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Our Sister Islands

Part of our Territory

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You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you.
George R.R. Martin

Administratively St Helena is part of a three-island Territory: St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

This page is in indexes: Island Place, Island People, Island Detail

Our Sister Islands [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]

Below: One of threeAscension IslandTristan da CunhaOne that got away…

One of three

Previously the “Territory of St Helena and Dependencies”, when our new Constitution was adopted on 1st September 2009 the territory became known as ‘St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha’. All three islands{1} share the same Constitution, and the same Governor.

St Helena is (obviously) described in detail on this site. We do not (and have no plans to) provide equivalent sites for Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, but due to their close historic and cultural links to St Helena we provide below some basic information on each.

Ascension Island

Flag of Ascension Island [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Flag of Ascension Island
Map of Ascension Island [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Map of Ascension Island

Ascension Island is our nearest neighbour, lying some 1,300Km to the northwest of St Helena. The capital is Georgetown, 7°56’S 14°25’W. Other significant settlements include Traveller’s Hill and Two Boats.

Also a volcanic island, and frequently described as “a cinder” it was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Afonso de Albuquerque on 21st May 1501 - Ascension Day - and first occupied by the British in 1815, as part of fortifying St Helena where Napoleon was to be imprisoned. On 22nd October 1815 British ships landed and claimed the island for “His Britannic Majesty King George III”.

It was of little initial use, being too small and too arid to provide a significant supply of fresh food or water for passing ships. A garrison of Royal Marines was based at Ascension from 1823. In 1899, the Eastern Telegraph Company installed the first underwater cable from the island, connecting the UK with its colonies in South Africa (the Victorian ‘Internet’). In 1922, letters patent made Ascension a dependency of Saint Helena. The island was managed by the head of the Eastern Telegraph Company on the island until 1964 when the British Government appointed an Administrator to represent the Governor of Saint Helena on Ascension.

It was not until the United States Airforce decided in 1942 to build an airbase there that Ascension first acquired a significan working population. Saints from St Helena were recruited in 1942 to work on building the airbase, and Saints have been living and working on Ascension ever since. The airport was later extended (more Saint labour) to act as an emergency alternative landing strip for the Space Shuttle, though it was never used for this. In 1966 the BBC decided to set up a relay service for its BBC World Service on Ascension Island. NASA operated a tracking station on the island from 1967 to 1990. In 1982 the British task force used Ascension Island as a staging post during the Falklands War.

Geographically, Ascension is a simple volcanic peak, ‘Green Mountain’, rising to a height of 859m. The majority of human activity takes place on the (eroded) surrounding flat lands. The island has an area of approximately 88Km².

Ascension Island has no permanent population. Nobody is allowed to reside on the island unless they are employed on the island, or are a dependent of someone who is. Children who are born on Ascension and grow up there are forced to leave the island at the age of eighteen, unless they have found work on the island. It is considered by some that this raises Human Rights issues.

The island population comprises Saints from St Helena (80%), British expatriates(12%) and Americans (8%), primarily USAF personnel and associated people.

Tourists visit Ascension Island. The primary activities are walking, nature study (the island is a breeding ground for Green Turtles, and has some endemic species), and sport fishing.

Ascension is the midway stop in the ‘Air Bridge’ between the UK and the Falkland Islands. Prior to the opening of St Helena Airport the fastest route between the UK and St Helena was to use the Air Bridge to Ascension and then the RMS St Helena to St Helena.

The island has seven elected councillors. The Governor is represented by an Administrator, appointed from London.

From the sea [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
From the sea

Georgetown [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]

Government Building [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Government Building

Georgetown beach [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Georgetown beach

Green Mountain [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Green Mountain

Devil’s Ashpit [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Devil’s Ashpit

Green Turle, laying [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Green Turle, laying

“ A cinder ” [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
A cinder

From space, 26th March 2003 [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
From space, 26th March 2003{a}

More here:

Tristan da Cunha

Flag of Tristan da Cunha [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Flag of Tristan da Cunha
Map of Tristan da Cunha [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Map of Tristan da Cunha

Tristan da Cunha lies some 2,000Km to the south of St Helena at 37°4’S 12°19’W. Also a volcanic island, it was discovered by Portuguese explorer Tristão da Cunha in 1506 and first occupied by Jonathan Lambert, from Salem, Massachusetts, United States, who arrived at the island in December 1810 with two other men, and later a third.[8] Lambert publicly declared all the islands his property and named them the Islands of Refreshment. Three of the four men died in 1812; however, the survivor among the original three permanent settlers, Thomas Currie (or Tommaso Corri) remained as a farmer on the island.

In 1816, the United Kingdom annexed the islands, ruling them from the Cape Colony in South Africa. This is reported to have primarily been a measure to ensure that the French would be unable to use the islands as a base for a rescue operation to free Napoleon from his prison on St Helena.

After an especially difficult winter in 1906, and years of hardship since the 1880s, the British government offered to evacuate the island. Those remaining on Tristan decided not to accept, thus deepening the island’s isolation. It is said that no ships visited from 1909 until 1919, when HMS Yarmouth finally stopped to inform the islanders of the outcome of World War 1 (‘The Great War’).

On 10th October 1961, the eruption of Queen Mary’s Peak forced the evacuation of the entire population of 264 individuals (80 families). Islanders fled in open boats to uninhabited Nightingale Island, where they made camp until they were picked up by a Dutch passenger ship that took them via Cape Town to Britain. Damage to the settlement was, however, minimal and most families returned in 1963.

Many scientific studies have been made of the islands, focussing on the wildlife but also on the culture, given that there is such a small group of people (264 in 2016) living in great isolation.

The main island is generally mountainous, covering 98Km²{3}. The only flat area is on the north-west coast, which is the location of the only settlement, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas (often referred to as ‘the settlement’. The highest point is a volcano called Queen Mary’s Peak at 2,062 metres. This is snow-covered by in winter. The other islands of the group are uninhabited, though there is a weather station on Gough Island with a staff of six.

The archipelago has a wet oceanic climate, with comfortable temperatures but frequent moderate to heavy rainfall and very limited sunshine due to the persistent westerly winds. Frost is unknown below elevations of 500 metres and summer temperatures are mild, rarely reaching 25°C.

Economically, the island is operated as a commune, as determined by William Glass in 1817. All families are farmers and own their own stock and/or fishing, but all land is communally owned and every household has a plot of land at ‘The Patches’ on which to grow potatoes. Livestock numbers are controlled to conserve pasture. Outsiders are not permitted to buy land or settle on Tristan. In addition to farming, most adults also have salaried jobs, working mostly for the Government. Many of the men also fish, going to sea in good weather. Valuable foreign earnings come from the commercial crawfish or Tristan rock lobster (‘Jasus’) industry. Tristan does not use the Saint Helena Pound (SHP), it uses the United Kingdom issue of the pound sterling (GBP).

Tristan can be reached only by sea. Fishing boats from South Africa call at the islands eight or nine times a year.

There is limited Internet connectivity and no mobile phone service. Almost no tourists visit Tristan da Cunha.

Tristan has eight elected councillors, from which one is elected ‘Chief Islander’ - a purely ceremonial position. The Governor is represented by an Administrator, appointed from London.

From the sea [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
From the sea{b}

Welcome sign [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Welcome sign

The Settlement [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
The Settlement

The Settlement [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
The Settlement

The Post Office [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
The Post Office{c}

Sooty Albatross [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
Sooty Albatross

From space, 6th February 2013 [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]
From space, 6th February 2013{a}

More here:

One that got away…

Note that our assumed sister island, St Helena Nova never actually existed!

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]

Laugh at funny sisterislands humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Sister Islands]


{a} Earth Observatory, taken from the ISS

{b} Hadoram Shirihai, via Twitter®

{c} St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society (SHATPS)


{1} There are three inhabited islands, but all three have a number of associated islands, of varing sizes.

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

{3} The island group covers 207Km².

{4} From which much of the information presented here is obtained{2}.


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