (Galapagos Islands) and the Indian Ocean tortoises (Aldabra Atoll)

  • There are hundreds of thousands of Aldabran giant tortoises but only a few thousand Galapagos tortoises

  • Recently it was discovered that Jonathan is an extremely rare Seychelles giant tortoise of which there are only a few dozen left in the world

In order to prepare for the airport St Helena had to be readied for the modern world in every respect.

The UK government’s investment - equivalent to £60,000 per capita - came with conditions covering everything from taxation to social and medical services, and land ownership. There were big changes in all these areas. Six months ago they even introduced mobile phones, something that had not been possible before because of the challenging terrain of hills and deep gorges. Now everybody walks along talking on their phones, as they do in the rest of the world.

I saw the very first plane land on the island on 15th September 2015 - a historic occasion. As luck would have it I had been called out to see a sick pig on the windward side of the island where the airport is. Quite a few people had gathered to watch as a small light aircraft zoomed across the airport construction site to have a look. Its first attempt at landing was aborted and it climbed steeply away again, above the 300m cliffs at each end of the runway and the massive outcrops of rock beyond them.

To build the runway a gorge called Dry Gut had to be filled with 450,000 truckloads of rock [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
To build the runway a gorge called Dry Gut had to be filled with 450,000 truckloads of rock

On the third attempt it landed and you could hear people cheering everywhere. It was not something the Saints had seen before. There were emotional scenes.

The airport was due to open on 21st May but there are still issues to sort out. Work is still under way to deal with turbulence and wind shear. Landing can be pretty hairy.

Until now the only way on and off the island has been on the last remaining true Royal Mail Ship, the RMS St Helena. She leaves Cape Town every three weeks and takes five or six nights to reach St Helena. When she anchors in the bay passengers have to take a launch to the steps, and clamber ashore with the aid of a rope.

Boatman at the landing steps [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

One of the concerns around the airport is biosecurity. The ship has always acted like a quarantine station - because the journey took so long, if anyone was incubating disease there was a chance they would fall ill on board. But by aeroplane, people can get here within hours. All we need is for somebody to arrive with a new disease and the cat’s out of the bag.

We recently had two workers on the island with malaria. Luckily we do not have the malaria-carrying mosquito, so it could not be passed on. But we do have two other pathogenic species of mosquito, Culex and Aedes, which can carry human diseases like the Zika virus, Chikungunya or Dengue fever. So the disease carriers are here but the diseases aren’t - and we mustn’t introduce them.

The RMS St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

I left, as I arrived, on the RMS St Helena. She’s quite a ship. Only 100m long, with cargo at the front and passengers at the back, she’s been the only means on and off the island forever, but she will be decommissioned as soon as the airport opens for business.

She’s a lifeline. But while she brings families together, she also tears them apart.

There are a lot of tears shed on the wharf every time she departs.

Joe Hollins at work [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Our Comment: Some video content has been omitted from the above. To see the full article go to www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36302278.

See also: Jonathan the tortoiseBuilding St Helena AirportFly here?RMS St Helena

Go back to the top of the page


St Helena on “From Our Own Correspondent

BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

On 14th May 2016 BBC Radio 4’s programme From Our Own Correspondent featured an item recorded by BBC journalist Sarah Wheeler, talking about the delay to the opening of St Helena Airport.

Click on the icon to hear this audio file: 

(right-click to download) 

Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)] (1.9Mb)

See also: Building St Helena AirportFly here?Fly Yourself Here

Go back to the top of the page


Where the Saints go diving after work

By Diane Selkirk, Dive Magazine, 16th May 2016{3}

St Helena parrotfish, Long Ledge [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
St Helena parrotfish, Long Ledge

It was the size of the ship that astonished me. From the rudder, the big boilers looked miles away. Beyond those, there were bundles of corrugated iron, an engine, anchor windless and somewhere in the distance, the bow. Swimming through a cloud of butterflyfish, I searched for the locker which an old wreck write-up said contained champagne bottles - I never found the champagne but I did come face to face with a crayfish.

Built by Denny W & Bros, Dumbarton for the New Zealand Shipping Company in 1899 the 131m SS Papanui, with 376 passengers and 108 crew, had just steamed past Saint Helena when a persistent fire in a coal bunker forced them back. She made for the harbour at Jamestown and unloaded her passengers and crew on 11th September 1911; a short while later a boiler exploded and fire spread from the bow to stern. The next day she sank in 13m.

There are many things that make diving the Papanui an incredible experience; it’s found in clear, warm water a short distance from shore, the ship’s history is well documented and some of the artefacts that aren’t still on the ship can be found around Jamestown. But the most remarkable aspect of the dive is that - for Saint Helena - it’s not unusual. The SS Papanui is just one of eight protected wreck sites accessible to island divers and her excellent condition is a great example of the island’s strict conservation ethos.

Diver on the Papanui; St Helena shrimp, Wharf Steps and the wreck of the Bedgellett [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Diver on the Papanui; St Helena shrimp, Wharf Steps and the wreck of the Bedgellett

A Seafaring History

For more than 500 years the only way to reach the remote South Atlantic island of Saint Helena has been by the sea. The uninhabited island was discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, and was long used as a provisioning stop for ships travelling from the East Indies to Europe. In 1659, the British East India Company took possession of the island and began to fortify it. In the years that followed Captains Cook and Bligh, the astronomer Edmond Halley, Charles Darwin and, of course, Napoleon all found their way to Saint Helena.

Before the Suez Canal opened, more than 1,000 ships a year called at Saint Helena. Gradually though the island became an isolated and forgotten outpost. Over the past 50 years, only the most intrepid travellers have voyaged to her shores. And only a few, such as Jacques Cousteau, whose crew dived the Darkdale - a tanker torpedoed by a German submarine in 1941 - and Robert Stenuit, the marine archaeologist who discovered a 16th Century ship called the Witte Leeuw, whose treasure of Ming porcelain is now housed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, came for the diving.

Dive Magazine [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Jamestown, St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Jamestown, St Helena

St Helena has been one of the most isolated British territories and its 4,200 population’s only connection to the outside world has been a five-day trip by ship to Cape Town in South Africa. However, a £250 million airport has been built and weekly flights are promised. The opening of the airport has been delayed twice and the opening ceremony has been postponed after a test flight revealed dangerous wind changes close to the ground. Until that is resolved the only way to access the 122Km² of rock in the South Atlantic remains the regular mail ship.

Once there you will find hiking trails that cut through multi-hued volcanic hills; historic stone fortifications perched high over churning seas; Napoleon’s estate and tomb; huge whale sharks in gin-clear water; and, of course, that spectacular diving.

Speery Island [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Speery Island

Conserving for the Future

Graham Sim, 79, is considered the father of both diving and conservation on Saint Helena. He says the first time he went underwater, wearing a hard-to-come-by mask and snorkel, he was amazed by the profusion of fish life. He and a few friends soon fashioned Hawaiian slings out of broom handles and bicycle inner tubes and began spearing so many fish, Sim says he briefly wondered if fish were blind, they were so effortless to catch.

Other divers soon followed his lead. “No one had ever interfered with the fish before,” Sim told me as we looked out at the blue water over James Bay. “But then I noticed the easy-to-reach areas near the wharf were being destroyed. The fish were gone.

Sim’s realisation was life changing-and it transformed the future of Saint Helena. He formed the Skin Diving Club and then the St Helena Dive Club, which has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, gave up spear fishing and starting teaching young Saints (as the locals are called) to dive. He also trained as a fisheries officer and began putting the island’s first conservation measures in place.

Hawkfish, near Cat Island [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Hawkfish, near Cat Island

The endemic silver eel, Munden’s Reef [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The endemic silver eel, Munden’s Reef

We protected the areas around the wrecks and in James Bay, Rupert’s Bay and Lemon Valley,” he said. “At first, people were angry with me. But the thing we enjoyed, we were destroying.

Warm Clear Water

It’s easy to love diving in St Helena. Visibility runs to 30m and the water temperatures range from 19C-26°C. Within a fifteen-minute boat ride from the Jamestown landing there’s a choice of wrecks, reefs, arches, islands and caves. In fact, diving is so easy here that it’s a favourite post-work activity for locals; they head out for a dive and catch the sunset on the return voyage.

Anthony Thomas from Sub-Tropic Adventures, one of the island’s two dive companies, had five of us in his boat for one of his regular afternoon dives. As the newest visitors to the island, he asked us what we’d like to see. We settled on a dive that included a wreck, followed by an arch and cave system - a dive that contained such an assembly of life, diversity and clarity; that had we been anywhere else in the world, the dive would have had both a half dozen dive boats jostling for position and a name.

St Helena butterflyfish near Cat Island [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
St Helena butterflyfish near Cat Island

Five of us, including a dive master, descended to the Bedgellett - a salvage vessel that had been used on the Papanui, damaged in a storm and then sunk in 2001. Resting on her keel in 17m she boasted a profusion of fish life as well as colourful algae and sponges. Enchanted with the scene, I started a slow swim around the keel of the boat, trying to take in everything at once. We ascended to the deck level where I followed an endemic, and decidedly faded-looking, St Helena parrotfish sparisoma stringatum (known locally as a rockfish) toward an overhang where I became intrigued by a spooky looking bearded fireworm.

Saint Helena has several endemic species which include 16 fish species and about 40 invertebrates including Thomas’s favourite, the nudibranch. For me, the St Helena butterflyfish chaetodon sanctaehelenae was one of the most mesmerising. Congregating in vast shallow-water schools we swam through our first cloud of them on the Papanui and encountered our second flashy school while swimming from the wreck of the Bedgellett to the arch at Long Ledge.

Moray, Munden’s Point [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Moray, Munden’s Point

The swim to Long Ledge was through a maze-like landscape of huge boulders and overhangs. Lighting the crevices and caves with a torch, we caught sight of a huge moray eel and a big triggerfish. Every so often we’d glance out to the blue - keeping an eye out for the devil rays that are known to swim in the area.

Most of the dive sites are located on the leeward side of the island - where they can experience a bit of surge from the ocean swells but don’t have much in the way of current to contend with. Thomas will take more adventurous divers to the windward side of the island, where the life can be bigger and even more varied when conditions are right. But almost every dive has something to offer both beginners and advanced divers and typically Thomas will split the groups and send each out with their own dive master.

Silver eel, Cavalley Rock [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Silver eel, Cavalley Rock

Much More Than Just fish

As well as reef fish, divers report encounters with a varied assortment of charismatic sea life including, turtles, dolphins, Chilean devil rays and whales sharks. Peak whale shark season runs from December-March when as many as 50 of the enormous creatures are found in large groupings around the island. While intentionally scuba diving with them is prohibited (snorkelling with a guide is legal), Thomas explained divers will often be at a site when the whale sharks show up and then they’re welcome to enjoy the show.

We surfaced after swimming through a long arch and exploring a few big caves. Settling into the boat we watched as the sky turned golden, then red. Two of the divers were giddy with the thrill of a devil ray encounter. One of them, Sam, told me this was her 170th dive on the island, and of all the places she’s been, this is the place that never gets old. “I find something new to see every time.

St Helena sharpnose pufferfish, Billy Mays Revenge Dive [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
St Helena sharpnose pufferfish, Billy Mays Revenge Dive

Graham Sim told me the same thing. For 50 years he’s dived at least once a week. When he started it was with the most basic gear; no wetsuit, no gauges, no buoyancy control, no boat. The island was the most abundant place he’d seen and he was determined to keep her that way. St Helena was lucky, in so many places in the world people don’t even know what a healthy ocean looks like anymore, he explained: “We got to learn from other’s mistakes before the damage was done. It’s still amazing here.

whale shark [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
whale shark

Squirrelfish [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Squirrelfish

NEED TO KNOW

Currently, there are only two dive companies and two dive boats on the island - which means there’s never more than one boat at a site and even the most popular sites are only visited a couple of times a week. As tourism increases, and more boats are added, conservation guidelines will reflect the same high standards.

Into the Blue www.divesainthelena.com Email: Craig Yon Craigiyon@helanta.co.sh

Sub-Tropic Adventures www.stsa.co.sh Email: Anthony Thomas Sub-Tropic.Scuba@helanta.co.sh

St Helena flounder, Wharf Steps, James Bay [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
St Helena flounder, Wharf Steps, James Bay

Slipper Lobster, Papanui wreck [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Slipper Lobster, Papanui wreck

See also: DivingLost Ships

Go back to the top of the page


World’s Largest Fish and One Tiny Island: Studying Whale Sharks on St Helena Island

On voices.nationalgeographic.com, posted by Georgia Aquarium, 11th April 2016{3}

Dr. Alistair Dove, director of research and conservation at Georgia Aquarium recounts his recent expedition to St Helena Island studying the world’s largest fish - whale sharks.

A whale shark swims in the waters off St Helena Island (Photo Credit: Georgia Aquarium) [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
A whale shark swims in the waters off St Helena Island (Photo Credit: Georgia Aquarium)

Approximately 2,500 miles east of Rio de Janeiro and just over 1,900Km west of the African country of Angola, lies St Helena Island: one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. This stark volcanic peak juts up from the vast abyssal plain of the South Atlantic Ocean and covers just 122Km² of rugged rocky terrain, but is home to a multitude of diverse animal, plant, and marine life. It has even been called the Galapagos of the South Atlantic.

This tiny island is over 6,000 miles away from Atlanta, Georgia, where I and a team of researchers from Georgia Aquarium started our journey to study the world’s biggest fish: the enigmatic whale shark. This species lives throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the world, but encounters are rare and those places where whale sharks gather reliably have become figurative goldmines of scientific discoveries about this extraordinary filter feeding shark.

Just getting to St Helena is a huge challenge; we first flew to Cape Town, South Africa and then boarded the RMS St Helena, which is the only form of regular transportation to the island and one of the last Royal Mail Ships in operation. We were aboard the St Helena for five days as she steadfastly steamed to our destination across a seemingly endless plain of seabirds and flying fish. Talk about remote! St Helena is so remote, in fact, that the island was chosen by the English as the location for Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile in 1815. He died there in 1821 and you can still visit his grave today.

Despite 500 years of this sort of exceptional maritime history, St Helena has only recently come to scientific attention, not only as an important habitat for whale sharks, but as part of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories, a group of islands that is home to more than 90% of the UK’s biodiversity assets. With the help of the Darwin Initiative, Georgia Aquarium’s partners in the St Helena Government, Mote Marine Laboratory, and the Marine Megafauna Foundation, we are so excited and proud to help study our flagship species in this beautiful and breathtaking location.

Georgia Aquarium is the only aquarium in the western hemisphere to display these elusive creatures and having them in this setting is an incredible research opportunity to complement our field research with studies of their growth, behavior, health, and genetics. This helps us improve our interpretation of their behavior seen in the natural setting, but there are still many tantalizing questions about whale sharks that we hope to answer.

We traveled to St Helena once before, in December of 2014, and we ventured back again in December of 2015. We started these expeditions because we think St Helena may play a vital role as a mating ground for whale sharks. The whale sharks of St Helena are an even split of adult males and females, which is different from the other places where whale sharks gather in numbers, where juvenile males dominate. This 50/50 mix of adults is incredibly important, because mating behaviors have never been documented in this species. Our main goal of the 2015-2016 expedition was to characterize these gentle giants in St Helena, how they use the island habitats, and where they go when they leave, and of course to stay ever vigilant for signs of mating behavior. So how do we do all that?

We used a variety of techniques including computer-aided photographic identification, laser calipers to measure their size (and they can get big, over 35ft long), and several different types of tracking tags to help us figure out where they come from and where they go. We also worked with local ‘saints’ to install an acoustic array, which is a network of underwater hydrophones around the island that listens for tags we put on whale sharks and other species. Over the weeks we spent in St Helena we tagged over 30 whale sharks and photographed dozens more - all these are collected to assist in our understanding of where they go, how they grow, how they reproduce, and how St Helena fits into a global population picture for this species, which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists as ‘Vulnerable’.

Another incredibly satisfying aspect of the expedition to St Helena was working alongside some of our fantastic research partners. We work with members of the Marine Section of the St Helena Government, and Mexican NGO Ch’ooj Ajail AC, in addition to Georgia Aquarium team members and other partners from the Marine Megafauna Foundation and Mote Marine Laboratory who couldn’t join us but materially supported our efforts. It was a demanding scientific agenda, but working with this talented crew made for a great trip. If you can measure the success of an expedition in the amount of data you generate, then we were certainly successful.

Up close with a whale shark in St Helena. (Photo Credit: Georgia Aquarium) [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Up close with a whale shark in St Helena. (Photo Credit: Georgia Aquarium)

We’ve since returned from St Helena and unpacked our gear and washed the salt out of everything, including our ears. What lies ahead is a daunting task of compiling all the data we’ve collected, including terabytes of video and photo data and thousands of laser measurements, so we can begin looking for the answers to the questions we’ve been asking. We still have not documented mating behaviors, but we continue to learn more about their migratory patterns through the tagging studies and to identify new whale sharks through the Wildbook global database of whale shark sightings. With whale sharks, though, the more answers you try to find, the more questions you end up raising! It’s an incredibly exciting time to be studying this extraordinary species, especially in such a special location, and you can join in the excitement. Some of the animals we tagged automatically tweet out their locations in real time, and you can follow along on Twitter™ @Wheres_Domino, and at whalesharkwatch.org. We continue to learn and discover things about this magnificent species and I know there will be even more things to uncover. Anyone who says there isn’t amazing stuff still to discover in nature hasn’t put their head underwater lately, especially in places like St Helena.

See also: DivingDolphin watching

Go back to the top of the page


Under starters orders…

By www.airnewsx.com, 3rd April 2016{3}

If you asked most people about starting up an airline in 2016, in fact since 2008…the chances are they’d laugh you out of the door. They would tell you, you’re up against the ‘big boys’ of low cost or the ‘gentlemen’ of well established. There’s one thing I root for, the plucky Brit. The one who says ‘No, this can work…an I’ll tell you why it can work’. Its the kind of attitude you need in today’s world. Even more so when the airport you’re flying to is St Helena.

I’m now waiting for the steady few of you that are now asking - ‘Where?’ Quick geography lesson for you… St Helena is an island in the Atlantic just off the west coast of Africa. It is a British Overseas Dependent Territory and until May this year, the only way of getting to this small volcanic island was by boat. St Helena Airport is due to open doors in May and for one such airline, this will be its inaugural route.

Atlantic Star Airlines [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Atlantic Star Airlines, a relative baby in aviation terms, is headed up by current British Airways Captains Richard Brown and Andrew Radford. Both have extensive operational experience on the 777/787/767 with Richard currently a training Captain on the 777/787 and Andrew, 20 years experience flying with our nations flag carrier. Further expertise comes in the form of Aiden Walsh the current ‘La Compagnie’ country director and Shonagh Woods a 20 year veteran of marketing enterprise products. The company is also supplemented by four experienced pilots all of whom have worked for British Airways directly or through its French subsidiary ‘Openskies’.

UIFly (Netherlands) Boeing 737 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Having secured all necessary regulatory approval, the company aims to launch her first flight on Sunday 22nd May. Operating from Luton and making a technical stop to re-fuel in Banjul (Gambia) before onwards to St Helena, the flight time is marketed at 12hrs each way. Atlantic Star are working with TUIFly (Netherlands) leasing a Boeing 737-800 for the service.

So daily flights to St.Helena…no not exactly. There are a large number of factors at play here. Supply and demand being the name of the game here. ASA is a dipping-of-the-toe-in-the-water-of-lets-see-what-happens. And rightly so. The business idea is sound, test the market to see what kind of demand there is for a permanently established number of flights to the island.

There’s a nichè here and that’s something I quite like, a difference. I hearken back to the beginning of this post where I said ‘Airline startups are generally doomed to failure.’ And yes they usually are, because they follow the same formulaic pattern on the same formulaic routes and go against well established low cost or full service airlines. Here this isn’t the case. There’s a logic at play, a well established and long thought out plan. There is also a beautiful uniqueness to this venture, one that in a couple of years I hope I get to experience.

Smooth winds and plane sailing ASA, a venture I surely will keep an eye on!

See also: Fly here?

Go back to the top of the page


Saint Helena’s historic isolation continues as airport opening delayed

By Luke Barber & Simon Calder, The [UK] Independent, 13th February 2016{3}

One of the Government’s most expensive ventures, St Helena’s airport is delayed… again

[Artist’s Impression] A plane waits at the new airport in St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
[Artist’s Impression] A plane waits at the new airport in St Helena

The island of Saint Helena in the middle of the south Atlantic is one of the remotest places on the planet. It gained its main claim to fame - as home to the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte - for that very reason.

Jamestown, capital of St Helena, an island in the mid-Atlantic [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Jamestown, capital of St Helena, an island in the mid-Atlantic

But the historic isolation of the 4,000 inhabitants, or “Saints”, who live on this tiny British territory of just 122Km² was supposed finally to come to an end this year - with the opening of a new £250m airport after a decade-long wait.

Due to start operating this month, the first flights have already been put off until at least May. And frustration on the island is growing, with tickets not yet on sale and talk of “hurdles” still to be overcome.

Announced in 2005, the final decision on the airport was repeatedly delayed until it was agreed by the Coalition in July 2010, with construction work getting under way in November 2011.

It is one of the Government’s most expensive investments, on a per capita basis, at a cost of more than £60,000 for each person.

The island, more than 1,200 miles from the nearest land mass, is currently only accessible by a Royal Mail ship, which sets sail on a five-day journey from Cape Town once every three weeks.

Map [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

In an open letter to islanders, Richard Brown, principal of the British airline Atlantic Star - which is competing with the South African firm Comair to be the first to touch down on the island - tried to sound hopeful, although he admitted there had been “some delays”.

We are in contact with the air access team at St Helena Government and are confident that all the hurdles to certification will be overcome,” he wrote.

However, he added that it would be “premature” to give a date for the airport to be certified for flights, given the “complexity” of the process and “the work still to be done on the airport”.

Therefore we are not yet able to announce the date that ticket sales will start,” Mr Brown said, adding: “We fully appreciate how frustrating this waiting period is for those of you who wish to finalise 2016 travel plans. We share that frustration and naturally we would love [tickets] to be on sale right now.

A pilot on the PPRuNe (Professional Pilots Rumour Network) aviation forum said: “Over a month has now passed since the second round of calibration flights. Still no word if the problems with the navigational aids have been corrected and operations would be safe.

Janet Lawrence, Saint Helena airport’s project director, said the construction of the airport had hit a snag because of the lie of the land. “Due to the unknown nature of building an airport on the island’s uneven terrain, changes in design had to be made to facilitate that,” she said.

St Helena has been under British possession since the East India Company was given permission to govern by Oliver Cromwell in 1657. After his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon, who had escaped from the island of Elba in the Mediterranean, was sent to St Helena to ensure he would never again return to Europe.

See also: Building St Helena AirportFly here?

Go back to the top of the page


Last Boat to St Helena

By Matthew Engel, Financial Times, 29th January 2016{3}

One of the remotest islands on earth is getting an airport - and that could change everything

Bamboo Hedge, Sandy Bay [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Bamboo Hedge, Sandy Bay

The oldest and most famous resident of St Helena is called Jonathan. His home is in the grounds of Plantation House, the 35-room Georgian mansion long occupied by the island’s governors.

He moves sluggishly; he has little idea what’s going on; he has been much put upon yet remains placid; his welfare has long been a concern. Jonathan has witnessed the comings and goings of 26 governors sent out by London to take charge of his own and St Helena’s welfare, and treated them all with what looks like good-natured contempt. In all of this, Jonathan might be not just a tourist attraction but the island’s motif.

Well, perhaps not in the matter of size. This is a minuscule island and Jonathan is a Seychelles giant tortoise. He may be the world’s oldest creature: no one knows exactly how old he was in 1882 when he first arrived. The scientists think he was at least 50; his life might even have overlapped with that of St Helena’s most famous former resident, one Napoleon Bonaparte, who died in 1821 having spent the last six years of his life confined here, an experience he endured less phlegmatically than Jonathan.

St Helena was chosen to house the former emperor after his defeat at Waterloo because it was (a) a British possession and (b) a byword for remoteness. Both these facts are still true. Indeed, if anything the island has become more isolated. In the days of sail, up to three ships a day called at St Helena. The vessels would be serviced and victualled, taking on fresh water and fruit and vegetables to stave off scurvy: everything grew in this benign climate, just inside the tropics but cooled by the constant southern trade winds. “An earthly paradise,” said the first Briton to arrive, Captain Thomas Cavendish, in 1588.

The occasional cruise ship and adventurous yachtie still stop by. But in general the only way on and off the island for everyone and everything is by a single ship, the RMS St Helena, which normally calls every 18 days. But not for much longer.

On the far side of the island from the capital, Jamestown (i.e. about 20 minutes’ drive away), St Helena’s international airport is nearing completion, 70 years after the idea was first mooted, 14 years after the islanders said ‘yes’ in a referendum and six years after the British government finally agreed. Now it is happening, some Saint Helenians are enduring a fit of buyers’ remorse. The government insists it will be transformational. What is certain is that a unique, magical, beautiful, troubled place is about to change forever.

Location map [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

St Helena, a microdot of volcanic leftovers in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, is not quite the most remote island on earth: that honour belongs to another of Britain’s South Atlantic islets, Tristan da Cunha. But Tristan only has about 300 people. St Helena has some 4,500, enough to support the world’s most isolated hospital, police station, prison, distillery, cathedral and cricket ground.

The islanders are known as Saints, and they do have some saintly qualities. This could be the friendliest place on earth - passers-by say hello, motorists wave - and the most trusting. It is an isle of unlocked doors and of car keys left in the ignition. The lack of petty crime is partly due to the Saints’ nature. Also, as Napoleon realised, escape is almost impossible.

The journey here from Cape Town currently takes five days on what everyone calls “the RMS”, which then makes a side trip to St Helena’s nearest neighbour, a mere 800 miles away: the British-owned, US Air Force-dominated island of Ascension. (London-bound travellers can, with luck, get there in three or four days via Ascension rather than six via Cape Town.) RMS stands for Royal Mail Ship, a designation that has otherwise all but disappeared, and is increasingly irrelevant. “When I started in 1980 there would be 180 sacks of mail,” recalls the ship’s captain, Rodney Young, a burly Saint who worked his way up from swabbing the decks. “Now there are two or three.

But the RMS still carries all the island’s needs from the outside world somewhere in its hold, from cars to fresh veg to urgent medicine. The islanders order stuff online like the rest of us; the difference is that here “express delivery” means waiting about two months. The ship’s progress is always a major item on Saint FM’s morning news, sometimes the major item, unless an islander has died - that always takes precedence.

world’s oldest creature. His life may even have overlapped with that of Napoleon, who spent the last six years of his life confined here, an experience he endured less phlegmatically [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
world’s oldest creature. His life may even have overlapped with that of Napoleon, who spent the last six years of his life confined here, an experience he endured less phlegmatically

The RMS is intimate - just 7,000 tonnes, a quarter of the size of a cross-Channel ferry, as midget as St Helena itself when seen next to a modern cruise ship. The journey is old-fashioned, sociable. The food is terrific, something rarely said about the island itself. Officers and crew, mostly Saints, either grew up with their passengers or get to know them soon enough. “The ship is part of the island,” says one expat. “When Saints board it, they are already home.” It has the same effect on a newcomer: walking up Main Street in Jamestown, after disembarking, I already feel a sense of belonging.

But the voyage is not a cruise, it is a journey. And the journeys are often linked with sadness: people heading to work overseas because there is nothing for them on the island; exiles coming back to visit sick parents and often failing to make it in time; or residents travelling to Cape Town for urgent operations that St Helena cannot perform, and sometimes failing to make those too - death at sea is not exactly normal but not that rare either. A UK-based Saint or a St Helena-based expat has to take four weeks’ holiday to get two weeks at home.

These are the last drops of an era,” says Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, France’s honorary consul on the island, wearily making his (approx) 120th voyage. “It is not rational for the ship to exist.” Dancoisne-Martineau is the doyen of St Helena’s diplomatic corps (the only member, actually) and the guardian of its Napoleonic heritage. He has been making four journeys a year on the RMS for the past 30 years so, not surprisingly, the joys of deck quoits and shuffleboard have faded. He is not alone. “I’m absolutely sick of it all,” says one worldly young Saint. “I can’t wait for the airport.” Sad though it is to imagine this dear old ship in a breakers’ yard, it seems like a no-brainer. There are, however, other considerations

When the Portuguese first discovered the island on May 21 1502, and named it after the saint of the day, there was no one there. They kept it secret for nearly a century but when the British finally found the place, they became very interested indeed and had the maritime power and tenacity to see off rival claims. In particular, the East India Company saw it as the perfect way station for trading ships sailing home from the Orient. It was granted a charter by London to run the place and, in 1659, installed its own governor.

Napoleon on St Helena, c.1820 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Napoleon on St Helena, c.1820

Gradually, over the centuries, a people emerged, an extraordinary race with what seem like almost random characteristics, as a variety of humanity turned up and bred: slaves and slave owners; soldiers and sailors; Madagascans and Malays; Indians and Chinese. It would be impossible to pick out a Saint away from home because they really do come in all shades, shapes and sizes. Even the accent has a protean quality, as so many of them spend decades working abroad before coming home to retire.

Emigration came with the territory because St Helena has never been able to pay its way. It was a necessary cost centre for the East India Company, and intended as such. The British government, which took over direct responsibility in 1834, has always been less relaxed on this subject. The island is said to have made a profit only once in its history, in 1951, when the flax industry was at its peak. Flax is the nearest St Helena has ever come to finding a reliable living. Though there has never been a shortage of ideas - whaling, tuna, mackerel-canning, silkworms, lilies, quinine, aloe vera, cochineal, lace-making, wine - they all failed.

Now, the theory goes, tourism will come to the rescue. Not the annual thousand-odd visitors a year who until now have come to enjoy the languid 1951-style charms of both the island and the RMS, but up to 30,000 (according to one often-quoted wild surmise) or at least 4,000 (a more realistic St Helena government guesstimate). The British taxpayer has invested at least £250m in the airport since 2010 and Whitehall wants results.

The island has an annual budget of around £30m, of which nearly £20m is subsidy from the Department for International Development in London, including up to £4m to cover the RMS’s losses. It is one of 14 British Overseas Territories, too small and/or complicated to become independent, including such entities as the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos, which make profits in ways British civil servants might prefer not to know about. Only three require annual grants from the Bank of Mother England: Montserrat, which was devastated by a volcanic eruption in 1995, Pitcairn (population 56), riven by accusations of paedophilia, and St Helena.

The whole purpose of the airport is to set us on the way to prosperity, so we can wash our faces,” says Roy Burke, the island’s British chief secretary. “St Helena has been drip-fed for so long. We were in profit in the flax era but not since. There has been limited entrepreneurial ambition for a long time.

The RMS at anchor in Jamestown Bay, off the Half Tree Hollow suburb and controversial site for the planned new prison [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The RMS at anchor in Jamestown Bay, off the Half Tree Hollow suburb and controversial site for the planned new prison

For the St Helena government, the airport has become an article of faith, a new religion, a god that must not fail: London’s wrath would be too terrible. It has been a grand project for a petite island: eight million metres³ of rock have been shifted to turn a lonely hillside into a plateau in an area called Prosperous Bay, which must have felt like a good omen. The terminal building looks remarkably high-spec. All this for what, at least in the initial stages, is likely to be a service of one weekly flight to and from Johannesburg (a 737-800 that, because of the short runway, will only be allowed to carry 120 passengers rather than the full payload of 162) and an occasional service from London.

Arguments that better value would have been achieved by an updated RMS, fast enough to cut the journey by a third, or a new breakwater in the port are no longer heard. In some ways, however, the airport is likely to make life worse for the Saints: the freighter that will replace the RMS as the source of bulk supplies is expected to arrive every five or six weeks instead of every 18 days; there is some confusion about the Ascension service. Whispered doubts persist: the crosswinds will make for unhappy landings; the Barn, the overhanging rock that dominates the approach path, will be a nightmare for pilots; as will the mist and fog for which St Helena’s highlands are infamous.

This last seems the most convincing. As the RMS approached the island, I was standing by the portside rail next to a well-informed local. “Where’s the airport?” I asked. “Up there.” “So where’s the Barn?” “You can’t see it because of the mist.” “Could you land in this?” “You wouldn’t even leave Joburg.” “Is the weather usually like this?” “Often. I’m not saying any more.” The only alternative landing strip is Ascension, a 90-minute diversion each way.

There is also an existential argument against the airport: for visitors, the voyage and the island’s remoteness are part of the appeal; the kind of rushed rich who might be attracted by a novel addition to the global air map seem unlikely to be enchanted by St Helena’s subtle charms. Tourist infrastructure is close to zero: there is a shortage of almost everything - hotel beds, restaurants, taxis, hire cars, buses, even souvenirs. There are no beaches worth mentioning. Mobiles only arrived in 2015, and there is no roaming facility. The internet is slow, patchy and pricy. When Chris Pickard, an expert in Latin American travel, was interviewed last year for the job of head of tourism, he was asked to name St Helena’s chief attraction to visitors. “Isolation,” he replied. “You’ve just lost it.

Picnicking at Castle Gardens, Jamestown, left; Basil George on the 599-step Jacob’s Ladder [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Picnicking at Castle Gardens, Jamestown, left; Basil George on the 599-step Jacob’s Ladder

Even so, Pickard got the job and is very upbeat. “You mustn’t make the mistake of thinking this is a mainstream destination,” he says. “Some of the places people build in the Amazon nowadays are amazing and that’s the sort of thing we have to look at. This is primarily about nature and walking; for people who read Wanderlust magazine. And don’t forget the deep-sea fishing and diving markets,” he adds, warming to his subject. “If there isn’t great fishing off this island, where is there? And the Napoleon market is underestimated. Air schedules will allow for a little more flexibility. But we’ll still be remote in the middle of the Atlantic.

Yet this paradise is not a pristine one. In many ways humanity’s discovery of St Helena gave it the worst of both worlds. Man ravaged the indigenous flora and fauna, much of it found nowhere else, without providing a lasting base of either industry or agriculture. While, in theory, this is an island where you can grow almost anything, fresh vegetables are hard to find and fresh fruit even harder.

My grandfather was a ship’s chandler,” says Capt Young. “All his contacts would deliver fresh produce and any type of vegetable the ships wanted.

Whispered doubts persist: the overhanging rock that dominates the approach path will be a nightmare for pilots, as will the mist and fog for which St Helena’s highlands are infamous [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Whispered doubts persist: the overhanging rock that dominates the approach path will be a nightmare for pilots, as will the mist and fog for which St Helena’s highlands are infamous

And now you’ve got a hold full of South African potatoes and onions heading to St Helena,” I say. “That’s mad, isn’t it?” “It is mad.

One of the island’s loveliest corners is called Lemon Tree Valley but it no longer has any lemon trees. “You can still grow anything here but it costs too much,” explains Rebecca Cairns-Wicks, an English biologist married to a Saint and operations director of the St Helena National Trust. “The place is plagued by wilts, blight, fruit fly and soil erosion. We’ve got a legacy of environmental mismanagement. Before man there were no mammals, no reptiles, no amphibians. Now we even have an invasive liverwort which feeds on native mosses.

The ecology of a small island is especially challenging because its species have such a small range, and then St Helena is full of microclimates and micro-ecologies. “The St Helena olive tree went extinct in 2003,” says Cairns-Wicks. “I watched the last one die and I couldn’t save it. It was so horrid. I said at the time I wanted it not to have died in vain, and that it would never happen again.

While two other native trees, the bastard gumwood and the St Helena ebony, are now being nursed back after going down to the last two, 300 of the island’s 400 unique invertebrates are under threat of extinction.

Flax, the imported plant that sustained St Helena’s balance sheet until rope-makers found cheaper artificial alternatives, now runs rampant across the countryside, strangling competitors. For older islanders it does not bring back happy memories. Basil George, just turned 80, had a barefoot childhood before becoming a labourer in South Africa, then returned home to become a policeman, teacher, headmaster, chief education officer, poet, potter and tour guide. “We were poor because the flax industry was paying a pittance. We never actually went without food and we did have shoes, but only for Sundays. Most of us were brought up in a good British tradition. You had to be resourceful, you had to have manners.

Though a Thatcher-era law (repealed in 2002) deprived the Saints of full British citizenship, the poverty eased in the 1980s. The Falklands war created job opportunities working for the garrisons in both the Falklands and Ascension. It remains potentially more lucrative to clean latrines in Port Stanley than aspire to middle management in Jamestown.

From left: the first test flight lands at Prosperous Bay in 2015; the airport fire service; and, the new airport terminal and control tower [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
From left: the first test flight lands at Prosperous Bay in 2015; the airport fire service; and, the new airport terminal and control tower

Some exiles do very well. Remittances from abroad have supported the economy and brought hundreds of new homes, largely self-built with neighbour-labour. “We run a very informal economy in a global free market,” says George. “But 80 per cent of us have our own family homes. That’s an indicator of how far we’ve come. And we have 80 different charitable organisations. That’s a strong civil society.

Nonetheless, the island endures other problems. There are more deaths than births. And, though there is a labour shortage, partly due to the boom created by the airport construction, wages remain terrible: expats on short-term contracts earn two, three, four times more than their local equivalents, depending how you do the calculations.

The tradition of emigration helps explain the lack of entrepreneurs that so frustrates the chief secretary. This also bothers Mandy Peters, now 51, who left school at 15 but has risen to become chief executive of Solomon’s, the livestock to retail conglomerate that dominates much of the island’s business. “We have a very strong senior management team [unusually, almost all home-grown - eight Saints and one Nigerian]. But we sometimes struggle to get people to step up. There’s a lack of taking responsibility, of wanting to take responsibility.” Or, as one incomer puts it more bluntly, “The ones with get up and go have got up and gone.

This manifests itself even more starkly in St Helena’s appalling politics. The most-used word on the island is “they”: “they” are doing this; “they” want that. It is never wholly clear who “they” are: some amalgam of the government and the elite - but nearly all of them definitely here-today, gone-tomorrow expats.

There is an elected legislative council that selects an executive, which, according to the St Helena government website, “advises the governor in most areas of government policy”. I looked in on one of its meetings, and the tone was supplicatory, not executive. It is astonishing that a territory with sparky, intelligent people who thrive overseas should be governed as if this were 1890.

Mandy Peters, chief executive of Solomon’s, left, and May Young at her shop in Jamestown [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Mandy Peters, chief executive of Solomon’s, left, and May Young at her shop in Jamestown

Three years ago a plan to have a chief councillor, a role that might have mutated into one of leadership, was heavily defeated in a referendum with a 10 per cent turnout. This feels like a terrible decision. One visiting scientist calls the islanders’ situation “learnt helplessness”, the fate that afflicts wild animals brought up in zoos. “The population are used to following outside orders,” says Dancoisne-Martineau. “The mentality has become deeply rooted.

It is not just the islanders’ fault. “They [that word again] are really into secrecy, even on the most insignificant things,” Dancoisne-Martineau adds. This is a universal opinion and, as a result, distrust of the government is also universal. In such a tight-knit community, rumour spreads like the leftover flax plants, strangling the few truths that exist. The Saints’ deep-rooted belief in God and the royal family is nothing like as strong as their certainty that the airport is primarily intended as a British military base, which makes no sense. Rumour is equally convinced that the airport will not be ready for the opening ceremony, scheduled for May, and that the RMS will have to stay in service beyond its planned farewell in July.

The failings of government in St Helena were exposed last month by the publication of a report into allegations of widespread child abuse, by Sasha Wass QC (who led the successful prosecution case against Rolf Harris). Wass concluded that the stories of depravity were massively exaggerated but also found the St Helena government secretive, and had trouble getting access to the relevant files - she discovered that hers was the 35th outside report into child abuse on St Helena since 1998.

In her report, she criticised the present governor, Governor Mark Capes, quoting local interviewees who called him “a headmaster” and “colonial”, while also accusing him of abnegating responsibility by over-delegating: “The Governor of St Helena’s august title belies the need for a shirt-sleeved manager.

Distrust of the government is universal…The Saints’ deep-rooted faith in God and the royal family is nothing like as strong as their certainty that the airport is primarily intended as a British military base

The word I heard most often to describe Capes was “remote”, like the island itself, though no man can successfully be an island in a community the size of a small English market town. Capes, however, was overseas when I visited, and not available for interview in the UK either. The kindest opinions do give him credit for driving through the airport project.

I was outraged by an incident, recounted in Wass’ report, whereby Capes used a power to dissolve the legislative council because it seemed unlikely to agree to his plan to build a new prison in Jamestown’s main residential suburb, Half Tree Hollow. The present tiny Victorian jail is a slum and needs to move but the new site should obviously be decided by the islanders who must live with it, not some London-appointed satrap who will be gone before 2016 is out. The last native-born governor was appointed in 1873, before even Jonathan arrived.

The relationship with all the governors seems mutually abusive. The Saints I met struggle to remember the names but they do remember their occasional humiliations: the one who suffered a petition against his rule, the one who was locked in his office by protesters and had his tie pulled, and the one who almost fell in the water, plumed hat and all, when greeting Prince Andrew.

You should have the job,” I say, only half-teasingly, to Basil George. “No St Helenian wants to be admiral of a rowing boat,” he replies. “Especially if it has only one oar in the water.

For all that, I found St Helena a magical place. It matches Trinidad or New Orleans for parades. It is also the global capital of nicknaming: older islanders can instantly identify the likes of ‘Pickaxe’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Darlings’, ‘Fishcake’, ‘Tommy Punch’, ‘Teabag’{4}, ‘New Pence’ and ‘Fartegg’.

Two incidents brought home the sense of community. One came on my first - hot - afternoon when, having failed to find tea (nothing open), I walked up the hill to the edge of Jamestown and began to crave an ice-cream. Eventually, I found a small, rather random little shop of the sort lost to Britain in the 1950s. A kindly grey-haired woman was behind the counter. “Do you have any ice-cream, please?” “No, sorry. But Dora might. I’ll phone her.” “No ice-cream, only ice lollies,” she reported back. “That would be lovely.” So she instructed a small girl to lead me across the road to a private house where Dora sold me a 50p lolly from her back door. (Later, I went back and asked the shopkeeper her name. “May Young,” she said. “Any relation to Rodney, the captain?” “I’m his mama!” she replied proudly.)

Something even more telling came when I visited the island production of Cinderella. It was a typical English village-hall pantomime, except for one thing: in the audience were various clients of Shape, St Helena’s charity for the disabled. Some were severely handicapped mentally, and screamed so loudly at the wrong moments that the actors could barely be heard. In England there would have been shushing and dirty looks, and the embarrassed carers would have wheeled their charges out. But, on St Helena, these were not anonymous sad cases, they were all known: somebody’s brother, somebody’s son. They had a right to be there.

The islanders have too many people lost from sight. The boat that took me home was also taking the émigrés back to Ascension after Christmas. The atmosphere on board was far more sombre than on the journey from Cape Town. And the requests on Saint FM that morning included ‘When Will I See You Again?’, ‘Goodbye is the Saddest Word’ and, of course, ‘Sailing’. The tears on the quayside were real and poignant. I heard one teenage boy saying goodbye to his mate: “Jimmy. Have a nice…” he groped for the word “…Life,” he said finally.

Me, I ache to return. And I hope for good news. That would include new industry, though Enterprise St Helena’s impressive brochure for investors does not include my own big idea: it would be the perfect setting in terms of both growing conditions and security for Britain’s first legal marijuana farm. Nor does the brochure mention the obvious site for the much-needed new hotel: Governor Capes’ underused mansion. This is not that radical an idea: it was suggested in 1938 by the island’s historian, Philip Gosse.

My fear, though, is that the airport will not generate enough tourism to make a real difference. And if it did, then St Helena’s fragile human ecology would soon go the way of its natural balance. I do hope for the continued health of Jonathan. The local vet Joe Hollins is certain the giant tortoise is now blind but has repaired his beak to help him graze, and supplemented his diet with fresh fruit, which, ironically, most islanders struggle to get.

What the island needs most of all, however, is a successor to its most famous resident of all. It needs its own home-grown Napoleon - more pacific but equally forceful - to give it the leadership and self-respect it deserves.

Our Comment: This article sets out many challenges for our new Governor, when she takes office in April 2016.

See also: RMS St HelenaNapoleon BonaparteCould you live here?Saint FM Community Radio

Go back to the top of the page


Royal Mail Ship St Helena to Retire

By Wendy Laursen, The Maritime Executive, 20th January 2016{3}

RMS in James Bay (Evening) [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

The RMS St Helena will be missed dearly when she retires this year after 26 years of service.

The RMS St Helena is one of the last three remaining Royal Mail Ships in operation and has been servicing the British Overseas Territory Island of St Helena Island and her dependencies for the past 26 years.

St Helena lies in the South Atlantic Ocean, 4,000 kilometres east of Rio de Janeiro and 1,950 kilometres west of the Kunene River which marks the border between Namibia and Angola in southwestern Africa.

The RMS St Helena first came into service in 1990 and primarily shuttles between the St Helena Island, neighboring Ascension Island and Cape Town.

Other than the sporadic international cruise ship visit over the years, the RMS St Helena has been St Helena’s only constant link with the outside world. It’s a legacy that will come to an end this year as the island will open its first airport.

The current RMS St Helena was built by Hall, Russell & Company in Aberdeen, and is Registered Class 1 passenger/cargo ship. She is British registered, 6,767 gross tons and has berths for a maximum of 156 passengers plus 56 officers and crew.

She is equipped to carry all manner of cargo to meet the needs of the Island’s small 4,000 population. From wind turbines to automotive parts; sheep, goats, and Christmas turkeys to furniture, food and paint, everything has to be carried by ship to the island.

Her industry and freight importance aside she provides St Helenian’s the world over a connection to their home island.

RMS 1990-2016 Poster [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Resident Emma-Jane Richards has created a commemorative poster to mark the vessel’s retirement. She reminisces:

When I was younger I always hesitated when someone asked me ‘where are you from? I can’t quite pin down your accent’. Not because I am embarrassed of my heritage or the way I sound.

On the contrary I am very proud of where I’m from. No, my hesitation comes solely from explaining, what often is met with bewilderment, that I am from a small isolated, obscure island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. That remote outcrop of volcanic rock is one of a few remaining British Overseas Territories around the world; St Helena Island.

The bewilderment and disbelief quickly changes into pure excitement when people find out just how isolated St Helena is and the logistics of how you get there. Up until now the only way to access the island was via sea. Yes, you read right, in a world where the other side of the world is just 24 hours flight away or you can jet off for a weekend to any major European city in the course of just a few hours, you still have to make an epic journey to reach a place like St Helena.

At its quickest route you fly for some nine hours to the closest land mass, its sister island Ascension Island, where you board one of the last remaining Royal Mail Ships in the world and sail for two to three days. Or alternatively, you fly to Capetown in South Africa and catch the ship there to sail for five full days before the island looms on the horizon. In the course of my life I have made the journey to and from the St Helena many times, four of which were on a long 14 day journey direct between the Island and Portsmouth.

Some journeys have been through record high waves, others on ocean so still and expansive it feels like you’re not even moving. The constant in all those journeys has been a vessel that holds an endearing place in many hearts.

A vital physical link for islanders to the ‘outside’ world, the RMS St Helena has, for generations, been a steady, loyal friend who offered a welcomed break from the isolation island life offers.

To some she is just a boat who simply transports cargo and mail to and from our island home. But to many the RMS St Helena represents far more than that, she has tirelessly served the people of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. Bringing long lost friends and family back home on triumphant returns. She’s been the backdrop to childhood adventures and given Saints everywhere something to be proud off. If you have had the pleasure and privilege of travelling or working on the RMS St Helena you, my friend, have been a part of a beautiful history.

See also: RMS St HelenaFly here?

Go back to the top of the page


Healthy Diet Helps 183-Year-Old Tortoise Feel Young Again

By Jason Bittel, National Geographic, 8th January 2016{3}

Jonathan, the world’s oldest known animal, is regaining his health after eating more nutritious foods.

Jonathan’s species, the Aldabra giant tortoise, nearly went extinct in the 18th and 19th centuries as people hunted them for food [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Jonathan’s species, the Aldabra giant tortoise, nearly went extinct in the 18th and 19th centuries as people hunted them for food

What a drag it is getting old,” the Rolling Stones famously sang. And nobody knows that more than Jonathan, the 183-year-old Aldabra giant tortoise that’s thought to be the oldest known living animal on Earth.

Old age has caught up with Jonathan, robbing him of his senses of sight and smell and, until a few years ago, relegating him to an unhealthy diet of twigs on the British island territory of St Helena, off Africa’s western coast.

But in 2014, local veterinarian Joe Hollins noticed Jonathan’s plight and started giving the reptile a more nutritious menu, which includes apples, carrots, cucumbers, bananas, and guava.

A year later, Jonathan is back in the news, and seemingly healthier, according to Hollins’ latest update on a St Helena information website{5}.

The feeding has improved him surprisingly,” Hollins wrote on December 7th.

His once blunt and crumbly beak has become sharp and lethal, so he was probably suffering from microdeficiencies of vitamins, minerals and trace elements.

Colonial Food

Also known as the Seychelles giant tortoise, the Aldabra giant tortoise can grow up to 550 pounds and is native to several islands in the Indian Ocean.

Most island populations of the species went extinct in the 18th and 19th centuries as people hunted them for food. Today, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the tortoises as vulnerable to extinction.

While most of the world’s remaining population of wild Aldabra giant tortoises lives on the Aldabra Atoll, an outer island of the Seychelles near Madagascar, Jonathan has been living on Saint Helena since 1882.

According to the Seychelles News Agency, he was likely a gift to the British governor at the time, and still lives on the grounds of the governor’s plantation house.

There is a chance that he’ll either drop dead tomorrow or live until he’s 250 and see us all off,” Hollins wrote.

A Tortoise of a Different Color

Many people have never heard of the Aldabra giant tortoise, and might even mistake the species for its cousins found half a world away on the Galápagos Islands. But these tortoises are quite different.

Aldabra giant tortoises “are much more interesting and sociable than most people would expect,” says Justin Gerlach, the scientific coordinator for the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles. In the wild, they form groups or herds that like to congregate in open grasslands. And “in captivity, if kept well, they will seek out human company,” says Gerlach. Some of the tortoises even like to be stroked, he says.

See also: Jonathan the tortoise

Go back to the top of the page


Why St Helena, One of the World’s Most Remote Islands, May Be Overrun in 2016

By Mary Holland, Conde Naste Traveller, 30th December 2015{3}

Will the site of Napoleon’s exile become a tourist destination in 2016? [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Will the site of Napoleon’s exile become a tourist destination in 2016?

Some 122Km², St Helena is a tiny speck in the Atlantic Ocean with incredible history. It’s been nearly inaccessible - until now.

In the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, some 1,800 miles from the coast of South America and 1,200 miles from the southwest coast of Africa, sits a wildly beautiful volcanic island - a speck, if anything, on the world map. So far out is St Helena that it was chosen as the place of Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile and death; so inaccessible is this island, the only way to reach it is by boat. Factually speaking, it is one of the most remote islands in the world.

But for an island that’s only 122Km² and home to around 4,200 inhabitants, one of St Helena’s biggest draws is its hard-to-reach location: You won’t find hordes of tourists swinging their selfie sticks or locals trying to sell you trinkets on every corner. Those hoping to make it to St Helena can board the RMS Saint Helena, a working Royal Mail ship that makes the five-and-a-half day voyage every three weeks from Cape Town, South Africa. This may be a novel experience for tourists, but the inconvenient schedule and long journey make it difficult for the Saints - an affectionate name for the locals - to travel.

Come February 2016, this may all change with the completion of an on-island airport financed by the U.K. government. Comair, a South African company that operates British Airways flights, has already announced that it will be launching one weekly flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, every Saturday morning on a Boeing 737-800 that can carry up to 120 passengers. After an hour of turnaround time, the plane will leave St Helena and make the five-hour journey back to Johannesburg. And while one weekly flight may not seem like a lot, on an island that has never seen a commercial airplane, it’s akin to sending a spaceship to the Saints.

What exactly draws travelers by the boatload to this British colony in the middle of nowhere? Relatively unspoiled landscapes and untouched nature, for one: Beneath the shadow of what amounts to a soaring, ruined cathedral of volcanic rock is a rugged paradise, one of sand dunes and lush green hills and a coastline where dolphins and whales are often spotted. St Helena draws nature lovers and avid birders alike. Diana’s Peak National Park, home to 60 known native species of plants - 45 of which exist nowhere else in the world - is utterly pristine. In addition, the island’s mountains and subtropical climates make for exceptional coffee-growing conditions, and although farms are not abundant, it produces some of the best (and most expensive) coffee in the world. Caffeine consumption and spectacular natural beauty aside, St Helena is heavy on the history: The island is Britain’s second-oldest remaining overseas territory (just behind Bermuda), with vestiges of the East India Company - you dock at Jamestown Bay - and Napoleon’s tenure here (his residences, the Briars and Longwood, and his tomb, though not his final resting place, remain).

Flights between St Helena and South Africa will undoubtedly make it easier for the outside world to come in, as well as provide the Saints with smoother transportation to and from the island. Locals and international companies are already gearing up for the expected surge in tourism, and more hotels are set to open in the foreseeable future: Mantis Collection, whose eco-conscious boutique hotels dot remote landscapes around the world, is reportedly developing a four-star hotel on the island.

With new flights, new technology, and new hotels soon to come, old traditions on St Helena may inevitably be lost: The RMS Saint Helena, which has become part of the fabric of the island, will make her final voyage next year. For many visitors, the journey was half of the adventure, and some may think that allowing more access to the island will result in St Helena losing part of her charm. We’ll see if the Saints go marching out as well.

See also: Fly here?Visitor Information

Go back to the top of the page


Lonely Planet declares St Helena one of the top regions in the world for 2016

Printed in the St Helena Independent, 30th October 2015{3}

St Helena - “the faintest of paradisiacal punctuation points on the bright blue page of the South Atlantic Ocean” - has been named one of the top regions in the world for travellers in 2016. The region receives the accolade in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016, the highly anticipated collection of the world’s hottest trends, destinations and experiences for the year ahead. The bestselling, inspirational travel yearbook from the world’s leading travel authority highlights the top ten countries, cities and regions to visit in 2016.

Lonely Planet, Best in Travel 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

According to the book:

Previously the only way to visit St Helena was by sailing 3100km from Cape Town on the RMS Saint Helena - a 10-day return trip - but it will soon be part of the planet-less-lonely when its much-talked about airport finally opens in 2016.

The airport will doubtless change St Helena eventually, but it won’t make it any less exciting or curious as a destination in the short term. Mobile phone reception will remain a rumour, cars will be decades behind the times, drivers will still wave when passing and island life, including the unique flora and fauna that so intrigued Darwin, will continue at its own somnambulant pace.

St Helena featured tenth on the list of top regions. Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 contributor, Tom Hall, explains, “St Helena has spent 14 million years in glorious geographic isolation making it the Galápagos of the South Atlantic. It boasts about 500 endemic species not known anywhere else in the world. With its new airport opening in 2016, St Helena is finally becoming more accessible so travellers will now be able to experience the wonder of this island for themselves.

The destinations featured in the book are selected because they meet certain criteria; it could be that something special is going on in the year ahead or there’s been recent development and a lot of buzz about the place, that it offers travellers new things to see or do, or that the Lonely Planet team of experts thinks it’s been overlooked and underrated and suggests travellers visit before the crowds do.

Top 10 Regions in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 are:
1. Transylvania, Romania
2. West Iceland
3. Valle de Viñales, Cuba
4. Friuli’s wine regions, Italy
5. Waiheke Island, New Zealand
6. The Auvergne, France
7. Hawaii, USA
8. Bavaria, Germany
9. Costa Verde, Brazil
10. St Helena

More at www.lonelyplanet.com/st-helena.

See also: Visitor Information

Go back to the top of the page


Remote St Helena island welcomes first flight

By Emma Weaver, The Guardian, 17th September 2015{3}

A new era arrives for the south Atlantic island of St Helena, one of the remotest places in the world, as it waves goodbye to the mail ship and welcomes its first flight

Jamestown, the capital of St Helena, viewed from James Bay [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Jamestown, the capital of St Helena, viewed from James Bay

The first plane to land on one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world - so remote even Napoleon Bonaparte could not escape from it - touched down earlier this week.

After taking off from Johannesburg, the Beechcraft King Air 2000 travelled nearly 2,000km north-west to a dark speck of land that rises out of the Atlantic. Nothing but clouds normally pass above St Helena - which measures 17km by 10 and has a population of around 5,000 - but on 15th September a twin-engine plane descended upon the tiny landmass. It was an unusual flight, to an unusual airport, in an unusual place.

St Helena is a British Overseas Territory that until now has been accessible only by the Royal Mail Ship St Helena (which offers journeys of between five days and nearly two months on its voyages between Cape Town, Ascension Island and the UK, among others). The recent test flight precedes the opening of St Helena airport in February 2016, one of the most significant developments in the island’s history.

The Beechcraft King Air 2000 plane lands at St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The Beechcraft King Air 2000 plane lands at St Helena

The company contracted to construct the airport had never worked on a project of this scale, or of this type, before.

The set-up and mobilisation took a whole year,” said Charles Schwarz, human relations manager for the Basil Read St Helena Airport Project. “The isolation of the island and the logistics of getting every nut and bolt transported to the island by ship was challenging.

Transportation of materials was not the only obstacle to the construction. The geology of the island - which, as Charles Darwin put it “rises abruptly like a huge black castle from the ocean” - did not provide an obvious location for a runway, requiring 7.6 million metres³ of mountain to be blasted out and then land-filled in a neighbouring valley.

The RMS St Helena was built in 1989 specifically to supply the island [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The RMS St Helena was built in 1989 specifically to supply the island

Most islanders are excited at the opportunities the airport will bring: quicker access to medical care, and quicker transportation for overseas islanders who take holiday time from work to journey home.

However, there is also disappointment at the loss of their ship, which will be decommissioned when the airport opens. The St Helena is the last working Royal Mail Ship and carries on a maritime tradition the island has had since its discovery in 1502.

Marlene Harris, assistant purser on the ship, has worked on board for 13 years. “This ship is one-of-a-kind and will definitely be a loss to the island,” she said. “For some people, the ship is the holiday. They get on board and they experience St Helena through the workers, and through the food - including ‘Saint’ dishes such as stuffed tuna steaks, goat meat curry, and ‘bread and dance’ (or tomato paste sandwiches). They don’t want to fly; they want to do something special.

View of Half Tree Hollow from High Knoll Fort on St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
View of Half Tree Hollow from High Knoll Fort on St Helena

Pamela Ward Pearce, a St Helenian and recently-elected member of the island’s executive council, said the island has a lot to offer. “The walking here provides some of the most starkly beautiful and spectacular landscapes,” she says. And during certain months it’s possible to swim with whale sharks in the bay.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb - in the Alarm Forest district - and his final residence, Longwood House, offer tours, while the lack of light pollution allows for stunning views of the night sky.

With one flight successfully on the ground, St Helena will now prepare for the airport’s opening - and an expected increase in tourism. A 32-room hotel is planned (at the moment there are just a handful of guesthouses and B&Bs) but no company has been contracted to build it yet.

So far, British Airways Comair is the only airline set to operate the five-hour flight to St Helena from Johannesburg (at an estimated £600 return) on a Boeing 737-800. It will carry about 120 passengers and a small amount of cargo to and from the island every Saturday. In doing so, the little island in the middle of the South Atlantic will become a little less remote.

See also: Fly here?RMS St Helena

Go back to the top of the page


The allure and attractions of St Helena

By Michael Arkus, Lonely Planet, 4th September 2015{3}

It’s hard to think of an isolated speck of land more synonymous with inaccessibility than St Helena. After all, this seemingly lost island in the middle of the South Atlantic was chosen as the place of Napoleon’s final exile. But there is so much more here for the traveller - hike past soaring crags and through alpine meadows, take to the seas by boat, or explore historic villages, chatting with welcoming Saints (locals) at each passing.

The island of St Helena: 1,200 miles from Africa, 1,800 miles from South America [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The island of St Helena: 1,200 miles from Africa, 1,800 miles from South America

Jamestown and its Georgian houses

Jamestown, the capital of St Helena, is neatly wedged between the Atlantic and the steep sides of a narrow ravine. Founded in 1659 by English colonists, and named after James II while he was still the Duke of York, Jamestown is home to several historic sites and numerous handsome Georgian manses. An informative museum contains artefacts and stories from the island’s long history, including the wooden crates that carted Napoleon’s belongings into exile. Behind the museum and past collection of old cannons is Jacob’s Ladder, a lung-busting set of 699 steep steps that precariously climb straight up the ravine to Half Tree Hollow - if not to heaven as their biblical predecessor, then at least to a heavenly view.

Back in town on a less lofty footing is one of many nods to Napoleon - an effigy of him in full regalia stands on the first-floor balcony of the Consulate Hotel, looking out at a blue mansion named after his nemesis, the Duke of Wellington. But, contrary to myth, the duke didn’t reside here during his visits - he passed his time in the now-demolished (Old) Porteous House.

Another site, one that would not look amiss in rural England, is St. James’ Church - it’s across a moat and through a gate beneath the restored castle fort.

Historic Jamestown, with Jacob’s Ladder climbing up to Half Tree Hollow [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Historic Jamestown, with Jacob’s Ladder climbing up to Half Tree Hollow

Half Tree Hollow and the crags above Jamestown

Visitors who climb Jacob’s Ladder past the wheeling and swooping of red-beaked, long-tailed white tropic birds will find themselves in Half Tree Hollow, St Helena’s largest town (for those of lesser stamina, cars and minibuses switchback up the road from Jamestown). No matter how you arrive, the vistas - over precipitous cliffs to the never-ending blues of the South Atlantic, down to Jamestown and inland to green mountains - are spectacular. Above Half Tree Hollow are the long walls and vast rounded keep of High Knoll Fort, which was built as a stronghold against invasion in 1798.

On the opposite side of the ravine to Half Tree Hollow is a trail (found off Napoleon Street{6} in Jamestown) that climbs diagonally up the rock face to Rupert’s Bay, passing Munden’s Battery and centuries-old cannon emplacements that were built into the cliffs. Behind it, cliffs plunge vertically down to the Atlantic, while in front looms the stark black mass of St Helena’s Sugar Loaf, with its huge square hump crowning its summit.

Jonathan and the Plantation House

Set in a wooded valley a couple of miles from Jamestown is Plantation House, a Georgian mansion built in 1791-92. Its most distinguished resident is arguably not the governor, but Jonathan, a Seychelles tortoise who is more than 180 years old. When not snoozing, he moves across the lawn at a glacial pace in search of a meal. Vegetable allotments dot the slopes nearby, and a narrow cove stretches out to the South Atlantic. A side path from the house leads through thick woods and giant bamboo stands to slave graves from the mid-18th century.

Jonathan (St Helena’s oldest resident) and Plantation House [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Jonathan (St Helena’s oldest resident) and Plantation House

Napoleon’s ‘homes’ away from home

Longwood House, Napoleon’s final abode, is a green-shuttered villa in the island’s emerald uplands. While it afforded the former emperor fine views of Flagstaff and The Barn, a conical emerald hill and massive oblong crag respectively, the temperatures here were not kind (it can be 10 degrees Fahrenheit lower than on the coast). Eleven of the rooms, each painted imperial green, contain much of Napoleon’s original furniture, as well busts of him and his wives. Look out for the two holes in the shutters where he is said to have cut openings for his telescope to spy on his guards.

Down a sloping green tunnel of trees not far from Longwood lies Geranium Valley, a peaceful flowery bower. Here, overlooking Devil’s Punch Bowl ravine, is where Napoleon was buried in 1821. The tomb had no name due to Anglo-French differences on the wording, and his body was eventually repatriated to Paris for a state funeral 19 years later. Prior to life at Longwood House, Napoleon spent seven weeks at Briars Pavilion, a single-roomed chalet in a valley surrounded by wooded hills. Inside, there’s a table and various Napoleonic memorabilia. Longwood and Briars have both been deeded to France, as shown by the French tricolour flying outside each.

Longwood House, the final home of Napoleon Bonparte during his exile [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Longwood House, the final home of Napoleon Bonparte during his exile

Post Box walks

The island’s stunning variance in terrain and petite size - just 10 miles long and no more than six miles wide - make it ideal for hiking. The community has created 20 ‘Post Box’ walks, some easy, some moderate, some very difficult. They are so named because at the end of each is a post box containing an ink stamp and a visitors’ book.

One near Jamestown leads to the impressive Heart Shaped Waterfall. Others, like Diana’s Peak, take visitors to lofty summits inaccessible by 4WD. Some access popular sights such as Sandy Bay Beach, but via starkly beautiful and treacherously precipitous slopes.

Hiker looking down to Sandy Bay, St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Hiker looking down to Sandy Bay, St Helena

Rounding the ramparts by sea

A cruise round the island is the best way to experience St Helena’s impregnable natural fortifications. From the sea the massive crags are even more forbidding than from land - stark grey, black, sometimes with a scant dusting of green. There’s also no better way to take in the island’s marine life than from a boat. Three different species of dolphin regularly flirt with the surface, as do humpback whales during the austral winter. St Helena’s well preserved coral ecosystems and their accompanying endemic fish species make diving a welcome addition to any oceangoing foray.

Road tripping around St Helena

Taking to the road by car is a rewarding prospect on St Helena, with the landscape changing at every turn. Wildflowers, coffee plantations (Napoleon did love the brew here), waterfalls, stands of Norfolk pine and Australian eucalyptus, and carpets of New Zealand flax waving in the wind - it is a kaleidoscopic scene on so many levels. Above it all yellow canaries and crimson-bellied red cardinals add flashes of colour.

To the island’s southeast, the road twists precipitously above the brilliant green hill and red roofs of Sandy Bay village, its backdrop a huge green-dusted monolith called Lot and a frozen stormy sea of craggy ridges. Four jagged pinnacles tear at the sky - one of them Lot’s wife. At Sandy Bay Beach, the landscape becomes totally barren, the blue ocean frothing and spraying against dark black volcanic outcrops. The Gates of Chaos, massive crags on the razor sharp ridge above, conjure up a scene worthy of Planet of the Apes.

See also: Visitor InformationJamestownJacob’s LadderHistoric BuildingsJonathan the tortoisePlantation HouseNapoleon BonaparteLongwood HouseWalking St HelenaDriving in St Helena

Go back to the top of the page


mygreenpod.com on St Helena

By Katie, mygreenpod.com, 14th August 2015{3}

Martin Wright takes a Royal Mail ship to one of the world’s remotest inhabited islands

One-third of the way across the South Atlantic from Africa to America, in one of the emptiest oceans in the world, lies an extraordinary sliver of Britain. And in the middle of the sliver is a micro slice of France.

Named after the Saint’s day on which it was discovered - five centuries past - by astonished Portuguese sailors, St Helena is one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands. But it doesn’t always feel that way. Walk up Main Street in Jamestown, the ‘capital’, and you’ll find much that’s familiar - if a little out of time.

On the one hand you can imagine yourself in a Devon market town from the 1950s: the pace of life’s easy, with people gossiping on benches outside their whitewashed houses. On the other hand young men sport shades at the wheel of their 4x4s, flush from a spell of work on the military bases on Ascension Island or the Falklands, bass-heavy music hammering out of their stereos.

THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

mygreenpod.com St Helena 01 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

First, though, you have to get there. In 2016 St Helena’s first airport will open - and the island will be tugged sharply into the 21st century. For now, unless you own a yacht, you’ll spend five days and nights sailing out from Cape Town on the ‘Royal Mail Ship St Helena’.

Like the island, it’s one of a kind. Virtually everything that travels to or from the place does so on the ‘RMS’: people (living and dead), fridge freezers, cars, food… It’s the island’s sole lifeline - and the last in a line of ships built specially for the task.

The journey is a combination of the banal and the wild, with Bovril for elevenses, quiz nights and deck cricket - all with the wide, wild immensity of the blue sea all around, unblemished from horizon to horizon. The RMS strikes out far from the nearest shipping lanes, settlements or even flight paths. A hundred, a thousand, a million years ago, the outlook beyond the rail would have been the same. This really is the middle of nowhere.

Next year the RMS will be pensioned off and the first tourists will be jetting in from Johannesburg to a spanking new airport which, the government hopes, will catalyse economic development. It’s a big ask.

NAPOLEON AND THE STARS

mygreenpod.com St Helena 02 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

St Helena is a dependency in more than one sense of the word. Once a vital staging post on the journey east - before the Suez Canal stole its rite of passage - it’s now largely a subsidy economy. Many of the ‘Saints’, as the islanders refer to themselves, work for the government, or in government-owned businesses. Boosting tourism is key to prospects of a more independent, sustainable economy. And there is much for tourists to see.

Napoleon’s six years here - between Waterloo and his death in 1821 - already act as a tourist draw. The few acres comprising his house and tomb were given to France when Britain sought favour from Paris in the mid-19th century, and there is even a French consul general in residence to keep watch on this tiniest corner of La République.

The isolation that made St Helena suitable for tucking away an ex-Emperor attracts another sub species of tourist: stargazers. Far from any source of serious light pollution, the island has a quite astonishingly clear night sky. Stand in a valley sheltered even from the scattering of street lamps, and the stars seem so close you could almost pluck them by hand. Small wonder plans are afoot for it to become an official International Dark Sky Park.

AS FOR THE LANDSCAPE…

For a small island, the countryside is impressively varied. Starting from the coasts, bare, wave lapped cliffs rise to arid grassland and, in some cases, strips of rocky desert. The odd waft of sand serves as a reminder of a primeval sea floor, when the ocean was hundreds of metres higher than it is today.

This gives way to pasture - much of it bare, overgrazed and, in places, scarred with the red-earth gashes of gully erosion. There are swathes of quite English-looking countryside: hills and valleys intercut by winding, flower- banked lanes, a mix of pasture, plantation forest - pines, eucalypts - and patches of vegetable gardens.

Clinging to the ridge line of Diana’s Peak and Mount Actaeon is the cloud forest - a tangle of tree ferns, brackeny things and weird- looking, weirdly named spindly shrubs - ‘he cabbage’ and ‘she cabbage’.

Below the cloud forest, ever threatening to overwhelm it, is a vast blanket of flax - the pervasive relic of a Victorian attempt to inject a sense of industry into island life. Like most enterprise on St Helena this was a government- backed initiative; it provided the raw material for mail bags and a (barely) living wage for the islanders. The mills shut down in the ‘60s, but the flax remains, swallowing the ground, the big daddy of all the island’s (many) invasive species. From a distance it looks like a gorgeous sea of green, but beneath its photogenic surface it quietly smothered the native flora.

PLUNDERING PARADISE

mygreenpod.com St Helena 03 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Passengers on the RMS are issued with leaflets on ‘biosecurity’ in an effort to keep the endemics clinging on. It’s an uphill struggle. Old prints show that, by the time the landscape was first recorded, it was already stripped bare of most of its original vegetation, the tree ferns and hardwoods that had once cloaked the land. The lethal combination of man and goat had done its work.

Despite discovering the island the Portuguese never settled there themselves; instead they built a chapel, planted fruit trees and left behind goats, pigs and sick sailors who were left to recover in what must, briefly, have been a tropical paradise of clear flowing streams, fruits and forest. The forest was raided for timber and fuel - and the goats, of course, stopped it from coming back. A typical pattern: man cuts, goat hoovers. In the face of such an onslaught, it didn’t take long for the forest to fail.

When the English came in the 17th century, they carried on the despoliation. One visitor wrote of seeing a thousand goats in a single field: with that strength in numbers the trees never stood a chance. The English tried to conserve the dwindling ‘Great Wood’ by building a wall around it. But the goats persisted, and the forest shrunk to isolated remnants, clinging on in crevices and high peaks.

WIREBIRDS AND BLUSHING SNAILS

mygreenpod.com St Helena 04 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Conservationists remain optimistic that much can still be salvaged. With the support of the Department for International Development, the airport developers are restoring wetlands and helping with the creation of a ‘Millennium Forest’ to replace the Great Wood. Careful flax clearance is uncovering native species which, with impressive stubbornness, spring back to life. After years of retreat, the cloud forest is slowly gaining ground once again.

It’s not just conservation for the sake of it, either. Eco-tourism is a key part of the island’s offer, and with good reason. Dolphins, whales, whale sharks and bright blue angelfish circle the shoreline. St Helena has 50% of the UK’s endemic species, though few are of the charismatic megafauna (or flora) variety.

Instead, it’s a case of watch where you tread. Many are tiny: invertebrates skulking somewhere in the grasses, the coyly named blushing snail sliming along the tree ferns and the odd unremarkable flower or two. But there are more striking specimens, including the island’s unofficial emblem, the wirebird. This cute little plover, much predated by cats (feral and pet), is now fiercely protected. Cat traps are laid to catch prowling moggies: the pets are returned to their owners, the ferals put to terminal sleep.

SWAP SHIPS FOR PLANES, 4X4S FOR EVS

Replacing a ship with a plane hardly sounds sustainable, of course - but in terms of carbon it’s a close call. The environmental costs of feeding and fuelling a hundred or more people for a week at sea on a 30-year-old ship are far from negligible.

But for more decisive sustainability gains, the island needs to exploit its own resources. It’s recently opened a small solar farm to take advantage of all that tropical sun. When completed, this could supply 40% of the island’s power needs - replacing the diesel which, of course, has to be shipped in. There’s a longer term prospect of combining more solar with ocean thermal power in order to move close to self- sufficiency.

If islanders could be persuaded to swap their gas-guzzling 4x4s for electric vehicles, that could take it a step further down the sustainability track, as could converting some of the grazed-out pastures to vegetable gardens and horticulture.

None of this will come easy. Much depends on tourist dollars boosting government coffers - and on the ‘Saints’ themselves discovering an enthusiasm for sustainable enterprise. If those go together, St Helena could yet serve as an exemplary case study for small island sustainability the world over.

See also: Endemic SpeciesAstronomyVisitor Information

Go back to the top of the page


Napoleon and St Helena

By Brian Unwin{7}, Washington Examiner, 8th August 2015{3}

Napoleon’s image [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Two hundred years ago, on Aug. 8th, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte embarked at Plymouth on a British warship for the second time in his life. On this occasion it was the ship of the line, the Northumberland. The first time had been only just over three weeks before when, following his comprehensive defeat at the battle of Waterloo, and after agonizing days of indecision, he had surrendered near Rochefort on the French West coast to Captain Maitland of His Majesty’s Ship, Bellerophon, to be conveyed to England. His initial plan, after fleeing from Paris, had been to sail on a French frigate to America. But the Royal Navy had blockaded the port, leaving him little choice but to surrender.

He was not allowed to land at Plymouth while the British Cabinet decided what to do with him. Out of naivety or sheer effrontery he wrote to the Prince Regent, the future King George IV, to “throw myself upon the hospitality of the British people” and seek a comfortable residence somewhere in exile in England. But the government of Lord Liverpool, which had for years fought a life and death struggle with Napoleon, would have none of this and decided to send him to St Helena, a remote volcanic island in the South Atlantic, then in the possession of the British East India Company.

Accordingly, on Aug. 8th, Napoleon and his entourage were transferred kicking and screaming from the Bellerophon to the Northumberland to begin the long sea voyage to St Helena. They were accompanied by transport ships containing about 2,000 British troops, and an admiral in command of a small flotilla to keep a day and night watch on the island. Napoleon had escaped once from Elba and they were determined that he should not escape again.

St Helena has been a British possession since the mid-17th century and (until a new airport opens in 2016) remains one of the remotest inhabited places in the world, some 1,200 miles from Angola and 2,000 miles from Brazil. The only regular means of reaching it is still by the last Royal Mail Ship, St Helena, which makes the week long journey from Cape Town every three weeks or so. Napoleon landed there on the 15th of October and was to spend the next five and a half years in captivity, living with his 35 or more loyal companions in Longwood House, a damp and rambling converted farmhouse, whose amenities were light years away from the luxury of the palaces he had occupied in Paris and other great European capitals. Though free to roam the grounds of the house, he could not go beyond them except in the company of a British officer, and every evening at sunset British sentries with bayonets fixed closed in on and surrounded the house.

Napoleon fought tooth and nail against the restrictions imposed on him, which he regarded as a violation of every conceivable international law. He particularly detested the British governor sent out to watch over him, General Sir Hudson Lowe, describing him as “like a hyena in a trap” or a “Sicilian brigand,” and refusing to see him again after only six meetings in the early months. Lowe was not the most imaginative of jailors, but he tried hard to supply Napoleon with all reasonable amenities and comforts - except his freedom. He suffered, however, from strict orders to offer Napoleon what he regarded as the greatest and most provocative of insults, to address him formally as General Bonaparte rather than as His Majesty the Emperor Napoleon.

At first Napoleon believed, or hoped, that the British government and its allies would relent and allow him to return to Europe. But as time progressed, and some of his most senior companions left the island, he began to realise that there was no hope and that he would end his days there. He spent more and more time in his precious warm bath and his physical and psychological condition deteriorated.

Napoleon died a miserable and painful death at Longwood on May 5th, 1821. Although there are many conspiracy theories, some attributing his death to arsenic poisoning, it was almost certainly due to stomach cancer, from which his father had died at an early age. He was buried in a simple unmarked grave on the island, although the British government allowed the French in 1840 to disinter him and transfer his body to France, where it lies in state at Les Invalides in Paris.

Napoleon was a giant of his age, a great general whose legal and administrative reforms have also shaped much of the governance of France and the rest of Europe to this day. His death was the epitome of classical tragedy, the abrupt descent of a great man from the highest to lowest state. His last recorded words on his death bed were, “France, mon fils, l’armée, Joséphine” (“France, army, head of the army, Joséphine”){8} - four of the things that were most dear to him. What he did not mention was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of young soldiers and civilians from France and other countries that his imperial adventures had caused.

See also: Napoleon Bonaparte

Go back to the top of the page


Faslane divers called in to clear wreck in South Atlantic

Published on thelochsidepress.com, 23rd July 2015{3}

Archive image of the RFA Darkdale after she had been torpedoed [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Archive image of the RFA Darkdale after she had been torpedoed

Royal Navy divers based at Faslane were called in to clear explosives from a wreck in the South Atlantic.

They were deployed to St Helena to work on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Darkdale, a freighting tanker which refuelled warships during World War 2.

While at anchor in James Bay, she was torpedoed by German submarine U-68 in the early hours of October 22nd 1941, resulting in the loss of 41 crew members - with only two survivors.

The ship was split in two by the explosion, caught fire and sank within five minutes, remaining at a depth of 42 metres.

Members of the Fleet Diving Squadron above the Darkdale wreck [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Members of the Fleet Diving Squadron above the Darkdale wreck

In 2010, during a winter storm, the wreck released some of the oil that she had been carrying as cargo, leading to calls from the islanders who live in the British Overseas Territory for the Ministry of Defence to step in and prevent an environmental hazard.

The Northern Diving Group was sent from the Clyde, embarking on the RMS Saint Helena, the last operating Royal Mail Ship in the world and the only way to access the remote archipelago, which is 1,200 miles from the nearest land.

Using specialist equipment, divers were able to remain at depth for prolonged periods and went on to remove 38 large projectile items, totalling around 80kg of high explosives.

Lieutenant Olly Shepherd, who led the team, said: “It was an extremely challenging and remote location to work in, but the team performed exceptionally and we have successfully cleared the wreck of a significant explosive hazard. It certainly made a change from removing old ordnance around the freezing waters of the UK.

The clearance of the wreck allowed MoD salvage teams to start safely removing the trapped oil within the holding tanks of the wreck.

The operation is due to be complete by mid-August, allowing the wreck to remain safely in place as a haven for marine life.

The Royal Navy ship HMS Protector, moored off St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The Royal Navy ship HMS Protector, moored off St Helena

See also: DivingLost Ships

Go back to the top of the page


An End to Isolation

Broadcast on New Hampshire Public Radio, 21st July 2015{3}

The tiny island of Saint Helena remains one of the most inaccessible places on earth, but that is about to change as a British government-funded airport opens in the spring of 2016. Filmmaker Dieter Deswarte made two short films about life on the island for the BBC and he’s currently working on a feature-length documentary about life on the island.

Click on the icon to hear this audio file: 

(right-click to download) 

Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)] (3.8Mb)

See also: Fly here?

Go back to the top of the page


Scottish sheriff becomes appeals judge in world’s most remote court - without leaving Dundee

By David Leask, Herald Scotland, 9th July 2015{3}

The law has always had a long arm.

Lorna Drummond QC [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

But never quite as long as 5,000 miles. Until now.

A Scottish sheriff has been appointed to serve as an appeal court justice for the tiny and remote Atlantic islands of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. And Dundee-based Lorna Drummond QC may be able to serve her duties without actually visiting the volcanic outposts.

The sheriff - who spends most of her days laying down the law to benefit cheats and drunken louts in and around Perthshire, Fife and Angus - has unparalleled expertise in the law of the two islands.

She was, after all, once the only lawyer on Saint Helena, where the courts are run by lay magistrates. Ms Drummond, along with three English judges, will be responsible for reviewing their decisions but is not expected to need to journey to the islands.

The island was once effectively the world’s most isolated jail, the place where Britain exiled its enemies, such as Napoleon Bonaparte and later the rebel Zulus and Boers of South Africa.

Now peaceful Saint Helena, the tiny UK outpost in the South Atlantic, has the world’s smallest prison and barely any recorded crime, despite contradictory allegations of a culture of mass sex abuse of young girls.

The island, 2,500 miles east of Rio de Janeiro, is getting its first airport next year but is currently only reachable by a gruelling sea journey.

Still ruled by Britain, Saint Helena and its two sister territories, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha have just a few thousand citizens.

Ms Drummond said: “To date the court of appeal has dealt with only a very few cases. The papers are generally reviewed in the UK and travel to St Helena will not usually be necessary although it is still a possibility. The few cases there are will no doubt provide a contrast with my cases in Dundee.

Ms Drummond has been a solicitor and an advocate, parliamentary counsel in London and the crown counsel in Saint Helena, where she advised the island’s government on both civil and criminal court matters.

Saint Helena no longer has the death penalty. A decade ago Scottish advocate Edgar Prais QC was instructed to defend a teenager accused of murder following a bar brawl, and he flew from England to Ascension Island, then took the mail ship for the two-day journey to St Helena - staying at the house where Napoleon spent his last years in exile.

Go back to the top of the page


Meet the Banking Regulator With an 8,000-Mile Commute

By MAX COLCHESTER, Wall Street Journal, 16th June 2015{3}

Remote St Helena has a volcano, Napoleon’s empty tomb and a bank regulator who sails in

One day in February, a British bank regulator caught the boat on his regular commute.

Six days later, Chris Duncan arrived at work on a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean. The critical things were there: Napoleon Bonaparte’s empty tomb; Jonathan the tortoise; the stacks of cash to count in what may be the world’s smallest regulated financial system.

Mr. Duncan is Chairman of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of St Helena, a rocky tropical isle 1,200 miles off Africa’s coast. Amid burgeoning global financial regulation, even tiny outposts need oversight, Mr. Duncan says.

Could the financial system of St Helena, population about 4,600, ever implode? “Yes,” he says. Among other things, “the bank is on top of a volcano.

St Helena is a British Empire relic. Queen Elizabeth II has executive authority over it. The U.K. helps appoint the governor{9} who administers its 122Km².

The only way to get there is by sea, as Mr. Duncan does every year. There isn’t cellphone reception. It has a currency - the St Helena Pound - but no ATMs. It has one bank and, hence, needs a bank regulator.

Its residents, many of British, Asian or African origin call themselves ‘Saints.’ Some are descendants of settlers who made it a stopover for sailing ships after its discovery, uninhabited, in the 16th century. Today, big exports are fish and an expensive coffee said to have been enjoyed by Napoleon, who died there in exile and was later reburied in France.

The volcano that created the island is extinct, not much of a threat to its financial system. But St Helena faces upheaval of another sort: It is preparing for a global debut when its first airport opens next year.

We will be the newest tourist destination in the world,” says Niall O’Keeffe, chief executive for economic development at Enterprise St Helena, which promotes investment into the island.

Touted attractions include picturesque walks, Napoleon’s first tomb and Jonathan, a giant tortoise that lives on a colonial-mansion lawn and may be 183 years old. The rocky coastline doesn’t offer white-sand beaches, but it is pleasantly warm year-round.

Mr. O’Keeffe hopes airplanes will bring visitors to invigorate an economy long reliant on U.K. subsidies. Mr. Duncan worries visitors may include shadier types, perhaps money launderers aiming to exploit the offshore banking system. “I have been preparing for the time,” he says, “when the potential eyes of criminals will come into focus on such a place.

Thousands of miles north, from his house on England’s south coast, 67-year-old Mr. Duncan can oversee much of what happens at the island’s bank via computer.

But some things he just can’t see without going.

The credit-card system is limited, so cash prevails for many things. The Bank of St Helena’s busiest day is Thursday, says Rosemary Bargo, its general manager. That is when fresh vegetables arrive and a queue snakes outside as customers withdraw cash.

It once hand-delivered pay envelopes to government workers, who then queued to deposit them back. Now there is online banking; the bank expects an ATM soon.

The bank closes at 3 p.m. “But on the upside, there’s rarely any reason to spend money after dark anyway,” says August Graham, a Briton who recently moved to the island.

Mr. Duncan spent his career with British bank Barclays PLC working in West Africa, Japan and South Korea. Four years ago, as Mr. Duncan lined up at a lunch buffet for Barclays retirees, a former colleague suggested the St Helena job.

After consulting a map, he applied. “In retirement,” he says, “I have refused to go to the golf course.

Mr. Duncan takes his St Helena trip in February, when British weather is inclement.

It is a regulatory odyssey. Flying the roughly 6,000 miles to South Africa, he boards a Royal Mail Ship for St Helena, about 2,000 miles away. It boasts a fine galley, and sometimes passengers play cricket on deck. When it storms, he reads banking rules on his bunk.

Disembarking at the capital, Jamestown, he dons blazer and tie and embarks on a whirlwind tour. After checking in to a bed-and-breakfast, he meets the governor and bank management.

He goes on a radio phone-in show. “I get asked, ‘Is my money safe?’ and I say ‘Yes, it is.’

Mr. Duncan takes a hands-on regulatory approach. He looks inside the bank’s Victorian-era vault and inspects the bank notes that make up its £500,000 customer cash reserves. He visits the pub for local gossip. “It’s important to really kick the tires.

Outside a few minor procedural issues, he hasn’t found anything amiss.

More problematic is overseeing other islands under St Helena’s jurisdiction, including Tristan da Cunha, an archipelago of about 300 residents 1,500 miles farther south.

The archipelago includes Inaccessible Island and has no bank branch. “I don’t know what they do there,” Mr. Duncan says, adding he can’t justify the cost of visiting and relies on emailed reports and phone calls. Sometimes, he says, the U.K. Foreign Office calls him to check if the islands are solvent.

He isn’t worried St Helena’s government-owned bank is “too big to fail” but about how its 36 staff handle a visitor influx. He wants it to keep up with a global push to make banks safer, particularly by increasing money-laundering controls like identity checks.

Ms. Bargo, the bank manager, says its ‘Know Your Customer’ protocols are up to scratch: “We know everyone on the Island.

Off work, Mr. Duncan hikes, fishes and visits Jonathan. He soon ships back out: “A week for me is fine.

See also: Notes and Coins of St Helena

Go back to the top of the page


After a Waterloo artefact? Strand of Napoleon’s hair in Dorset auction

Lock ‘of Napoleon’s hair’ and accompanying letter [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Lock ‘of Napoleon’s hair’ and accompanying letter

By TraceyR, www.blackmorevale.co.uk, 2nd June 2015{3}

Always one for the weird and the wonderful, Cottees of Wareham have stumbled upon a single hair from Napoleon Bonaparte the Great Emperor’s head. Whether it was pinched when he was held in confinement on Saint Helena during the last six years of his life is a matter of conjecture but this is indeed an extraordinary find. The vendor’s family had stored the hair in a chest of drawers for many years before it fell in to auctioneer John Condie’s hands. As this year is the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo the hair is sure to fetch some attention, with collectors from near and far hoping to own a piece of Napoleon Bonaparte himself. The hair is held down with red wax and includes a note stating that the content of the small fold of paper is “A single hair of Napoleon Bonaparte’s head, 29th August 1816” and another stating “Obtained 5 May 1821” - the date of his death.

This curiosity is estimated at £100-£200 and will be offered for sale on Tuesday 9th June at Cottees Auctions in Wareham.

Author comment

Personally, before I bid even 200 pence for this item I’d like to see evidence that it came from the great man himself; maybe a DNA test that shows it was Napoleon’s, or at least that it is genetically related to all the other “strands of Napoleon’s hair” that seem to be floating around.

Update

The hair actually sold for £130 to an unidentified individual from the Dorset area.

See also: Napoleon Bonaparte

Go back to the top of the page


Al Pacino dreams of playing Napoleon

The Washington Post, 27th May 2015{3}

Al Pacino [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Al Pacino’s dream role is to play Napoleon Bonaparte.

The 75-year-old actor has revealed he’s wanted to portray the French military general on the big screen for a number of years and his ambition could be about to come true - as a script for the part has recently been presented to him.

He said: “Napoleon has been a dream of mine for a long time. It’s come close but this time it really could happen. There’s a great script about his last years on Saint Helena.

Saint Helena was the colonised British island where Napoleon was detained in 1815 after being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo by the British Army, and is where he died in 1821 at the age of 51.

The Hollywood legend - who at 5ft 6in is just an inch taller than Napoleon - is confident he could do the historical role justice as he’s sure it wouldn’t be impossible to imitate a man who lived almost 200 years ago.

In an interview with the Metro newspaper, he said: “People think you have to be the exact person but you can only give a version of someone. When I played (whistle-blowing New York cop) Frank Serpico I wasn’t being the real Serpico, even though he was there. It was my take.

See also: Napoleon Bonaparte

Go back to the top of the page


Ready Set Sail in St Helena

By Kippy Gilders, The Daily Herald, 25th April 2015{3}

‘An island stuck in time’

Daily Herald, Ready Set Sail in St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

A looming presence on the horizon, its heights hidden in dark clouds, after eleven days at sea, St Helena was in sight. It is said that St Helena is one of the most remote inhabited places in the world. But for some, its strategic position, roughly in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, makes it an ideal stopover during the passage from the Cape en route to the Caribbean.

Arriving at James Bay around midnight, the only signs of life were from the bright lights of a large container ship, and the occasional flash of headlights. Cautiously, we launched our tender so that Max and Al could seek out the mooring buoys, while Dani and I stood guard on Corina. After about an hour of careful movements, we were tied to a large buoy, surrounded by other seemingly abandoned boats tied in the same fashion. The following morning, we awoke to our first sight of James Bay; tall, sheer rock face with the only visible life in a small valley between the jagged rocks.

Saint Helena is an island of volcanic origin jutting out of the South Atlantic Ocean. The relative isolation of this small island has resulted in a rich history. Discovered in 1504{10}, her strategic importance was only realized when the trade route to the East was established around Cape of Good Hope. St Helena became a vital stopover for fresh supplies, and the British East India Company soon claimed her British territory.

Today, St Helena remains one of the most remote places on Earth. Other than by cruising yacht, the only access is possible by ship and is a five-day voyage from Cape Town on the RMS St Helena. This is the only connection to the rest of the world, and brings everything from mail to visitors to fresh produce. This isolation has left the island ‘stuck in time’. This is evident as there are no mobile networks on the island, only pay phones and land lines. If you can’t reach someone on his or her landline, then your next best option is to walk around the small capital of Jamestown and ask the shop owners if they’ve seen the person you’re looking for. With an area of 122Km², and just over 4,000 inhabitants, it’s quite likely you’ll find who you’re looking for!

The capital of Jamestown consists of little more than a single street, running up a narrow, deep-sided valley for a mile. In town, you’ll find a few snack bars, some shops, one hotel, an information office, and a bank. The roads leading inland are winding, extremely steep and so narrow that cars can only pass each other in specific bays where the road widens for this purpose. Cars going up have the right of way and constantly honk to warn oncoming cars of their arrival. The steep valleys mean you don’t need to use any gear higher than third. As the roads climb out of town, the landscape changes dramatically. The bare, dry, and rocky coastal region gives way to green, lush rolling hillsides covered in a cool mist. The interior of the island feels more like the English countryside than a jagged rock in the middle of the ocean.

Despite its complete isolation, we were pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the island. Our feline crew member, Sambal, had fallen ill on the second day out of Cape Town and his health was declining quickly. By satellite phone we’d been in contact with the local veterinarian on St Helena, Joe Hollins, who guided us through treatment. When we woke up the first morning after our midnight arrival, Joe and the senior immigration officer were alongside, ready to take Sambal for immediate treatment and to expedite our clearing of immigration. British territories don’t normally allow foreign animals ashore without extensive quarantine, but Joe had recently changed this rule to exempt critically-ill animals arriving by boat.

The Saints (the people of St Helena) are the descendants of European settlers, African slaves and Chinese labourers, and they speak an English that can be extremely hard to understand. But their kindness knows no limit. We were also pleasantly surprised by the number of cruising boats that pass through St Helena. Perhaps because it’s one of the only places to stop in the Atlantic, but at least three boats would arrive each day to stay for a week of rest before continuing onward to South America or the Caribbean.

With Al’s love of history and subsequent fascination of St Helena, we rented a car and climbed our way to the interior of the island. Our first mission was to visit Longwood House, the sight of Napoleon Bonaparte’s second exile. He was exiled here in 1815, when he had finally been captured by the British. They’d originally captured and exiled him to the island of Elba (off the shores of Italy) in 1812, but he had escaped. The British, furious, defeated him again and exiled him to St Helena, a rock in the middle of the South Atlantic. An island so remote, it took 10 weeks for Napoleon to arrive by ship!

Napoleon spent the last six years of his life in confinement on St Helena, writing his memoirs until his death in 1821 at the age of 51. Many believed that he’d been slowly poisoned with arsenic by his captors, but this is no longer considered true. As Emperor, he undoubtedly enjoyed lavish lifestyles, and some think that his exile at Longwood was no exception. He was permitted to bring an entourage of officers with him, rode horses throughout the day, and enjoyed a ration of 40 kilos of meat, nine chickens and seventeen bottles of wine per day. However, what we saw at Longwood House was rather dismal. The house, now in a better state than ever, was damp and wretched. He also hadn’t seen his wife and son since his first exile in Elba.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to visit Jonathan the tortoise, who, at 180 years, is the world’s oldest living animal. He lives at the Plantation House, the Governor’s residence, where he enjoys an active life with three younger female tortoises. It is believed that Jonathan was brought to St Helena from Seychelles in 1882, and is the same species of tortoise that we came across in Seychelles Islands months before. Max met Jonathan some 23 years ago, while sailing from Cape Town to Brazil. While enjoying some food at the infamous Ann’s Place, and rummaging through the old log books, we found the entry of Max’s family in 1991… and the entry of my family just a few pages further!

Running almost vertically up from the floor of the valley of Jamestown is Jacob’s Ladder. This staircase consists of 699 very steep steps and serves as a direct link to Half Tree Hollow, the largest settlement on the island. While we huffed and puffed our way up the narrow stairs, we marvelled at the locals carrying groceries up the ladder without even breaking a sweat. Built in the 1800s, it was originally a horse-powered machine for hauling goods to the top of the hill.

The island environment has been reshaped by centuries of human activity to such an extent that it’s almost impossible to know what it actually looked like. There are no endemic land mammals, but goats, rabbits, pheasant and other animals were brought to the island to supply passing ships. Forests were felled, and flax was introduced to support an industry that flourished in the first half of the 20th century. The only surviving endemic bird species is the Wirebird, which is critically endangered with around 350 individuals left in the wild.

Watching RMS St Helena steam into James Bay, one is acutely aware that there is no other way to and from this island. This is all about to change as the island’s first airport is currently under construction. This ambitious project is costing the English government roughly 400 million pounds and involves filling in a whole valley! It is due to become operational in 2016, and the ship service will be discontinued. This will undoubtedly change life on St Helena, and is the most heated topic of discussion amongst the locals.

With heavy hearts, we bid farewell to Al, who decided that one week on this special island wasn’t enough. He’d made up his mind to stay for a few more weeks and return home on one of the last voyages of RMS St Helena. Once news arrived that Sambal had made a full recovery, we cleared immigration, said our farewells to Al and our new friends, combed the town for whatever meagre fresh produce we could find, and set off on the last leg of our final oceanic crossing. Next stop, Brazil!

See also: Visitor InformationRMS St Helena

Go back to the top of the page


Shopping a daily puzzle on remote St Helena

Bangkok Post, 16th April 2015{3}

JAMESTOWN - If you think grocery shopping is a chore, spare a moment for those on the tiny island of Saint Helena who never know what will be on the shelves from one day to the next.

Groceries at Thorpe’s [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The 4,200 inhabitants of Saint Helena have resigned themselves to the reality that choice is a luxury in a place where supplies come only every three weeks on a ship from Cape Town

This is like living under Soviet rule,” jokes Francois Haffner, a French tourist determined to eat well on the remote South Atlantic island, famous as the place the French military leader Napoleon was exiled until his death in 1821. “In the first store there is butter, in another there are lemons, and in the third you can find some cream. There are no greens, and eggs aren’t there every day,” said an exasperated Haffner. “The fish comes at 1:00 pm, the bread after 11:00 am -- but no later than 12 noon -- and all the shops close at 5:00 pm.” The shopping schedule requires that hungry tourists and residents dedicate a good chunk of time to planning how to fill their stomachs. “There are no stores where you can find everything, and shopping takes some time,” said Haffner. Still, he is determined never to visit the frozen food section, which was stocked with last year’s Christmas pudding in March.

- Choice is a luxury -

In contrast with Haffner, the 4,200 inhabitants of the British island are more relaxed about the grocery situation, having resigned themselves to the reality that choice is a luxury in a place where supplies come only every three weeks on a ship from Cape Town. As a result, shopping in the island’s capital, Jamestown, requires some flexibility and a close knowledge of the ship’s schedule.

Of course, you do not want to starve, but it is better not to look for something specific,” says David Pryce, a native of England who studies insects on the island. “A successful islander has to balance patience with spontaneity”, he says. “You have to make the rounds of stores every day. And if you see something, you have to buy it.

However, sometimes excitement over new items causes problems, says Tara Thomas, whose family owns four convenience stores. “When bottled water hits the shop, people bulk buy. They panic buy, and they create another shortage,” she says. “If people had a normal consumer behaviour, we wouldn’t have so many problems.

- Little local produce -

Most produce on the island comes from Britain or South Africa. Little is made domestically. There are cows, for example, but no fresh milk. “We have farmers, but they do not produce enough,” moans Thomas. What little local produce exists is often bartered between islanders or snapped up by hotels and restaurants before reaching the shelves.

Still, some are hoping to capitalise on the scarcity. Mirroring the fashion overseas for self-sufficiency, entrepreneurs have started small-scale farming. Joshua Martin{11}, 39, has set up a business delivering tomatoes and cucumbers that he produces in polytunnels. While his venture is a success, Martin complains there is little coordination between the producers. “Everyone produces the same,” he says.

Then there is the issue of reliability. “The problem is that we are not regular,” says Aaron Legg, a 30-year-old guide who grows bananas. “Retailers cannot rely on us and they have to import.” It’s not for lack of want, says Legg, who plans to start growing onions. “The island imports 70 tonnes of onions a year from South Africa,” he says incredulously. “If there were onions every day on the shelves people would buy more. There is a huge market.

Shop owners worry that with such short supply they will not be able to accommodate an influx of tourists when weekly flights start between the island and Johannesburg in February next year. With the monthly ship service set to end after the introduction of the flights, retailers worry their produce options will decrease. Now they’re in a quandary. “It is not profitable for a ship to come more often,” says Nick Thorpe, one of the leading importers on the island. “I have the feeling that if they want the ship to come more often, they will have to subsidise it,” he says.

Whether or not that will happen is another story.

See also: Could you live here?

Go back to the top of the page


Awaiting St Helena’s new airport

By Andy Walker, BBC News, 20th March 2015{3}

Awaiting St Helena’s new airport [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

The coming of an airport presents new opportunities and challenges to one of Britain’s most remote outposts, ending 350 years of isolation.

But, the BBC’s Our World programme asks, what will the arrival of air access really mean for the 4,000 people living in Saint Helena?

Two-hundred years ago this October, the British warship HMS Northumberland anchored off a tiny island to disembark its most famous prize, Napoleon Bonaparte, who had recently been defeated at the battle of Waterloo.

The former emperor had thought he was to be exiled to America. Instead, the man who had once ruled vast tracts of Europe, found himself on the tiny and remote British-ruled island of St Helena.

There, in the first days of captivity - which would end with his death in 1821 - he snarled at those who had defeated him.

How can the monarchs of Europe permit the sacred character of sovereignty to be violated in my person? Do they not see that they are, with their own hands, working their own destruction at St Helena?

Situated in the middle of the South Atlantic, St Helena is 1,200 miles from the coast of West Africa. It is just ten miles (16km) long and six miles (10km) wide.

Discovered by Portuguese mariners in 1502, St Helena - whose inhabitants call themselves ‘Saints’ - was originally a Dutch possession before it passed to British control - initially under the East India Company, before becoming a British colony, now called a British Overseas Territory.

The RMS St Helena is scheduled to make its last voyage to the island in March 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The RMS St Helena is scheduled to make its last voyage to the island in March 2016

The Saints, now numbering around 4,000, are the descendents of sailors, settlers and slaves.

This tightly-knit community is currently linked to the outside world by a Royal Mail ship, the St Helena, which makes a five-day journey from Cape Town in South Africa, every three weeks. It carries passengers, mail and everything the island needs to survive, apart from petrol.

But all that is set to change with the building of St Helena Airport - scheduled to open in February 2016.

In November 2011, the UK government announced it was to invest around £250m in the building of an airport on the island’s east coast.

British Overseas Territories [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

British Overseas Territories

  • 14 territories around the globe

  • total population is about 350,000 people

  • largely - but not all - self-governing, with their own constitutions, governments and local laws

  • before 2002, these were British Dependent Territories

Territories are:

  • Akrotiri and Dhekelia (Sovereign Base Areas)

  • Anguilla

  • Bermuda

  • British Antarctic Territory

  • British Indian Ocean Territory

  • British Virgin Islands

  • Cayman Islands

  • Falkland Islands

  • Gibraltar

  • Montserrat

  • Pitcairn Islands

  • St Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha

  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

  • Turks and Caicos Islands

Whitehall said this would boost St Helena’s links to the outside world and increase the island’s self-sufficiency, “with the ultimate aim of eliminating the island’s reliance on aid.

Each year the island receives, on average, $37m (£25m) from the United Kingdom. There is full employment, but 70% of the population works for the government and wages are low - while the cost of goods is high.

Dale Bowers, one the island’s Anglican priests, believes that history has a harsh lesson for the Saints. “The island lost all of its money from the East India Company and there was real poverty. The more educated, business-minded people all emigrated to South Africa and left behind were just the poor people - the ones who couldn’t go any further.

And, even today, many young Saints leave in search of a better life overseas.

The island’s capital, Jamestown, nestles in a valley [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The island’s capital, Jamestown, nestles in a valley

This growing trend in offshore employment is a major contributor to the breakdown of family life on the island, according to Fr Dale. And although he is reluctant to see the island undergo such a major overhaul, he is unsure it can carry on the way it is.

Ivy Ellick, a retired civil servant whose late husband was in charge of customs and income tax on the island, looks at the airport as not only a way for Saints to leave the island, but also facilitate their return.

I am very pro-airport and I’m very pleased with what’s going on,” she said.

This was the only development that I thought would actually quench that thirst to leave the island… and will hopefully bring our Saints back.

Ivy Ellick, Resident, St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
We have to be more confident and believe in ourselves
Ivy Ellick, Resident, St Helena

But not all the islanders are so optimistic. Many fear opening up to the outside world will create even more problems.

Before his death, local fisherman Trevor Thomas outlined his concerns about the airport.

Britain is not going to put an airport here for £400m and then we live the same old way we did 20 or 30 years ago. They will want changes. It’s coming. People feel as though they are not being listened to and it makes you angry… and then when you say something that is contrary to what is being presented to you, you are being negative.

While the British government says it does not wish to damage the island’s sense of community or the environment, tourism is both a natural consequence of better transport links and a source of economic growth.

The island’s lush vegetation, rare plants and the relatively untouched sea surrounding it, could prove a draw, as could the Georgian architecture of the capital, Jamestown and Napoleon’s former residence Longwood House.

Diana’s Peak: The island, visited by Darwin, is home to rare plants and animals [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Diana’s Peak: The island, visited by Darwin, is home to rare plants and animals

There is also a project in the works to build an eco-hotel on St Helena, and the aviation company Comair Limited has just been appointed as the preferred bidder to transport visitors from Johannesburg to the island in just four-and-a-half hours.

But extra traffic to and from the island will not benefit the islanders directly, argued Mr Thomas.

They think that the airport is going to create a lot of opportunity and the young people are going to want to stay but for what? Make the beds, drive the taxis, sweep the floors? We can’t all be chiefs. There are other people out there who also believe there is a potential here - people with big money - and we may not be able to compete,” he added.

The threat to St Helena’s strong sense of community is at the heart of much anxiety about the airport.

Filmmaker Dieter Deswarte, who has visited the island on a number of occasions, says a lot of people see St Helena as a special place because it is protected from the outside world.

He believes it’s important for the Saints to make sure that change happens in a way they are comfortable with.

It’s really the people there who need to take it in their hands and have the confidence to set things up.

Also convinced that the Saints’ own mindset has a crucial part to play in securing the future of St Helena is Ivy Ellick.

We have to be able to be more confident and believe in ourselves,” says Mrs Ellick. “Who would know what is best for St Helena other than the people themselves?

See also: Fly here?

Go back to the top of the page


Remote Saint Helena to get first tourist flights… before it gets its own airport

Yahoo! News, 16th March 2015{3}

French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to Saint Helena in 1815 after his defeat by the British at Waterloo [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to Saint Helena in 1815 after his defeat by the British at Waterloo

Jamestown (Saint Helena) (AFP) - The remote South Atlantic island of Saint Helena, where French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled, is to get its first commercial air service, officials have announced.

The government of Saint Helena, a British territory, said Monday that final negotiations were underway for Comair to fly once a week from Johannesburg to a new airport due to open next year.

The flight on the 138-seat Boeing 737 will take four and half hours -- in stark contrast to the five days it currently takes on an irregular boat service from Cape Town.

This marks a very positive step for St Helena in working with an airline…which provides an excellent gateway to the rest of the world,” the island government said in a statement.

The airport is likely to trigger an influx of tourists to Saint Helena, where Napoleon was exiled in 1815 after his defeat by the British at Waterloo.

He died on the island in 1821.

Saint Helena, which now has 4,200 inhabitants, was a busy stopover point between Europe, Asia and South Africa until steam ships and the Suez Canal changed sea routes.

Comair, which has a licence agreement with British Airways, is a South African aviation company founded in 1946.

See also: Fly here?

Go back to the top of the page


Voyage to one of the world’s most remote islands: Travel company offers last chance to take iconic Royal Mail Ship to St Helena… before it gets its own airport

by Emily Payne, Mail Online, 19th February 2015{3}

Almost identical articles also appeared in the UK Daily Telegraph, Singapore News and on lovemytrips.com, www.veryinternationalpeople.com, skymeteor.com and englishnews.info!

  • Tropical British Territory, St Helena, is situated 1,200 miles away from Angola, in middle of the South Atlantic sea

  • For decades, the only way to reach the fascinating island has been a five-night journey onboard the RMS St Helena

  • With a new airport scheduled to open in February 2016, this year is the last chance tourists can take the iconic trip

Over 1,200 miles from Angola, its nearest landmass, St Helena is one of the world’s most remote islands.

Currently, the only way to get to the South Atlantic British Overseas Territory is a five-night voyage aboard the RMS St Helena, a 155-berth passenger ship and cargo carrier, and one of the last ocean-going vessels still to carry the title.

But all this will change next February, when an airport is scheduled to open, and flights will commence from South Africa and the UK.

A travel company is offering tourists the chance to set sail on the St Helena before she is retired, and visitors to the island will arrive by air [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
A travel company is offering tourists the chance to set sail on the St Helena before she is retired, and visitors to the island will arrive by air

So a travel company is offering those with an adventurous spirit - and sturdy sea legs - the chance to set sail on the St Helena before she is retired.

The return sailing from Cape Town, a journey of 1,200 miles, takes five nights each way, with the voyage being as much a part of the St Helena experience as exploration of the island. As it is likely that some St Helenians will be on board, tourists will have the chance to learn about the fascinating atoll{12} before arriving.

St Helena - which is just ten miles long - is home to remote and unspoilt wilderness and enjoys mild temperatures between 20-27°C.

Britain’s second oldest remaining of the British Overseas Territories, after Bermuda, it has a population of just 4,255.

Red-roofed houses in upper Jamestown. The climate of the island is mild with temperatures staying between 20° and 27°C throughout the year [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Red-roofed houses in upper Jamestown. The climate of the island is mild with temperatures staying between 20 and 27°C throughout the year

Discovered in 1502, the island was stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa, and Napoleon was imprisoned there by the British. Longwood House was Napoleon’s home during the last years of his life and is now a museum.

The 20-day tour offered by Discover the World also includes a unique hosted farm stay in a former East India Company plantation owner’s home and offers plenty of opportunity to enjoy the island’s scenery and historic sites by car. Also included is a 4WD guided tour of the island’s less accessible areas and a wildlife cruise.

Managing Director, Clive Stacey, said: “There are so few places left on the planet that enjoy the veneers of modern civilization but yet are so unaffected by the stresses these can produce. Although this is fascinating to observe it is not in itself a reason to undertake the long sea journey but combine this with the spectacular vistas and unique and friendly society, soon to be thrust into the modern world with the airport opening, then a trip to St Helena should be at the top of any bucket list.

Island life: Saint Helena is Britain’s second oldest remaining of the British Overseas Territories, after Bermuda [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Island life: Saint Helena is Britain’s second oldest remaining of the British Overseas Territories, after Bermuda

TRAVEL FACTS

The 20-night holiday on set departure dates is available from now through to March 2016 from £3,619pp (two sharing) including 10 nights on the RMS St Helena (full board), two nights in Cape Town, eight nights’ hotel accommodation on St Helena with breakfast, six days car rental, half-day wildlife cruise and a 4WD excursion.

Discover the World

Discover the World’s 20-day itinerary offers a hosted farm stay and taking in the island’s unique wildlife, scenery and historic sites [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Discover the World’s 20-day itinerary offers a hosted farm stay and taking in the island’s unique wildlife, scenery and historic sites

High Knoll fort, just south of historic lower Jamestown. The island’s first airport is scheduled to open in February 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
High Knoll fort, just south of historic lower Jamestown. The island’s first airport is scheduled to open in February 2016

The colourful houses of Jamestown. Discovered in 1502, St Helena was a stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The colourful houses of Jamestown. Discovered in 1502, St Helena was a stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa

The island is soon to be thrust into the modern world with the airport opening, so a trip to St Helena should be at the top of any bucket list [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The island is soon to be thrust into the modern world with the airport opening, so a trip to St Helena should be at the top of any bucket list

The St Helena is a 155-berth passenger liner and cargo carrier and one of the last ocean-going vessels to carry the RMS title [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The St Helena is a 155-berth passenger liner and cargo carrier and one of the last ocean-going vessels to carry the RMS title

Adventurous travellers can take the return sailing from Cape Town, a journey of 1,200 miles, takes five nights each way [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Adventurous travellers can take the return sailing from Cape Town, a journey of 1,200 miles, takes five nights each way

The once-in-a-lifetime trip includes a guided tour of the island’s less accessible areas and a wildlife cruise [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The once-in-a-lifetime trip includes a guided tour of the island’s less accessible areas and a wildlife cruise

Authentic: Visitors can stay in a former plantation owner’s home as part of the fascinating trip [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Authentic: Visitors can stay in a former plantation owner’s home as part of the fascinating trip

Longwood House, Napoleon Bonaparte’s former home is now open to the public as a museum [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Longwood House, Napoleon Bonaparte’s former home is now open to the public as a museum

See also: Visitor InformationRMS St Helena

Go back to the top of the page


Ship out to isolated St Helena before the planes land

by Franz Krüger, Mail & Guardian, South Africa, 13th February 2015{3}

Please note that there are a number of inaccuracies in this article, which we have noted in footnotes, but for the feel of a trip to St Helena it is spot on.

Drawn by romance and remoteness, a family embarks on a holiday to St Helena.

Head for the hills: The forbidding cliffs and rocky coastline are a stark contrast to the lush vegetation of the hilly areas in the central part of St Helena. (St Helena Tourism) [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Head for the hills: The forbidding cliffs and rocky coastline are a stark contrast to the lush vegetation of the hilly areas in the central part of St Helena. (St Helena Tourism)

There’s something uniquely attractive about islands. Self-contained and complete, their defined edges offer a sharp sense of being cut off from our everyday, grown-up lives. It is the attraction of the Robinson Crusoe story, the dream of being left alone to rule our own world, at least for a while.

Turned to darker purposes, that isolation has made a long line of prison islands possible: the Isle d’If, Alcatraz, Robben Island.

And St Helena, where Napoleon lived out his days, that British speck in the South Atlantic that is thousands of miles from the coasts of South America and Africa. It is one of the most remote places on Earth, and access is still only possible by ship - a five-day voyage from Cape Town on the RMS St Helena.

Drawn by romance and remoteness, our family began thinking about a holiday on St Helena. We were looking for a real break. The island seemed to be the opposite of Johannesburg, with its endless traffic, crime concerns and the twin obscenities of poverty and corruption.

After long preparations, we found ourselves at the Missions to Seafarers in the Cape Town docks, waiting to be bused to the RMS St Helena’s berth.

The RMS is the last working Royal Mail Ship in the world{13} and still the island’s only regular connection to the outside world. She brings pretty much everything needed by the Saints, as the islanders call themselves. This is all set to change in the coming months.

The island’s first airport is being built, an ambitious project that is costing the British government R3-billion and involves filling in a whole valley. It is due to become operational in 2016, and then the island’s isolation will be dramatically lessened as it takes its place on the grid of airline connections.

The ship service will be discontinued at that point, and the RMS sold off. As we steamed north, the knowledge that it was one of the last opportunities to experience this way of travel was never far away.

The ship has comfortable accommodation for about 150 passengers, avoiding the brash glitziness of the big cruise ships.

You can spend the voyage reading, staring at the ocean and enjoying more meals than is healthy, but there is also a daily programme of activities, organised by a staff of excessively enthusiastic white-uniformed pursers.

The passengers were an interesting mix: a small number of tourists, some people travelling to the island for work, such as on the airport project, and then islanders who have been away for work, for medical treatment or to visit relatives elsewhere.

At first light on the fifth day, we had our first sight of the volcanic island: a looming presence on the horizon, its heights hidden in dark cloud. It was what the Portuguese seafarer João da Nova must have seen in 1502, when he and his crew became the first human beings to set eyes on it.

No easy access: Jamestown provides a difficult entry point to the island of St Helena. (Pic: St Helena Tourism) [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
No easy access: Jamestown provides a difficult entry point to the island of St Helena{14}. (Pic: St Helena Tourism)

The mind boggles at the sheer luck of finding this scrap of land in the vastness of the Atlantic, although his achievement is somewhat undermined by the fact that he promptly lost the island again. He noted down the position incorrectly, and it took the Portuguese some time before they rediscovered it{15}.

The RMS St Helena sailed past sheer rocky cliffs around the island to get to Jamestown, the main town, on the northwestern side. There are very few landing places - together with its remoteness, this made it ideal as a prison island.

Besides Napoleon, Britain held Boer War prisoners, Bahreini princes and the Zulu chief Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo here at various times.

We entered James Bay through a pod of what seemed like hundreds of dolphins and anchored. There is no harbour, and small lighters came to fetch us while the ship’s cranes lifted containers on to pontoons that carried them to the wharf.

Getting ashore is an adventure all on its own. It was easy enough to get aboard the lighter, but at the wharf teams of men with boathooks and ropes had to hold the boat as steady as possible.

It needs fine timing to step ashore just when the swell brings it briefly level with the land. For the infirm, the RMS St Helena offers an ‘air taxi’ - a metal box that is lifted by crane.

After clearing immigration, we drove our rented car into Jamestown, which has a population of 600 and is about as wide as a Johannesburg highway. All we had to do to be allowed to drive was report to the police station, where a British policeman entered our details into a large ledger.

The town’s main road runs from the seafront past a moat and a castle wall, a park and rows of Georgian houses to a tree where slaves were traded. There it splits into Napoleon Street{6} and Market Street. The former leads out of town, the latter first climbs past the Bank of St Helena, which issues the island’s currency{16}, then up to the hospital and out. And that’s the town.

The roads inland are winding, steep and so narrow that cars can only pass each other every now and again. Driving needs a different set of skills: you don’t need to know about any gear higher than third, but you do need to know the intricate system of giving way. There are no traffic lights but the basic rule of the road is: greet everybody.

And there’s the surprise: as the roads climb past places with names like Ladder Fort, Half Tree Hollow and Alarm Forest, the landscape changes quickly. The coastal strip around the island is rocky and bare, almost like a desert, giving way to hillsides covered in cactuses. But the higher central part is cool and misty, green and lush.

Here, there are forests and meadows, and the roads are lined with ancient, knobbly trees straight out of Middle-earth. You expect them to spring to life like Ents.

No easy access: Jamestown provides a difficult entry point to the island of S Helena. (Pic: St Helena Tourism) [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

We climbed past ferns, thickets of flax and the occasional cannon to the highest point, Diana’s Peak. We noted the day’s significance in the Postbox on top, where you can record your presence and collect a stamp. From there, the whole island is visible, its green heart and harsh edges, and the endless ocean in all directions.

As attractive as the landscape is, the island environment has been reshaped by centuries of human activity, to such an extent that it is now almost impossible to tell clearly what it looked like originally.

There are no endemic land mammals, but goats, rabbits, pheasant and other animals and birds were brought to the island to supply passing ships. Forests were felled, and flax introduced to support an industry that flourished in the first half of the 20th century.

Among the animals brought to the island is the tortoise Jonathan who, at some 180 years, is reputed to be the oldest living land animal in the world. With other, younger tortoises, he lives in the grounds of Plantation House, the governor’s residence, where he apparently enjoys an active sex life.

The only surviving endemic bird species is the wirebird, a type of plover, that can be seen running around open, grassy areas.

Beyond the landscape and the historical sites, hikes and dives, the real attraction of the island is to see, however briefly and imperfectly, what life is like for this small, remote community of about 4,000 people.

The descendants of European settlers, African slaves and Chinese labourers, they speak an English that can be hard to understand, with a tendency to swallow the ends of words and sentences, an odd use of the verb ‘to be’, and stretched vowels: ‘It’s over the-ere!’

I puzzled over the nature of the island’s isolation: there was no cellphone network yet, the satellite internet connection is slow and expensive, but a range of television channels is available and the BBC World Service can be heard on FM.

It’s not as if the island is completely cut off, but the sense of physical isolation is strong. Watching the RMS St Helena steam out of James Bay, one is acutely aware that there is no other way to leave the island.

Surprisingly for such a small community, there are two local radio channels and two weekly newspapers, one of each supported by the government and one independent. None of them spent much time on the South African story - local Christmas activities were much more important.

Of these, there were many. We attended two Salvation Army carol services, a pantomime at Prince Andrew High School and a concert in St. James church.

The most surprising was the Festival of Light: one evening just before Christmas, adults and children gathered at the hospital carrying coloured lights. They formed a loose and cheerful procession and made their way down to the seafront, accompanied by brightly decorated vans and cars blaring carols.

There the party continued late into the night. It felt as though every person on the island must have been there.

The shops are mostly general dealers and it takes a while to work out that the shop where you’re most likely to find stationery is also the one which sells wetsuits and costumes for hen parties, obviously a significant market. Advertising is minimal, and some of the shop signage seems to have remained unchanged for 100 years or more.

Noticeable for us as South Africans was the lack of crime. A lost wallet was announced on the radio, while police reports refer to damaged hedges, drunk driving and being cheeky to an officer.

The population of Her Majesty’s Prison, painted a pretty blue, consisted of 13, and we were not sure whether to believe the story that the inmates were allowed out on a Friday to choose videos to watch.

On a short visit, it seems idyllic, but domestic abuse is an issue and small-town politics and gossip can be pretty vicious.

The airport project is set to change life on St Helena fundamentally and irreversibly. The topic is never far from conversation, and reactions are multifaceted.

On the one hand, there are hopes of new economic opportunities to reverse the emigration of younger Saints - new hotels are being planned, and a sizeable fishing boat has been acquired that hopes to supply European markets.

There is also relief that emergency medical help will be more accessible by air than by the current ship connection to Cape Town.

At the same time, there is scepticism about whether the promised growth in tourism will materialise, worries about the costs of airline tickets and how cargo will be brought in when the regular mail ship service is stopped.

We were glad to have been able to visit the island before all this change happens.

See also: Visitor InformationRMS St Helena

Go back to the top of the page


The Much Delayed Airport - An End at Last to St Helena’s Isolation: Getting Really, Truly, Terminally Away from it All on the Looney Front

by Mike Arcus, Huffington Post, 9th February 2015{3} - NB this is part 12 of a series of articles on St Helena

St Helena - “One of the most remote islands in the world.” Thus spake Wikipedia.

Well, its geographical position -- lost in the vastness of the South Atlantic, 1,200 miles from the coast of Africa and some 1,800 from South America -- is not about to change. But that little question of accessibility is.

St Helena in all its remote loneliness - Google maps [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
St Helena in all its remote loneliness - Google maps

Until now reliant on the monthly-odd visits of the RMS St Helena on her run from and to cape Town, South Africa, this tiny rock’s terminal isolation is about to change forever in early 2016.

That is when the much delayed airport is to open, bringing this 122Km² speck within 10 hours or so of London, which governs this British Overseas Territory, best known for Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile here.

Runway under construction [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Runway under construction

It will also take about the same time to get here from Paris, from where many a Frenchman, not to mention any remaining Bonapartists, may desire to embark on a pilgrimage to the final home and first resting place of L’Empereur.

Everybody agrees that the island will never be the same again but there is a general worry among St Helena’s 4,000 or so inhabitants over what the airport will bring - economic benefit if they get it right, or destruction of the laid-back island-easy way of life.

Possible French tourism magnet - Napoleon’s exile home [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Possible French tourism magnet - Napoleon’s exile home

Apparently Her Britannic Majesty’s government feels that St Helena should support itself now and no longer receive London’s $12 million annual subsidy{17}, which can no doubt be put to much better use financing perks for Her Britannic Majesty’s parliamentarians.

Airport opponents say the project was only approved in an island referendum a few years back because opponents weren’t all that interested in getting themselves to the ballot box.

Another runway view [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Another runway view

Tourism is now the great economic hope. But even if the airport opens on time at last, there are not nearly enough hotel rooms to cater for the hundreds of visitors envisaged under one plan for weekly flights from the UK, with only a few small hotels and B&Bs in Jamestown, the capital, and an inn in the countryside.

Another French tourism draw - Napoleon’s first grave [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Another French tourism draw - Napoleon’s first grave

There are no clear plans for hotel building on the immediate horizon. The local government is seeking to make up for the lack of hotel rooms by planning to get three glorious Georgian buildings at the start of Main Street in Jamestown, right near the waterfront, to combine and divide up their gloriously large rooms into much smaller - and more cramped - accommodation.

Main Street, Jamestown [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Main Street, Jamestown

There are also plans to build a top-class hotel away from Jamestown in a beautiful setting at Broad Bottom Plain, where 3,000 South Africans from the Boer War were imprisoned from 1900 to 1902, but nothing has started there and it is not clear whether investors will go through with the project.

Broad Bottom Plain [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Broad Bottom Plain

In the view of some expats here and even some Saints, as the Saint Helenians are known, the locals are not all that interested in providing the top-notch hands-on services that visitors might expect and that are needed to lure them.

Nor have any contracts yet been signed for any airline or tour company to fly in here, let alone is there any agreed clarity on just how many tourists might turn up, whether in the hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands, to give the island the economic jolt it needs.

The Consulate, one of Jamestown’s small hotels [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The Consulate, one of Jamestown’s small hotels

A recent column in The Independent, one of the island’s two weekly newspapers, noted snarkily:

Normally it is the British Government who screw everything up by listening to some hair brained expert, whom they have sent out to the island with a half-baked brief, to offer a plan which, whilst looking caring and benevolent to the rest of the world, would enable them to spend some Aid Money in a British Territory at the least possible cost to the Exchequer, or to their future. For instance, I heard that some idiot had stated that 60,000 well-heeled visitors would come to the island every year. Thank the Lord some other noodle entered the fray with a more believable 30,000, but as far as I am concerned, even that is way, way out. I’m afraid like an aircraft these high flyers must come down to earth and, as Americans would say, ‘Smell the coffee!’

Out of town accommodation at the small Farm Lodge [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Out of town accommodation at the small Farm Lodge

The columnist is doubtless right about the idiots and noodles serving in Her Britannic Majesty’s government, but that’s a bit harsh about the “the least possible cost to the Exchequer.

I mean the bloody airport’s costing 218 million pounds. I mean that’s about $340 US.

Nevertheless scepticism is rife here. “I’ll be pushing up daisies by the time they get it right,” quoths one local lady.

Anyway, let’s take a trip down to the site at Prosperous Bay Plain, organized by the airport’s builders, Basil Read of South Africa. Yours Truly is looking particularly cute this afternoon, all tarted up in a white hard hat and fluorescent yellow pinafore or whatever you call the damned thing.

Control tower almost completed [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Control tower almost completed

It’s quite a feat of engineering. There was a 300-foot deep valley at the start of the nearest piece of more or less level ground they could find. This has now been filled in with nearly 8 million metres³ of landfill to provide a total 1,950-metre long runway, suitable for Boeing 737-700W or similar aircraft.

Part of the filled-in valley [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Part of the filled-in valley

Another view [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Another view

Much of the runway is already laid, the control tower has already been built, the two-storey terminal is under construction, and the first passenger plane is due in by April, 2016.

The apron and runway [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
The apron and runway

It remains to be seen from where. London? Cape Town? Paris? Nobody yet knows. Package tourism? High end visitors? At the moment there’s no real infrastructure for either.

Two-storey passenger terminal under construction [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Two-storey passenger terminal under construction

Meanwhile, with the airport still in the future, I’m faced with my own departure. On day 14 of my stay on this remote speck a long blast of a horn announces that RMS St Helena has returned from Cape Town.

RMS St Helena heaves into view [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
RMS St Helena heaves into view

It will be another two days before she unloads all her cargo, reloads and is ready for the two-day trip on to Ascension Island.

By mid-morning of day 16, I’m clambering up the ship’s side on the rock ’n’ rolling ladder from the lighter. First call on board, even before my cabin, is the doctor’s surgery for my anti-seasickness injection to avoid an encore of the disastrous puke-omania of my journey out.

This time I’m also not at the Captain’s Table. See if I care. I won’t bother to put on suit trousers and a proper shirt tonight. Jeans and T-shirt it will be, Your Captainship.

They’ve finished unloading and re-loading everything from soap powder to SUVs, RMS gives three long blasts on her horn, and we’re on our way.

The enchanted isle - stark, rugged, majestic - slowly disappears into a grey-blue haze on the horizon.

Farewell, St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Farewell, St Helena

The ship’s loudspeakers are blasting out what sounds like nothing so much as ’When Irish eyes are smiling.’{18} But the captain has not mistaken his isles. The words proclaim: “Diamonds are pretty but the island of St Helena is prettier by far.

Yet further into the distance [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Yet further into the distance

The sea is certainly much smoother than coming out. Others say it’s like a mill pond. In the purser’s words we’re surfing with the flow. I of course can still feel a vibrating swell.

On our last night we have a barbecue on the sun deck. No wonder everybody on board has the most enormous bellies protruding several miles out above their midriffs. There’s an obscene amount of pork, spare ribs, sausages, salads - and they wolf it all down.

Getting ready for the barbecue [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Getting ready for the barbecue

Barbecue underway [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Barbecue underway

Sated gazes [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Sated gazes

See also: Fly here?Visitor InformationRMS St Helena

Go back to the top of the page


12 Places That Are Damn Near Impossible To Get To

by Souvik Ray, India Times, 8th February 2015{3}{19}

When you think about it, the world doesn’t seem to be such a small place after all. Don’t expect a warm reception or tourist friendly services at these places since some of them might just put your life in danger or make your visit a living nightmare. So be careful what you wish for ;)

Some contributors on Quora.com mentioned these destinations as hard and almost impossible to visit.

1. North Sentinel Island

North Sentinel Island is located near the Andaman and Nicobar islands and is home to the Sentinelese tribe who do not welcome any contact from the outside world. Even after the 2004 tsunami when rescuers tried to find out if the tribes had survived, their relief parcels were reciprocated with spears and arrows. Anthropologists have given up studying about the tribesmen due to their potential wrath of killing outsiders on sight. The only images that exist of these people are from satellite photos and spy cameras.

2. Eritrea

Nested between Sudan and Ethiopia, Eritrea ranks lower than North Korea when it comes to freedom of the press. Information is thoroughly controlled, so if your visa is denied, don’t be surprised. Reporters Without Borders claims that there are no foreign journalists in the country.

While Ethiopia and Sudan suffered from famine, there were no official reports on the status of Eritrea. The east African nation’s human rights record is unknown, considering that many refugees from the country try to enter Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat.

3. North Korea

Travelling to North Korea is difficult. Visas are only issued if you are travelling with a tour group assigned by the government and the tour leader will follow you everywhere. Okay, well not to the toilet, but he/she will not allow you to venture out on your own and interact with locals.

If you do interact with any of them, they are assigned by the government to speak to you and display North Korean hospitality. If you thought you can enter Pyongyang through Seoul, think again. You can only fly in through Beijing.

4. Jan Mayen Island

Jan Mayen is a volcanic island located in the North Arctic Ocean and is a part of the kingdom of Norway. It has around 18 military and scientific personnel stationed there for research. Special Permission is required from the Norwegian government but that doesn’t mean going there by plane or boat is easy.

There’s just one flight per month and due to the absence of harbours, and ferries there are sparse. The island maybe virtually uninhabited except for defense forces but it has been significant throughout history from being a migration point of ancient monks to being a strategic standpoint of the Allied forces.

If you’re a Geology buff you must visit the island just for the heck of it. The views are amazing, and hey, you having bragging rights when you get back!

5. Saint Helena

Located in the South Atlantic halfway between Africa and South America, Saint Helena was a port of call belonging to the British East India Company. Many wonder how the Saints (the local people, chillax!) are supplied with commodities, since it seems the only lifleline for this island is the Royal Mail Ship which brings in weird and wonderful things from livestock to cute puppies.

RMS St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Every time the RMS docks at port, the locals rush to queue up in front of grocery stores. This might seem fascinating, but it hides a sad reality. Despite a very communal environment where everyone knows everyone, things are expensive which is causing the younger generation to move overseas. Foster families are very common as parents leave for better opportunities abroad.

Jamestown [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

For some brighter aspects of life in Saint Helena, it is a mecca for classic car enthusiasts.

6. Nauru

The Republic of Nauru is located in the Central Pacific and chances are an embassy will not be present in your country. Hence getting a visa is difficult. The only countries that do have flights serving the island are Marshall Islands, Australia, Fiji and Kiribati, so be prepared for a long journey if you’re not from the south Pacific region.

The island has beautiful beaches and all the exotic flora and fauna that has enchanted travellers about Micronesia for years. If you thought the US has the highest obesity rate, Nauruans have an obesity rate of 71.7% (2012)

7. Scattered Islands

This archipelago is a part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands near Madagascar. They consist of 4 small coral islands, an atoll, and a reef, none of which have a permanent population. Three of the islands (Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova and Europa), the reef, and the atoll lie in the Mozambique Channel west of Madagascar, while the island of Tromelin is found about 450 kilometres east of Madagascar. While the Southern islands mentioned above are not disputed, France maintains a military garrison of around 14 troops on each of the islands in the Mozambique Channel that are claimed by Madagascar; the Glorioso Islands are claimed by the Comoros, and Mauritius claims Tromelin.

Despite its political issues, the islands are beautiful and make for an excellent place for that tropical holiday. Question is, how does one get there? You have three options:

  1. Join the French Army

  2. Find a special tour agent who operates boutique holidays on the island

  3. Navigate your private yacht into the island territory and see what happens

8. Somalia

Given Somalia’s political problems, your security is not guaranteed once you touch this East African nation’s soil. Although the country is trying to tap its oil resources in a measure to move towards economic growth, security is still a huge issue. Bombs go off in public places like airports and bus stands. Some journalists have reported that private armies hired to escort visitors can sometimes turn against who they are supposed to protect and extort money and other valuables.

9. South George And Sandwich Islands

Stunningly beautiful and rugged, this island wildlife sanctuary once visited is not forgotten. Its snow covered peaks, glacial ice and emerald green bays are breathtaking sights. It is a gem in the stormy southern Atlantic Ocean and can be reached by cruise ships. However, visitors should take note that there are no medical or search and rescue facilities anywhere on the island.

10. Territory of the French Southern and Antarctic islands

These islands in the Indian Ocean are mostly French-owned islands (there’s also a narrow strip of Antarctica known as Adelie Land). The Southern Lands consist of two near-polar archipelagos, Crozet and Kerguelen, and two volcanic islands, Amsterdam and Saint-Paul, also in the southern Indian Ocean, that have no permanent inhabitants and are visited for several months at a time only by researchers studying the native fauna.

There are no airports, harbours, or permanent populations; Kerguelen has a small hospital. There’s no public accommodation, but the Marion Dufresne, an oceanographic and supply ship, visits them four times a year from Reunion Island, and you can travel on it as a paying passenger. Courtesy: Quora.com

11. Groom Lake, Nevada

Better known as Area 51, it has long been a setting for Hollywood movies where the government hides aliens and secrets that the world must never know of. Locals have sighted UFOs, hence the government bases connection with aliens and other things that provide fodder to action/sci-fi movies.

The nearest settlement is the unincorporated town of Rachel which lies about 100 miles away. Get any closer and you may not make it out alive. Google maps offers some aerial views of the government buildings, but there’s nothing like seeing it in real life (DREAM ON!).

12. Kronostsky Nature Reserve, Eastern Russia

Only 3000 tourists visit this nature reserve which is located in Far Eastern Russia and is closer to Alaska. It is open to scientists for research and exploration and is home to the country’s only geyser basin, active volcano and the largest brown bears.

If you are one of the lucky 3000 who can afford a pricey helicopter tour, consider yourself lucky.

See also: Visitor InformationRMS St Helena

Go back to the top of the page


Napoleon skewered in new British exhibition

Published on The Local [FR] 5th February 2015{3}

A colourful new exhibition about French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is opening in London on Thursday, showing how artists and cartoonists shaped the way the British perceived ‘The Little Corporal’.

‘The Corsican spider in his web’ by Thomas Rowlandson, 1808 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Published in 1808, ‘The Corsican spider in his web’ by Thomas Rowlandson is one of dozens of drawings, posters and other prints on display at London’s British Museum until August 16th.

The exhibition, ‘Bonaparte and the British: prints and propaganda in the age of Napoleon’ charts the rise of the young general, ending with the downfall of the Emperor who once had Europe at his feet.

Bonaparte, who lived from 1769 to 1821, was a “charismatic enemy” with a reputation as a short, angry man: an irresistible subject for caricatures, according to historian Tim Clayton, a Napoleon expert.

He had the misfortune to come along at exactly the wrong moment,” Clayton said.

I don’t suppose anybody in history had been vilified and ridiculed in the way that Napoleon was vilified and ridiculed ever before.

Flattering portraits and memorabilia collected by British admirers in the 1790s gives way to mockery, as Napoleon becomes more of a threat to Britain.

‘The Corsican pest or Beelzebub going to supper’ by James Gillray, 1803 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

By the time the two countries are at war in 1803, British cartoonist James Gillray portrays Napoleon being roasted over a fire by the devil in ‘The Corsican pest or Beelzebub going to supper’.

Mocking Napoleon as ‘Little Boney’ and perpetuating the idea he was small in stature helped diminish the feeling of threat.

Because you were frightened of him, you had to belittle him, make him seem not so frightening,” said curator Sheila O’Connell.

So you made him a little tiny person. And that is how he’s remained in the British consciousness ever since.

- Propaganda tool -

‘Little Boney’ appears again in 1812 as Napoleon’s Russian campaign turns into a disaster.

‘General Frost shaving Little Boney’ by William Elmes, 1812 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

A cartoon by William Elmes called ‘General Frost shaving Little Boney’ shows the cold as a monster crushing the French armies and trapping Napoleon’s feet in ice.

Sold for an average of between 1 and 4 shillings each, the drawings were particularly popular in shops frequented by the London elite.

Used as a propaganda tool and sometimes controlled by the government, the satires helped forge a sense of British unity and shaped the way Napoleon was perceived through generations.

They do have an influence on shaping people image of Napoleon. The idea that Napoleon is a little, angry chap sticks,” Clayton said.

The fact that he was actually of average height seems to have escaped everybody’s attention.

Cartoonists are kinder when Napoleon is less of a threat, and at times some Britons displayed admiration for the emperor.

One example is a bronze bust of Napoleon, carved in the style of a Roman emperor with idealised features, and installed in 1818 in a British aristocrat’s garden.

Featured at the entrance to the exhibition, the bust has a call for the emperor to return from exile in Saint Helena engraved at its base.

See also: Napoleon Bonaparte

Go back to the top of the page


Thrill-seeking Liverpool pilot to film remote south Atlantic island by drone

By Laura Connor; Liverpool Echo Online 1st January 2015.

A thrill-seeking Merseyside man is set to explore a remote island once used for shipping slaves to Liverpool{20}.

Aigburth-based Darren Winwood is travelling to Saint Helena, a tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean, to film its stunning scenery using a flying drone.

The 44-year-old will travel by mail boat for five days from Cape Town in South Africa in order to reach the island, which once held Napoleon in exile.

Saint Helena is the second oldest remaining British overseas territory, after Bermuda, and can only be reached by ship.

Darren Winwood and his drones [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Darren Winwood and his drones

Darren told the ECHO ahead of his epic trip: “I first visited Saint Helena in 2012 and I thought it was a fascinating place.

There’s no better way of exploring somewhere than filming it using a drone.

Saint Helena also has a personal connection for Darren, as his grandad Bill Fowler was born on the island before he landed a job on a mail boat that sailed to England.

Darren said it’s an “exciting time” for Saint Helena, which he describes as a port of “strategic importance” for the British Empire until the opening of the Suez Canal.

I am looking forward to filming such a beautiful sub-tropical island with its volcanic rocks,” said Darren, who is a fully qualified unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilot.

My drone will allow me to capture the Jurassic beauty of the rugged island like never before. It’s just interesting to film stuff in this way and it gives you a completely different perspective.

The main preparation the former climbing centre owner is doing ahead of his journey is keeping fit.

I can’t risk getting sick when I’m out there,” he said.

And ahead of Saint Helena getting its first ever airport in 2016, Darren is using his mission to boost the historic island’s flagging tourist economy.

Hopefully if people are sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon and wondering where to go on holiday, my video will encourage them to try somewhere new,” he said.

For just two or three minutes of footage, Darren will have to carry out 12 days of painstaking work in order to capture the perfect shots.

If we’ve got any wind or rain, we can’t film,” Darren said.

The part-time DJ and avid sports fan is also using the project as part of his MBA dissertation at the University of Liverpool. His work filming the stunning sights of Merseyside have already given Darren, who runs photography company AeroCapture, plenty of practise.

I first went to Saint Helena to see how I could work with businesses to attract tourists to the island - I always knew I wanted to go back,” he said.

Go back to the top of the page


More recent items are here. Even older St Helena stuff can be found on this blog: Much Older St Helena Stuff. You could also check out the various sources listed on our Related Sites page.

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]

Laugh at funny readmoreolder humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]


Footnotes:

{1} See more blogs.

{2} While technically this might be considered an advertisement (which Saint Helena Island Info does not carry) we actually see this more as a service to anyone wanting to learn more about our extraordinary island.
Saint Helena Island Info receives no income from any sales and takes no responsibility for any commercial arrangements into which you may enter.

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

{4} Curiously, also the name of Radio St Helena’s station cat.

{5} This one, actually!

{6} We understand that prior to Napoleon’s exile Napoleon Street was known as Cock Street. We do not know exactly when it was renamed.

{7} Brian Unwin is the author of ‘Terrible Exile: The Last Days of Napoleon on St Helena’, published by I.B.Tauris

{8} According to our information the words actually were “La France, l’armée, tête d’armée, Joséphine”, though the translation into English appears to be correct.

{9} Helps?

{10} Actually 1502 (probably), but who’s arguing?

{11} Actually he’s Martin Joshua

{12} An atoll, according to the Wikipedia, is “a ring-shaped coral reef including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon partially or completely”, so St Helena is an island, not an atoll

{13} A common misconception. See our RMS St Helena page for information about the others.

{14} True, but this isn’t actually a picture of Jamestown

{15} Another charming myth! See our page A Brief History page for more.

{16} Sorry, but no it doesn’t. St Helena Government’s Currency Board does that.

{17} Actually we understand the subsidy currently to be nearer to £20m - about $32m

{18} Actually ‘My St Helena Island’, which is sung to the same tune

{19} Some images from the original article have been omitted

{20} For accuracy we should point out that St Helena was never a waystation for slaves; only a landing place for liberated slaves.



• ALL PAGES:

• PAGE SEARCH: Type search word(s) and click ‘Search’:

• GOOGLE™ SITE SEARCH:

 

Take Me Anywhere But Here!


PLEASE NOTE: We actively encourage others to quote from this site. Please see our Link To Us page for more.

Got a question about St Helena? We’ve already answered many common questions on our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page, including:  but if your question isn’t covered please contact us.

This site is provided by the moonbeamsforall.com • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]Moonbeams Shop, selling cards, gifts & souvenirs in Jamestown, St Helena.

 

Please note that content featured below is not provided by Saint Helena Island Info,
and will only work if JavaScript is enabled in your browser.