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Where is St Helena?

How to find St Helena on a map

In the visible world, the Milky Way is a tiny fragment; within this fragment, the solar system is an infinitesimal speck, and of this speck our planet is a microscopic dot. On this dot,…
Bertrand Russell in ‘Dreams and Facts’

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St Helena is approximately 1,900Km west of the Angola/Namibia border, in the South Atlantic Ocean.

This page is in indexes: Island Place Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?Island Place, Island Detail Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?Island Detail

Below: Where in the world is St HelenaFirst MapHow to get hereBritish Overseas TerritoryShipping LanesRead More

Its map coordinates are 15°55’24.3”S; 5°43’3.5”W, Decimal: Latitude -15.923426945; Longitude -5.717638799{1} - but you’ll need quite a large-scale map! St Helena is only 16 by 8 kilometres, or 121 km² - see our How Small Is St Helena? page to understand this better, which makes it one of the world’s smallest inhabited islands.

It has a population of around 4,500 people{2} and was discovered in 1502 by the Portugese. The currency is the St Helena Pound (SHP) and the international telephone dialling code is 290. Our timezone is GMT+0.

It’s hard to think of an isolated speck of land more synonymous with inaccessibility than St Helena.
‘The allure and attractions of St Helena’ - Lonely Planet, 4th September 2015

Actually it seems St Helena is not (quite) where we thought it was….

Where in the world is St Helena 

Location map for St Helena 15°55’24.3”S; 5°43’3.5”W Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?
Location map for St Helena, 15°55’24.3”S; 5°43’3.5”W{1}


Interactive map, by Google™ Maps{a}

You could also see…

If looking for St Helena on the Internet you might first want to check our island’s correct name.

And did you know there was once thought to be a second St Helena, side-by-side with us in the South Atlantic? Check out our page Two St Helenas? to read more.

Harbour view with sailing ship Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?
Harbour view, with sailing ship

1929:

St. Helena lies in latitude 15.55° South and longitude 5.42° West{6}. It is about 950 miles due south of the Equator, 4,000 miles from England, and 1,700 miles from Cape Town. The voyage from England occupies from 14 to 17 days, and from Cape Town from five to six days.

The area of the island is 47 square miles. The population is about 3,800, of whom about 1,500 live in Jamestown, the port and only town in the island.{b}

First Map 

The first world map we can find that shows St Helena is by Abraham Ortelius - his ‘Theatrum Orbis Terrarum’ from 1570 (though if you know of an earlier example please contact us{3}). This demonstrates that the claim the Portuguese tried to keep St Helena a secret is untrue (or they failed!) - supported by the existence of German Valentim Fernandes’s 1506 map of St Helena.

Until a reliable way of establishing Longitude at sea was established (in the 18th Century) the usual way to locate St Helena was to get to latitude 16° and then sail east or west until the island was sighted! Of course, it mattered if you went east and St Helena was to your west…

Note also that, around 80 years later and for the following sixty years or so, map makers started showing two St Helenas on their maps!

Ortelius world map 1570 (full image 5816x3961 px 15.5Mb) Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?
Ortelius world map, 1570 (full image: 5816x3961 px, 15.5Mb)

Heinrich Scherer Munich 1702 Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?

Heinrich Scherer’s 1702 map of the globe (8.5Mb) (4195x2739 px) is also worth studying, and additionally features both St Helenas (see extract, right)!

How to get here 

The many ways to get to St Helena are discussed on our Getting Here page.

British Overseas Territory 

British Overseas Territories Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?

Extract from an 1886 map Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?
Extract from an 1886 British Empire map

St Helena is part of the British Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

The name ‘British Overseas Territory’ was introduced by the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, replacing the name British Dependent Territory introduced by the British Nationality Act 1981. Prior to 1st January 1983, the territories were officially referred to as British Crown Colonies. Our older £1 coins have the text ‘Colony of St Helena’ engraved around the rim.

The head of state in the overseas territories is the British monarch, who appoints a representative in each territory to exercise her executive power, our Governor.

St Helena used to be an important part of the British Empire, as the extract from an 1886 map (right) illustrates. The full map is a stunning example of Victorian cartography and can be downloaded here (9876x7346 px) (8.6Mb).

The one below, from 1910, which helps us to understand the wonderful way in which the British Empire is established throughout the world features St Helena and is also quite pictorial. So too does the British Post Office map below that from the 1930s.

‘Flags of a Free Empire’ 1910 Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?
‘Flags of a Free Empire’, 1910

‘Mail Steamship Routes’ 1930s Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?
‘Mail Steamship Routes’, 1930s

Shipping Lanes 

As can seen from the 1886 map above, St Helena used to be an important stop en-route to and from the Cape. Today this is no longer the case. The map below is taken from live-tracking website www.marinetraffic.com, showing all ships in the south Atlantic as at 12:30GMT on 15th February 2017. The red lines (which we added) show the primary ship routes, going to the north and south of St Helena (blue dot).

Shipping map 2017 02 15 12:30 Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?
{c}

Read More 

Below: Not (quite) where we thought it was…St Helena is…

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

Not (quite) where we thought it was…

Press Release issued by the Government of St Helena 25th January 2018{4}{5}

St Helena moves 732 metres on the map

St Helena Government is in the process of creating a new detailed topographic map of St Helena, the first update since 1990. Since then, a lot of things have changed, not just a new airport being built with regular scheduled flights and the imminent decommissioning of the much loved RMS.

Revised location Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?

In 1990, Sat Navs were still an expensive novelty, mostly used by the military. Nowadays, GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers are everywhere, very inexpensive and almost everyone with a smart phone has the ability to find their position with an accuracy of about five metres anywhere on the planet. The 1990 series St Helena 1:10,000 and 1:25,000 topographic maps are based on the old Astro DOS datum setup by the UK’s Directorate of Overseas Surveys (DOS) in 1971. Back then, GPS did not exist and far less precise astronomical methods were used to work out positions in the open ocean like St Helena Island. It turns out that the Astro DOS datum in St Helena is 732 metres off from truth (today’s GPS position). This means that anyone using a GPS in default setting mode with the 1990 series maps will plot their position 732 metres out, which on St Helena could be a serious mistake.

Of course, if you select the Astro Dos 71/4 option in GPS receivers this error goes away but this isn’t the ideal situation for safety reasons. In the ideal world your GPS position in default mode should match up exactly with the map, so this has necessitated preparation of new maps by SHG. The construction of the new airport, associated roads and port facilities has also warranted the update as well of course.

During 2015 and 2016, geodetic surveyors led by Murray Henry from SHG re-surveyed the Island visiting many of the original 1971 trigonometric stations and also surveying all of the post box walk tracks. The surveyors used state-of-the-art geodetic grade GPS receivers to get centimetre accurate positions of the trigonometric stations. The new datum is called the St Helena Geodetic Datum 2015 (SHGD2015) and is directly compatible with the default GPS datum which is called WGS 84.

A geodetic consultant from Australia, Richard Stanaway, who first visited St Helena as a tourist in 2009 was engaged to compute the new coordinates and work out the difference with the old coordinates. These transformations were checked using different GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to validate them with the latest satellite imagery over St Helena.

St Helena hasn’t really moved 732 metres; that is just the error of the old datum, but the Island is moving a few centimetres each year as she drifts away from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The GPS base station at Longwood run by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA can monitor this tectonic motion precisely. St Helena is a key station in the international monitoring network.

Further information or the full report on this project, entitled ‘Geodetic Datum Modernisation for St Helena’ is available on request from Samantha Cherrett (samantha.cherrett@enrd.gov.sh) or Devlin Yon (devlin-yon@enrd.gov.sh) at Essex House, Tel: 22270.

We were going to make a copy of the report available as a downnload but (for no apparent reason) the Government of St Helena won’t let us…

St Helena is…

Just about everything you read about St Helena begins with some variation of this:

St Helena is situated at a latitude 15° 55’ south and longitude 5° 45’ west{6} in the South Atlantic Ocean. The island is volcanic in origin and almost everywhere rugged and mountainous, rising to a peak of 820m high. The island is approximately 16km long and 10km wide, and is some 1,600km off the West African coast. Its nearest neighbour is the island of Ascension 1,100km away. It is about 7,250km from the UK and 2,700km from Cape Town. Its capital, Jamestown, is on the north leeward shore. Although within the tropics St Helena’s coastal climate is kept mild year-round by the south east trade winds. It is warm, damp and equable.

Closing Humour Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?

Laugh at funny Where is St Helena? humour LOL Saint Helena Island Info


Credits:

{a} Google Maps™

{b} The ‘Blue Book’, 1929{5}

{c} www.marinetraffic.com (Annotated)



Footnotes:

{1} Location of Jamestown according to latest GPS data.

{2} According to the 2016 Census, the total resident population on 7th February 2016 was 4,534, 4,122 of which were St Helenian and the remainder visitors, temporary workers, etc.

Extract from mercator’s 1569 world map Saint Helena Island Info Where is St Helena?

{3} Strictly, St Helena is shown on Mercator’s 1569 map (right), but it is hidden behind a legend box (an indication of our perceived importance!) so we think that doesn’t count.

{4} Not, as you might have suspected, 1st April…

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

{6} Actually at 15°55’24.3”S; 5°43’3.5”W{1}.



Take Me Anywhere But Here!
 

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