Older St. Helena Stuff

More things related to the Island of St. Helena

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Older St. Helena Stuff - More things related to the Island of St. Helena

Go to:Wish you were there? Family set for life on remote islandAtlantic Star Airlines plots Cape Town - St. Helena - Europe from 2016St. Helena airport to open February 2016; on line survey to assess travel potentialOperation St. Helena: the table has landed...Another photo of St. Helena from spaceMantis to Develop New Hotel on Saint Helena, Island in South AtlanticSt. Helena on “From Our Own Correspondent”Stunning Cloud Swirls Spotted by SatelliteFamily start new life on remote islandSt. Helena: Sailing to the South Atlantic outpost where Napoleon saw out his daysSaint Helena: Mixed reactions over airport plansNapoleon’s halting English on show in auction letter‘I have enow sleep, I go then finish the night into to cause with you’Cricket fever sweeps St. Helena‘Saints’ honoured with their own airport at lastDorset sheep bound for St. Helena on Royal Mail shipPreston bus station [and St. Helena] on UK monument ‘at risk’ listA long journey begins for Commonwealth athletesFor Gaddafi, a home on St. HelenaNapoleon used years on St. Helena to learn EnglishNapoleon: Saint Helena’s Claim to FameSt. Helena reforestation wins conservation awardNot as Observant as I First ThoughtComment on St. Helena’s participation in the Commonwealth Games 2010St. Helena PilgrimageQueen’s Baton meets Saint Helena’s oldest residentSt. Helena: The island that Britain forgotLife on one of the world’s most remote islandsLord Ashcroft takes a stand on St. HelenaThe legacy of an inhuman tradePlace of AsylumAngola invades St. HelenaWe must not neglect the outposts of EmpireIsland ‘at risk without airport’St. Helena remains cut off from world as Whitehall drops airport planHope and survival are the election issues in St. HelenaSt. Helena on “From Our Own Correspondent”Filmmaker’s historic revelationNapoleon rides into Anaheim


Wish you were there? Family set for life on remote island

Derby Telegraph 27th June 2013

Belper, Derbyshire
Belper, Derbyshire
Sarah, Tim and daughter Lucy
Sarah, Tim and daughter Lucy
St. Helena
St. Helena
Location map
Location map

A FAMILY have swapped life in landlocked Derbyshire to live and work on one of the most remote islands in the world.

Tim and Sarah Troman, along with their two-year-old daughter, Lucy, have left behind their Belper home and are on their way to Saint Helena - a British territory in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, 1,200 miles off the coast of Africa.

They are moving there because Sarah has secured a job as capital programme manager, overseeing projects that improve the island’s infrastructure.

At present, the island is only accessible by boat and one of the projects she will work on is the creation of an airstrip.

In the past, Sarah has been involved with regeneration projects in Derby through her work with now defunct regeneration company Derby Cityscape.

The Tromans have already started their journey to the island, where they will be joining a population of just over 4,200 people.

But because Saint Helena has no airport, they have had to travel on an RAF flight to Ascension Island - another remote British territory island in the South Atlantic.

From there, the family will take a boat trip on HMS St. Helena{1} to their final destination.

Once there, they will live on the island for two years, which means Tim and Susan have both had to quit their jobs back in Derbyshire.

Sarah worked for Derby City Council and Tim was sales director of Alfreton-based manufacturing firm Amberol.

Sarah said: “It was sad to say goodbye to everybody.I enjoyed my time working in regeneration in Derby.”

“I hope when we next come back for a visit lots of projects will be completed or well under way.”

“It feels pretty strange to leave but now that most of our stuff is on a container ship headed for Cape Town, there’s no going back!”

Before embarking on the trip, Tim, who was Amberol’s first employee when he joined the firm in 1983, said he would miss his colleagues.

He said: “While the Saint Helena project is a fantastic opportunity, I will miss the staff at Amberol who have become friends as well as colleagues.They are like extended family.”

Amberol’s marketing director, John Williamson, said: “We were sorry to see Tim go after so many years.”

“He has played a crucial role in the company’s growth.We wish him and his family all the best in this exciting new phase of his life.”

Tim will be spending his time on Saint Helena looking after daughter Lucy, while Sarah works on the 47-square-mile island.

Discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, Saint Helena is perhaps most famous for being home to Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile in the 19th century.

Because of the island’s remoteness, the Tromans will keep in touch with friends and family via the internet.

Tim has started a blog called Tim’s Just Like Living In Paradise, where he has so far been describing life on Ascension Island and posting pictures.

In one of his most recent posts, Tim wrote: “The first thing that hits you is the heat but I guess we will get used to that.”

“The island initially doesn’t look that attractive but as you spend more time wandering around it is quite beautiful and the beaches are stunning, although the sea is not safe to swim in due to the strong currents.”

“The overriding factor here is just how friendly everyone is.Literally you spend all day waving at complete strangers.”


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Atlantic Star Airlines plots Cape Town - St. Helena - Europe from 2016

ch-aviations 12th June 2013

Image of an Atlantic Star Boeing 757-200

Atlantic Star Airlines is a start-up founded by three ex-British Airways pilots with plans to begin flights from the British Overseas Territory of St. Helena, situated in the South Atlantic Ocean, to the United Kingdom using a B757-200 WIN.According to their business plan, flights will initially operate once weekly routed Cape Town - Saint Helena - Southern Europe - London with an additional first sector from Johannesburg O.R. Tambo to be added once demand has picked up.Thereafter, frequencies will be increased to “two or three” flights per week.Operations will only begin once the airport on St. Helena, still under construction, is completed and certified in early 2016.

More information at www.atlantic-star-airlines.com.


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St. Helena airport to open February 2016; on line survey to assess travel potential

Merco Press 28th May 2013

Click for: Image of St. Helena’s planned new airport bulding (Click to see the full-sized image, opens in a new window or tab)
Image of St. Helena’s planned new airport bulding

Matt Joshua of ‘The Journey Tourism’ has been commissioned by Enterprise St. Helena to assess visitor potential for the island.

“An important part of this is assessing the potential level of travel by Saints living on the island and living overseas.”

Matt hopes that St. Helenians living in the Falklands will take the time to complete a survey online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/SaintsOverseas in order to assess that travel.

According to the Falklands 2012 census almost 420 St. Helenians are living in the Islands, two thirds of them at the Mount Pleasant complex.

As one of the leading communities in the Falklands, Saint Helenians celebrated their day last week with a reception held at Government House in Stanley.

Acting Governor Sandra Tyler-Haywood welcomed everyone to the event which celebrated the anniversary of the discovery of their island home more than 500 years ago.

Mrs Tyler-Haywood said it was fair to say that while the Falklands and St. Helena enjoyed very different climates, the islands do have much in common.

The reception was, she said, an opportunity to celebrate the common bonds that the Falklands and St. Helena have, not just as UK Overseas Territories but also as island people.

The St. Helena airport is under construction since early 2012 and is scheduled to open in February 2016, by which time the RMS Saint Helena, the only regular ship to call at St. Helena, will be retired.

A total amount of £201.5 million has been funded by the British government for design and construction of the airport which will be carried out by South African engineering group Basil Read (Pty) Ltd.Additional funds of up to £10 million in shared risk contingency, and £35.1 million for ten years of operation by South-African airport operator Lanseria Airport have also been granted by the UK Government.

The airport will be the largest single investment ever made in the island.

Saint Helena has a known history of over 500 years since its recorded discovery by the Portuguese in 1502.

Claiming to be Britain’s second oldest colony, it is one of the most isolated islands in the world and was for several centuries of vital strategic importance to ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa.For several centuries, the British used the island as a place of exile, most notably for Napoleon Bonaparte.

Most historical accounts state the island was discovered on May 21, 1502 by the Galician navigator João da Nova sailing at the service of the Portuguese Crown, on his voyage home from India, and that he named it Santa Helena after Helena of Constantinople.


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Operation St. Helena: the table has landed...

Napoleon’s furniture

napoleon.org 24th May 2013

“Operation St. Helena” was marked this week by a newsworthy event.After a long journey by boat and road, thirty pieces of furniture from Longwood House have arrived at Château de Bois-Préau, where they will be taken care of by a team of specialists as part of the restoration process.Amongst the historic pieces are a billiard table, Napoleon’s globes, a dining table and console tables.We can’t show you anything but the boxes that these treasures are kept in; like the in the Little Prince, you’ll have to imagine what they contain until 28 May, when unpacking will start.The restoration, to be followed by an exhibition running in 2016, probably at the Musée de l’Armée, was made possible thanks to the generosity of nearly 2,000 donors to Operation St. Helena, initiated by the Domaines nationaux de St Hélène, the Fondation Napoléon, the French Foreign Ministry and the Souvenir Napoléonien.It’s still possible to make a contribution online.Sixty pieces of furniture related to Napoleon’s exile remain on St. Helena.They however are to be restored in situ on the island.The government of St. Helena is making a substantial donation of £80,000 for this.As a result a French restoration specialist can go to the island to train young apprentices there.We should congratulate Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, curator of the Domaines and the honorary French consul, who has been the lynchpin of all of the work, negotiations, transfers, journeys and a hundred other things beside.

Thierry Lentz, Director of the Fondation Napoléon


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Another photo of St. Helena from space

Click for: St. Helena from space, by Cmdr Chris Hadfield (Click to see the full-sized image, opens in a new window or tab)

Cmdr Chris Hadfield, one of the astronauts on the International Space Station, snapped this shot of St. Helena and posted it on Twitter.

(Thanks to St. Helena Online for alerting us to the image.)

Our comment:

Given the importance to St. Helena of fishing we think maybe this image should become part of the national flag.


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Mantis to Develop New Hotel on Saint Helena, Island in South Atlantic

St. Helena From Space

Luxury Travel Magazine 22nd February 2013

Mantis, a collection of privately owned boutique hotels and eco escapes around the world, announces its latest project will be the development of a five star hotel on the island of Saint Helena, a British overseas territory located in the South Atlantic Ocean.

As one of the most remote places in the world, more than 1,200 miles from the nearest major landmass and with its rich flora and fauna, the island certainly fits with Mantis’ mantra of “unearthing the exceptional”.

A team of six from Mantis, including founder and chairman Adrian Gardiner, visited the island in January of this year and identified Ladder Hill Fort as the location for the five star hotel, which will have 45 bedrooms, including 10 self-catering units, a restaurant, spa and fitness facilities.

Mantis aims to commence construction towards the end 2013 and opening the hotel in 2015.The island, which is currently accessed by the last commercially operating U.K. Royal Mail Ship, will be opening its own airport in January 2016.

A major priority for the project will be the restoration of the fort, ensuring it is sensitive to its history, the environment and the local community, something which Mantis has experience with from the 2011 refurbishment of 16th century country house hotel, Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham.

In addition to its development knowledge, Mantis will also be bringing its hospitality, education and conservation experience to the island.A special focus will be put on supporting the local community and the natural environment.The 47 square miles island has a population of 4,257.

Gardiner said “Saint Helena is unique - the waters that surround it, the forest, the potential for the hospitality industry - and I am hugely excited for our brand to be involved in this major tourism development for the island.The Mantis philosophy is unearthing the exceptional and Saint Helena is no doubt one of the exceptional.We plan to add value wherever we can to make the tourism industry on this island a success, drawing on our own experience, from supporting the island’s marketing plans to training its community and championing conservation work, an issue very close to my heart.”

More information about Mantis can be found at www.mantiscollection.com


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St. Helena on “From Our Own Correspondent”

BBC Radio 4’s “From Our Own Correspondent”

On 22nd December 2012 BBC Radio 4’s programme “From Our Own Correspondent” featured an item recorded by BBC journalist Horatio Claire following his recent visit to St. Helena.“From Our Own Correspondent” is always an excellent programme and this was an accurate piece on current developments in St. Helena.Click here to hear St. Helena on BBC Radio 4’s “From Our Own Correspondent”.


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Stunning Cloud Swirls Spotted by Satellite

Our Amazing Planet (livescience.com) 27th November 2012

Stunning Cloud Swirls Spotted by Satellite

Alone in the South Atlantic Ocean sits the small volcanic island of Saint Helena.The towering peak of the island disrupts clouds as they pass overhead, creating swirling patterns called von Karman vortices that can be seen by satellites overhead.

The swirling clouds, moving to the northwest over Saint Helena, were snapped by NASA’s Terra satellite on Nov. 15, 2012, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

Von Karman vortices are created when a mass of fluid, such as water or air, encounters an obstacle, and creates swirls going in alternating directions.These so-called “Von Karman streets” can be seen in satellite photographs of clouds around the world.

Saint Helena is dominated by Mount Actaeon, which reaches up to 2,680 feet (818 meters), according to the CIA World Fact Book.It’s part of the British overseas territory that includes the islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

Nobody lived here when it was first discovered by the Portuguese in 1502.British soldiers were stationed on the island during the 17th century, according to the World Fact Book.It became well-known for being the place of Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile from 1815 until his death in 1821, but its importance as a port went down after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.


The N.A.S.A. website also carried this image, with the following text:

Cloud Vortices Off Saint Helena Island

NASA’s Terra satellite passed over the South Atlantic Ocean on Nov. 15, 2012, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument flying aboard to capture this true-colour image of St. Helena Island and the band of wind-blown cloud vortices trailing towards the island’s leeward side.

St. Helena Island is a tiny island lying approximately 1,860 kilometres (1,156 miles) west of Africa.Volcanic in origin, it has rugged topography with steep, sharp peaks and deep ravines.Wind, which can blow unimpeded for hundreds of miles across the ocean, strikes the face of the mountains, and is forced around the unyielding terrain.As it blows around the island, the air spins on the leeward side, much like a flowing river forms eddies on the downriver side of a piling.The spinning wind forms intricate - and mathematically predictable - patterns.When clouds are in the sky, these beautiful patterns become visible from above.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team

You can see the full image here (click to view; right-click to download; 400Kb)


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Family start new life on remote island

By Ian Smith, The Berwick Advertiser 25th November 2012

ANYONE who considers north Northumberland to be remote and isolated should perhaps think again when they hear that a Berwick family have emigrated to St. Helena.

John and Eleanor Gilchrist and their three children, Isabel, six, William, four and Alec, two
Ellenor and John with children William Alec and Isabelle all packed and ready for a huge adventure.The Gilchrist family are leaving Tweedmouth for Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean for the next two years.

John and Eleanor Gilchrist and their three children, Isabel, six, William, four and Alec, two, are spending the next two years on the tiny island in the South Atlantic Ocean.

They are well aware that they will face numerous challenges adapting to such a unique environment but they are embracing the change in lifestyle it will bring.

“I’ll not missing paying £3,500 for a season rail ticket or the commute home at night,” joked John, who works for Audit Scotland in Edinburgh.

He has been allowed a career break to take on an auditing role with the St. Helena government to help bring its records in line with the international standard.

“We love living in Berwick and are happily settled here but this job came up which really suited what I do and will give me lots of useful experience - and at the end of the day I know I can go back to my old job in two years,” said John.

“In a way it’s the perfect time to do it,” added Eleanor.“When we come back Alec will be just about to start school and Isabel will still have a year of first school left.Hopefully we’ll be able to get them all into Tweedmouth West because it’s a really good school.”

“We’ve been told the education system on St. Helena isn’t the best, so that was our biggest concern about going there, but by doing it when they’re still young they should be able to catch up quickly when we come back.”

“With Isabel being at school already she is worried about missing her friends, but we’ve told her she’ll make lots of new friends and the old ones will still be there when we come back.She’s also be taught the English national curriculum which is good.”

Perhaps the biggest headache of all will be getting there in the first place - by an exhausting combination of rail, road, air and boat.

“We’ve already shipped a lot of our stuff out there but we’ve still got 10 suitcases - and three children - to get on a train to Oxford and across to the RAF base at Brize Norton,” said Eleanor, speaking the day before their departure.

They were then due to get a military flight to Ascension Island where they had to wait three days to catch the once every three weeks Royal Mail ship to St. Helena for a 800-mile journey that takes a further two days.“That’s the most daunting bit of the whole thing,” admitted Eleanor.“We’d known for a few months that we’d be going to St. Helena but we didn’t know when and then, all of a sudden, we were given a mid-November date.”

“In a way there’s been so much to do that there’s been no time to worry about it.”

St. Helena is a British overseas territory, measuring just 10x5 miles with a population of 4,255.It is one of the most isolated islands in the world, more than 1,200 miles away from the west coast of Africa.Its most famous resident was undoubtedly Napoleon Bonaparte who was exiled there by the British, followed by more than 5,000 Boer prisoners.

St. Helena is a British overseas territory, measuring just 10x5 miles with a population of 4,255

“John actually had the chance of a job on Ascension Island before this one came up but we felt it wasn’t for us as it’s mainly a military base servicing the island,” revealed Eleanor.

“On the other hand, St. Helena has its own culture and community.Because we’d already considered Ascension Island, I think when St. Helena came up is seemed far more appealing.”

They have been provided with a house in Longwood in the island’s tropical interior, with John travelling to the port capital of Jamestown for work.

“We’ve bought a second hand car so we can get around,” said John.“It’s not that far for me to get to work but it’ll still take a while as the speed limit is 30mph because of the twisty roads!”

“We’re expecting a much slower pace of life which is one of the things I’m looking forward to,” added Eleanor.“It’ll be nice to have John home after work at a more reasonable time so we can have dinner together as a family.”

They have been advised that some things are not easy to get while others are more expensive on St. Helena.

“It’s incredibly remote and everything that comes on to the island arrives on the Royal Mail ship which travels via Cape Town and Ascension Island so there will be items that are hard to come by,” said Eleanor.

“Children’s clothing is one of the things we’ve been told about so we’ve stocked up on the next size up for them,” she said.

“Food-wise it should be quite good.They have corner shop type stores rather than supermarkets so we’ve been told it will be a ?little bit more expensive than we’re used to.And we won’t be able to get things like strawberries unless they’re grown on the island.”

“We’ve taken pretty much everything we could want during the time we’re there, including things like Christmas presents.”

The weather they will arrive to will also be welcomed, especially as the UK enters winter.

“With it being in the southern hemisphere they’re just entering spring so it’s a good time to go,” said Eleanor.“They don’t really have extremes of temperature there; I’ve been told it’s a bit like a warm version of the UK but without the winter!”

Both John and Eleanor seem to be remarkably composed about the adventure that awaits their young family.

John said: “I’m totally up for whatever happens.I want to see what life on St. Helena is like and am looking forward to the change of pace; just going with the flow really.”

Eleanor added: “There’s something not quite real about it at the moment.Maybe once we get those 10 suitcases off the train at Oxford we’ll be able to put our minds more to what we’re going to face there!”

The pair admit they are going to miss Berwick where they have lived for the past four years.

“We’ve made some lovely friends,” said Eleanor.“I belong to the Take Note choir which I really enjoy and I’ll miss my weekly get-togethers with a group of mums but it’s only temporary.”

“We have a great adventure ahead of us and it’s our intention to throw ourselves into it.It’s going to be a brilliant experience.”



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St. Helena: Sailing to the South Atlantic outpost where Napoleon saw out his days

By John Carter, Daily Mail 7th October 2012

The afternoon sun beat down from a cloudless sky upon the canopies shielding the tables outside the Jamestown waterfront coffee shop.I was glad of their shade, and the protection of a generous coating of factor 15.

It may have been February 25, but it was definitely a day for sun cream, dark glasses, a polo shirt and shorts.

At a nearby table, a group of English twentysomething dancers from a cruise ship moored offshore were trying to get a signal on their mobiles.They stared in disbelief when I told them mobiles don’t work on the island.‘What sort of weird place is this?’ one of the girls inquired.

Rugged charm: Sandy Bay seen from the verdant valleys of the Peaks on St. Helena

Liquid refreshment: John, far left, with distillery owner Paul Hickling and a bottle of Tungi

I should have told her it is the kind of ‘weird’ place where everyone speaks English, and drives on the proper side of the road.Where the time is the same as at home, the banknotes and coins are virtually identical and on a par with Sterling.

And where mobile phones don’t work.So, what’s not to like about the sub-tropical island of St. Helena?Yes, St. Helena.Most people aren’t sure where it is - I had to look it up before my trip - but they probably know it as the island where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled and died.It also happens to be about the most isolated place on the planet, but that is about to change.Which is why I was there.

St. Helena is a lump of British territory a little larger than Guernsey, sitting in the South Atlantic south of the Equator, 1,945 miles north-west of Cape Town, from where the Royal Mail Ship St. Helena sails.At present, she is the only way to get to the island.

However, St. Helena island is going to have an airport.Work has already started and the 6,000ft runway and terminal building on Prosperous Bay Plain is due to receive its first flight by the end of 2015.

To say the 4,000 ‘Saints’ - as the locals are known - have mixed feelings about this is an understatement.Some can’t wait to get into the 21st Century, while others fear for the environment and wildlife (some of which is unique to St. Helena) and how the development of tourism will affect the island’s easy-going lifestyle.

There is good reason to be cautious - look what happened to the Portuguese Algarve following the opening of Faro airport in the Sixties - but St. Helena is a gem that deserves to be seen and enjoyed.And an increase in visitors will certainly boost a flagging economy - you don’t get rich exporting coffee and tuna.

St. Helena’s volcanic origin means that many of its 47 square miles are pretty steep.The roads are narrow and little can be done to make them easier for visiting drivers.

The island attracts mainly older South Africans and Britons, who enjoy walking and exploring its dramatic landscape, and there are several fine rambling routes.


Bowled over: Crew passengers play cricket on RMS St. Helena

There is excellent game fishing and unlike most Caribbean islands, you don’t have to travel out a dozen miles or more before casting your lines for tuna or marlin.I took a trip and saw not only dolphin by the score, but magnificent whale sharks, some of which swam right beneath our keel.In season, humpback whales come to a calving ground off the island.

There’s snorkelling and scuba-diving too, with 18th Century wrecks a little way offshore.

Don’t expect a beach holiday - Sandy Bay, the island’s sole beach, is made of black volcanic sand, and one cannot swim off it because of a fierce undertow.

And then there is the Napoleon connection.Four months after his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon arrived on St. Helena and stayed at a property called The Briars from October 1815 until December, when he moved to Longwood, a larger house.He died there in May 1821 and was buried on the island.In 1840 his remains were returned to France, but you can still visit the site of his tomb.

The Briars and Longwood are owned by the French government (there is a French consul), open to visitors and worth seeing.

I stayed at Farm Lodge, at Rosemary Plain, some distance from Jamestown, the island’s capital.Built in about 1690 as a planter’s house, it is now owned and run as a boutique hotel by Steve Biggs and Maureen Jonas and is absolutely first-class.I also stayed at the Wellington House Hotel in Jamestown.I had a comfortable room and excellent meals, but there were no en suite facilities.

This way for history: A signpost shows the way to Napoleon’s tomb

I have some very special memories of my visit.Lunch with His Excellency the Governor is joint top of the list - along with meeting Jonathan, the tortoise in the garden of his official residence, who is reckoned to be about 200 years old and, according to the vet, still ‘at it’ with two other venerable tortoises.

I also enjoyed a visit to the island’s distillery, whose owner Paul Hickling told me about Tungi, a local drink made from prickly pear cactus.

In St James’s Church - ‘the oldest Anglican Church in the Southern Hemisphere’ - I made a note of memorial tablets to a two-year old orphan who died at sea ‘of a lingering and wasting sickness which yielded to no human remedy’, and to George Singer, a ‘worthy and good servant’ who met his end by being ‘accidentally precipitated from off Egg Island’.Egg is off the coast of St. Helena.

Then it was time to sail to Cape Town.Which brings me back to RMS St. Helena.Launched in 1989, she is a fine vessel, taking just 128 passengers, and one of the last mail ships in service.The six-day voyage is run like a minicruise with quiz evenings, deck games and a cricket match between crew and passengers for the South Atlantic Curry Cup, which the crew always win.

All aboard: 22-day packages to St. Helena cost £2,521 on the RMS St. Helena ship

When the airport opens, the mail ship will lose her Government subsidy and her future is uncertain.I hope she will be replaced, as for plenty of people the sea trip is a vital part of the superb St. Helena experience.

Apart from the airport - costing £200 million - the largest project is a £50 million plan for a 63 bedroom, five-star hotel and an 18-hole golf course.

At present, the island is a part-time tourist destination.But if the decision-makers keep a tight rein on development, the Saints are on to a winner.Especially if they fix it so mobiles still don’t work.

Travel facts

A 22-day package to St. Helena costs from £2,521 per person.The Explorer Tour package includes two nights in Cape Town (pre- and post-voyage), a voyage aboard RMS St. Helena in a T2H Cabin on A Deck, and eight nights in St. Helena.International flights to Cape Town and accommodation there are not included.

Rates at Farm Lodge Country House Hotel cost from £65pp per night, based on two sharing.Half-board costs from £93pp per night.

Rates at the Wellington House Hotel start from £33.50pp per night on a bed-andbreakfast basis, based on two sharing.Rooms are not en suite.

For more information on the island and on RMS St. Helena, call 020 7575 6480 or visit rms-st-helena.com.

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Saint Helena: Mixed reactions over airport plans

By James Melik, Business Daily, BBC World Service, 15th August 2012

Issuing stamps has been a big money-spinner for the island
Issuing stamps has been a big money-spinner for the island

The news that an airport is being built on the volcanic island of Saint Helena has been greeted with mixed emotions.

The British territory, with a population of 4,000, is located in the middle of South Atlantic Ocean - and its residents are known as Saints.

It is one of most remote islands in the world, situated between Angola and Brazil, and the only way to get there is by ship from either Ascension Island or Cape Town in South Africa.

“The airport will improve access and enable tourism to develop,” says Julian Morris, chief executive for economic development on the island.

However, that is precisely what some islanders do not want.

“We will just become a destination at the end of another strip of Tarmac,” laments one Saint, who prefers to remain anonymous because feelings are running high between supporters and opponents of the project.

Mr Morris admits that people cannot agree on everything all of the time, but points to a referendum when islanders overwhelmingly voted for the airport

“The project is properly mandated,” he insists, whereas disgruntled Saints believe the referendum was slanted in the government’s favour.

Replacing funding

“The plan does not involve the island becoming an off-shore financial centre”
Julian Morris
CEO economic development

The current British coalition government has revived plans to build an airport on the island over the next four years.

Some question the validity of spending £250m in times of austerity, but the UK government says it will lead to saving because it currently spends £25m annually to keep the island solvent, and that funding will eventually be dropped.

“At the moment, the island cannot improve its financial situation because of its remoteness,” says Mr Morris.

He maintains that an airport will not only increase tourism, but it will also enable activities such as deep-sea fishing to develop.

“The plan does not involve the island becoming an off-shore financial centre,” he insists.

“We want to increase tourism for discerning people, not as a mass market destination,” he says.

He also notes that for a small island, measuring 16km by 8km (10 miles by five miles), developing its tourism sector sustainability is very important.

Previously, the main source of income for the island was flax, until the closure of the island’s flax mills in 1965.

The industry declined because of transportation costs and competition from synthetic fibres, while the decision by the British Post Office to use synthetic fibres for its mailbags was a further blow.

Rich history

Saint Helena is Britain’s second oldest remaining overseas territory, after Bermuda, and has a colourful history.

The remoteness of the island is one of the main attractions for people looking for something different
The remoteness of the island is one of the main attractions for people looking for something different

In 1657, Oliver Cromwell granted the English East India Company a charter to govern Saint Helena and the following year the company fortified the island and colonised it.

The British later used the island as a place of exile, most notably for Napoleon Bonaparte - although the Zulu king Cetewayo was also incarcerated there following his defeat in the Boer Wars.

The Saint Helena tourist industry is heavily based on the promotion of Napoleon’s imprisonment.

Saint Helena also gains significant income by issuing its own postage stamps.

Unpredictable change

The airport is expected to create between 500-700 new jobs, which should allow the island to become more self-sufficient.

Ivy Yon runs a bed and breakfast establishment and is worried that accommodation standards on the island might not be up to scratch if there is a big influx of visitors.

“I don’t know how we will cope with the numbers,” she says, while remarking that there is little room to build hotels in Jamestown and, even if there was, it would spoil the look of the island’s capital.

“We will probably end up cleaning toilets and it will be the inward investors who profit the most”
Unhappy islander

“If the hotels have to be built in the countryside, it will spoil the natural beauty that has attracted visitors to the island in the first place.”

There are also concerns as to whether the electricity and water supplies could cope with an increase in numbers.

The unhappy Saint who spoke to the BBC believes the British island in the tropics already caters to a niche market.

“It is ideal for people over 50,” he says, “When they have handed over the reins of a business to someone younger and have time on their hands.”

He says at the moment they can enjoy the leisurely boat trip to and from Cape Town, whereas everywhere now has an airport.

“You can now travel up the Amazon and to the Antarctic,” he says, adding that mass tourism will change the dynamics of the island dramatically.

He is also sceptical about the number of jobs which will be created when the airport is built.

“We will probably end up cleaning toilets and it will be the inward investors who profit the most,” he says.

Furthermore, when planes start landing on the island, the ship will stop running, which will cut down on the amount of freight which can be carried to the island.

“I have to ask how many cars or concrete you can fit into a plane,” he says with hint of sarcasm.

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Napoleon’s halting English on show in auction letter

Napoleon’s teacher said only he could understand the emperor’s English
Napoleon’s teacher said only he could understand the emperor’s English

BBC News, Europe, 5th June 2012

A rare letter written by the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in English has gone on show in Paris.

The letter will be auctioned this weekend, and is expected to fetch up to 80,000 euros (£65,000; $100,000).

The emperor wrote it in March 1816 from exile on the island of Saint Helena.

He was determined to learn the language of his British captors, but the letter shows he had not quite the mastery he would have liked, says the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris.

The yellowed sheet of paper is one of three written from St. Helena, where Napoleon lived in exile after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.

Just after arriving there, Napoleon started daily English lessons given by his aide, Emmanuel, the Comte de las Cases.

Boredom was a spur, as well as a desire to understand what was being communicated around him.

The ex-emperor was a keen student, and soon, when he could not sleep at night, he took to writing short letters to his teacher.

His prose is not always easy for modern English speakers to understand.

“Count Las Case.It is two o’clock after midnight, I have enow [enough] sleep, I go then finish the night into to cause with you,” begins the letter.

It goes on: “He shall land above seven day, a ship from Europe that we shall give account from anything who this shall have been even to day of first January thousand eight hundred sixteen.”

“You shall have for this ocurens a letter from Lady Las Case that shall you learn what himself could carry well if she had conceive the your occurens.But I tire myself and you shall have of the ado at conceive my.”

The auction will take place in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, on Sunday.

Comment by BBC News:

Apparently the emperor’s pronunciation of English was even worse than his written English.The comte said it was like a completely new language, which only he, the teacher, could understand.Still, you have to admire the panache.It was like a last bold charge at the English - but, like at Waterloo, one that did not quite come off.


The letter actually sold at auction for €325,000


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‘I have enow sleep, I go then finish the night into to cause with you’

By Suzannah Hills, The Daily Mail, 6th June 2012

Rare letter written in English by the French emperor Napoleon reveals his struggle to master the language

A rare letter written by the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte while in exile after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo has revealed his struggle to master the English language.

It is one of only three letters written by the emperor in March 1816 while he was held by English captors on the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean.

In broken English, he wrote: ‘Count Las Case.It is two o’clock after midnight, I have enow sleep, I go then finish the night into to cause with you.’

Keen student: Napoleon, depicted in a portrait painting (left), and the TV programme Clash of the Generals (right), attempted to learn English while in exile following the battle of WaterlooKeen student: Napoleon, depicted in a portrait painting (left), and the TV programme Clash of the Generals (right), attempted to learn English while in exile following the battle of Waterloo
Keen student: Napoleon, depicted in a portrait painting (left), and the TV programme Clash of the Generals (right), attempted to learn English while in exile following the battle of Waterloo

The emperor is attempting to convey that he has had enough sleep and wishes to chat - but instead muddles the word with the French phrase ‘causer’, which has the same meaning.

The letter has gone on show in Paris and is expected to sell for 80,000 euros when it goes up for sale this weekend.

Napoleon was determined to learn the language of his captors and underwent daily lessons with his aide, Emmanuel, the Comte de las Cases, so he could understand what was being said around him.

The emperor was an enthusiastic student and often wrote to his teacher in English when he couldn’t sleep to practice.

But this letter shows the emperor was a long way off mastering the language - and it is said his spoken English was even worse.

Broken English: In the rare letter, Napoleon reveals his difficulty in mastering the language
Broken English: In the rare letter, Napoleon reveals his difficulty in mastering the language

The emperor continues: ‘He shall land above seven day, a ship from Europe that we shall give account from anything who this shall have been even to day of first January thousand eight hundred sixteen.

“You shall have for this ocurens a letter from Lady Las Case that shall you learn what himself could carry well if she had conceive the your occurens.But I tire myself and you shall have of the ado at conceive my.”

The auction will take place in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, on Sunday.

Collectable: The rare letter by Napoleon, played here by Vladislav Strzhelchik in the 1969 film War and Peace, is expected to fetch up to £65,000 at auction
Collectable: The rare letter by Napoleon, played here by Vladislav Strzhelchik in the 1969 film War and Peace, is expected to fetch up to £65,000 at auction


JT Comment:

There was also a version of the story in the (UK) Indepdendent newspaper, but after ten minutes of waiting for the page to finish downloading, having said no to all twenty popups advertising things or asking me to respond to surveys, I gave up.If you have superfast broadband and about an hour to spare it’s here: www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/letter-written-by-napoleon-in-english-may-fetch-80000-7818026.html


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Cricket fever sweeps St. Helena

Cricket on Francis Plain - the island’s only cricket pitch

David Millward, The Daily Telegraph, 7th May, 2012

Cricket fever is sweeping St. Helena a volcanic outcrop in the South Atlantic best known as the island where Napoleon was exiled.

A heroes’ welcome awaits the St. Helena team, which has just won its first ever international match, beating Cameroon by nine wickets, when it comes home next weekend.

With a population of just under 4,000, the odds have been stacked against the “Saints” even though cricket has been played on the island since a local league was founded in 1903 by Honourable Humphrey Solomon, a local businessman.

The sport has had a interesting and even tragic history on the island with a soldier on the army garrison plunging to his death after trying to head off a boundary by chasing a ball to the edge of a cliff.

Even sending a team to South Africa was a feat in itself given the isolation of St. Helena, which can only be reached by ship, the RMS St. Helena, which arrives every couple of weeks.

The islanders raised £24,000 to cover the cost of sending them to the tournament, with the team putting their five days on the mail ship to good use by thrashing the crew in matches played with a rope ball.

This was the second time that St. Helena had been invited to participate in a 20 over cricket tournament.

But last time it had to turn the invitation down because it was impossible to tie up the trip with the ship’s sailing schedule.

This time, however, it was able send a team with the star of the team being Gavin George, 57, who was joined by his son David, 33.The youngest team member is only 15.

There was still the odd hurdle to be overcome before the Saints could make their international debut.

Participating in a “pyjama cricket” tournament, the team discovered to its horror that it did not have green wicketkeeper pads.

This was rectified with a swift and judicious application of a coat of green paint.

The tournament could not have started better with the Saints skittling out Cameroon for 36 runs and knocking off the required total for the loss of only one wicket.

“It was overwhelming ,” said Gavin George, “It was very emotional, this was our first game away from St. Helena.”

Formerly an all-rounder, Mr George is now a batsman, though he bowls occasionally.In another historic first the Georges both hit the highest score recorded by a St. Helena batsmen in the same match, 48 runs each against Gambia.

In the tournament St. Helena beat Cameroon, Mali, Gambia and Morocco.It also lost to Morocco as well as being defeated by Zambia, Rwanda and the Seychelles.

Cricket is in the Georges’ blood.Gavin George’s parents and grandparents were enthusiasts.

Even Mr George’s wife, Barbara, has caught the bug, acting as secretary for the Association, where she has been able to keep up with the news of the team’s latest triumph thanks to phone calls and the internet.

“The vibe on the island is incredibly high,” she said .This is the first international tournament they have ever played in and when we compare the demographics of the large African countries to our 46 square miles of St. Helena with under 4000 people here and an ageing population.

“We have shown that there is natural sporting ability here and with training we can compete in the international arena.”

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‘Saints’ honoured with their own airport at last

CAPA Centre for Aviation, 16th November, 2011

After years of vacillation the British Government has finally agreed to underwrite the cost of an airport on the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena and has issued a Design, Build and Operate (DBO) contract for USD340 million.The 4000 islanders, known as ‘Saints’, who rely on an infrequent mail ship to leave and return to their British Overseas Territory home, will within four years have a much more frequent method of access and egress, as long as airlines can be convinced of the value of operating there.But the fact the DBO contractor is a South African company speaks volumes about the UK airport industry’s inability to finance and build infrastructure, even on its own ‘turf’.

It was in April 2005 that Airport Investor Monthly last reported on the proposed new airport for the 16km x 8km island, at which time it appeared that the project might be about to enter the construction phase.But with the onset of the recession, it was postponed on several occasions.

One of the world’s remotest islands

One of the world’s remotest islands

St. Helena is one of the 13 remaining UK Overseas Territories, 16 degrees south of the equator, between Brazil and Angola, and one of the world’s remotest islands, presently accessible only by sea from African ports or from Ascension Island, another British territory, 750 miles northwest.Located 1900km from Africa, Ascension Island is its nearest neighbour.

The passenger and supply ship RMS St. Helena was due to reach the end of its working life in 2010 but its service has been extended out of necessity, operating between Cape Town and St. Helena.The objective has been both to replace it, and to boost the island’s economy, which presently is merely one of self-sustainment by providing an airport.

UK assistance to St. Helena was then about GBP13 million per year but has since risen to GBP35 million out of a total of GBP60 million allocated annually to the South Atlantic Territories, which also comprises Ascension Island (which is populated almost exclusively by military and support personnel) and Tristan da Cunha to the south, which remains virtually inaccessible.These amounts include budgetary support to meet essential public services and to subsidise St. Helena’s dedicated shipping service.

...to take the island “off the books” of the UK taxpayer...

Although it is never publicly stated, the intention of the present Coalition Government, which has taken a renewed interest in St. Helena since it was elected in May-2010, is as much to take the island “off the books” of the UK taxpayer, as it is to provide overdue transport infrastructure.Fortunately, in this instance the two objectives are in unison as it is anticipated that the airport will multiply visitor numbers from around 800 per annum to 29,000, thus creating a self-sustaining tourism industry.Britain is almost as indebted as any of the economies currently making the news (Greece, Italy etc) if one takes into account the hidden amounts of debt in private finance initiative (PFI) transactions and collapsed pension funds, hence the need even to save amounts as relatively small as GBP35 million.

2250m runway called for

The original plan, put together by the London-based consultant Alan Stratford, called for a 2250m runway at Prosperous Bay Plain, on the eastern coast of the island; sufficiently adequate to support safe operation of A320 and B737-800 types.The British Department for International Development (DFID), which typically supports education and infrastructure in the Third World and war-torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, and which is the only Department of State to have had its budget ‘ring-fenced’, was given the job of providing funding, subject to satisfactory bids for a DBO contract and an environmental impact assessment.According to the DFID at the time, “All private sector interest in St. Helena will be considered on an equal footing.”

The project also included technical advice to help establish regular scheduled air services and to support St. Helena in reaping the economic benefits of air access for the island.Increased tourism and inward investment was expected to follow in the wake of the much improved access arrangements.

DFID clearly takes the project seriously...

DFID clearly takes the project seriously.Within the last three months it has advertised for and appointed a “Private Sector Advisor” for the three South Atlantic Territories, with the clear implication that he or she will be expected to ensure St. Helena at least begins to ‘pay for itself’ within two years, which rather runs contrary to its usual ethos.

For some time the frontrunner for the contract was an Italian company, Impregilo, based in Milan, and which has become the leading Italian construction and engineering business operating in the environmental sector, with a track record that includes the Kariba Dam in Zambia and Zimbabwe (1959) and the salvage of the Abu Simbel temples in Egypt (1968).That record does not include many airports, just four contracts, in Italy, Argentina and Bolivia and all in the 1980s/90s.The other bidder was South Africa’s Basil Read but Impregilo won on the basis of ‘best overall value’.

But then the British Government pulled back in light of the recent global economic turmoil.In Jan-2011, new design, build, operate and transfer bids were sought from both Impregilo and Basil Read, but only the South African group actually made an offer this time out.

DFID is funding the entire USD340 million (GBP200 million) project from UK taxpayers contributions...

DFID is funding the entire USD340 million (GBP200 million) project from UK taxpayers contributions, which will now involve a 3500sqm airport building and a 1800m concrete runway (down from 2250m), with, as previously proposed, a taxiway and apron able to cater for aircraft of a size equivalent to an A320, or a Boeing 737-800.

Impressive logistics

As with any airport development on a small island the logistics are impressive.The works will also include an eight-million cubic metre rock fill embankment through which a 750 metre-long reinforced concrete culvert will run, air traffic control and safety systems, a bulk fuel installation for six-million litres of diesel and aviation fuel and a 14km access road up the mountain to the airport site.

Temporary harbour facilities will also be developed to allow a roll-on/roll-off vessel to bring in materials from South Africa and Basil Read would also develop a temporary runway to enable the use of a C130-type aircraft to facilitate quicker access to the site.That runway should be developed within 18 months of the commencement of construction.

The contractors will need to bring in everything from food to the building materials needed for the development of the airport building, which, it is understood will be modelled on another airport of a similar size - that at Nelspruit in Mpumalanga province in South Africa.

New technology enables larger aircraft

A new technology, engineered material arresting system will allow the airport to receive larger aircraft on the short runway...

A new technology, engineered material arresting system will allow the airport to receive larger aircraft on the short runway but does not explain the delight currently being shown in the Falkland Islands that the inhabitants there (who are largely self-sufficient now even though it is still a British Overseas Territory) will be able to reach the UK in 7.5 hours, about half the length of the current journey time.It is difficult to imagine any aircraft that is capable of flying ETOPs operations on that length of journey (approximately 7000 km) being able to use such a short runway, new technology or not.The originally conceived 2250m runway might have been more appropriate.There are approximately 400 ‘Saints’ in the Falkland Islands but any air service would clearly not be designed specifically for them.

There may be some truth in the theory being promoted in the international media that the renewed desire to build the airport is somehow linked to the perceived need to have transport for British troops to the Falkland Islands again in the event of a second invasion by Argentina, which has been belligerent recently.There is no merchant marine left to do it by sea as in 1982.

...construction could begin in May-2012...

The design phase commences immediately and construction could begin in May-2012.Most of the expertise will be derived from South Africa, but Basil Read has indicated that it will employ as many locals as possible in the building and the operation of the facility.(Impregilo had also sent senior representatives to St. Helena to assess the capabilities of locals in that respect.)

Construction will take place over a 48-month period and operation of the airport will continue for 10 years in a contract valued at approximately USD57 million.The award has increased the size of Basil Read’s order book to USD1.6 billion.

Lanseria Airport offers useful expertise

Operational support will come from Lanseria Airport, the privately operated Gauteng province facility to the north of Johannesburg, which, after languishing for several years, has been building up both domestic and international LCC services, as well as acting as a private/business jet airport for Johannesburg and Pretoria.It is unlikely St. Helena will see many business jets, unless Sir Richard Branson decides to buy it, having lost some of his Necker (Caribbean) island to fire, but Lanseria’s expertise will be useful for the type of commercial aircraft that it will see.Basil Read has a joint venture relationship with Lanseria Airport.

...it’s most important goal is to tempt at least some of that diaspora back...

The St. Helena Government itself sees the airport as key to improving logistics for its population and the diaspora that has moved overseas (mainly to Britain) that is greater than the indigenous population; and supporting economic development.It’s most important goal is to tempt at least some of that diaspora back, either permanently, or occasionally with transferable funds.

St. Helena will have to battle to attract tourists

There is much work to be done.

After that, the secondary goal is to increase tourism.But who will come?A 1800m runway will not support intercontinental flights, especially as the nearest alternative airport is so far away.Tourists will, almost by necessity, come initially from South Africa (where St. Helena will be pitched into tough competition with Mauritius and the Seychelles to attract them), possibly from Namibia, and then from Europe (even possibly Asia in time) via either of those places.It could feature as a two-centre vacation location, or a side trip, or as part of a fly-cruise programme.There is much work to be done.In the longer term it may be able to attract traffic from Latin America, especially Brazil, though again runway size will count in the equation, and the Government will be encouraged by the emergence of a ‘string’ of vacation islands down the western side of Africa, including the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde islands, that St. Helena might possibly tap into.

The tourist infrastructure is of concern.There are hotels, bed & breakfast, guest house and self catering units available already, but they cater for 800 visits per annum not 30,000.Growth in residential infrastructure has to come rapidly and outside assistance will be needed.

The island is certainly an attractive place
St. Helena?See Our Comment, below.

The island is certainly an attractive place though it has little in the way of beaches, even fewer roads and its tourist offering momentarily centres on ‘relaxation’ far away from the daily throng, walking in the gentle hills.The attraction of more than 30 times the present level of visitors is almost oxymoronic to the aim of offering a ‘get-away-from-it-all’ island.Its principal feature, for which it is known globally, attracting many visitors despite its remoteness, is the tomb of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who was exiled there.Current plans call for the airport to be operational by 2015, on the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s arrival into final exile.

With that sort of pedigree it is perhaps a little surprising that Aeroports de Paris, through one or both of its engineering and management units, is not more involved here, or perhaps one of the smaller French airport operators that dabbles abroad, like Lyon or Nice.There is certainly the potential for quite a few French tourists to make the journey each year.

A nation of shopkeepers, but not airport builders

...most notable in its absence is the UK...

The country most notable in its absence is the UK itself.During the last five years, British companies have declined somewhat in importance on the global stage where airport construction is concerned, though it is still surprising not to read of companies such as Mott McDonald, Amey or Lagan having any involvement, even if some, like the aforementioned Stratford, and Atkins, which undertook an environmental audit in 2004, have been.As for British operators, they have virtually disappeared off the radar altogether where foreign projects are concerned, which surely must be a worry to the UK Government’s Trade and Business departments.

As Napoleon himself famously said, ‘England is a nation of shopkeepers’, but he might have added not of airport builders or operators.At a demanding British Overseas Territory new build, green field airport, where skills could be put on show for the world to see, just where are the British?

Background information:

The British Government Project Memorandum can be found at: webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk & www.dfid.gov.uk/pubs/files/st-helena-proj-memo.pdf.


Our Comment

The island is certainly an attractive place, but we’re not convinced that the ‘photo they’ve used to illustrate that was actually taken on St. Helena!We’ve only been here seven years and haven’t explored absolutely everywhere, but we’re sure a spectacular rock promontary like the one in the ‘photo would have come to our attention.If you know the island better than we do and that is here somewhere, please contact us - we’d like to visit it!Otherwise you might want to contact the CAPA Centre for Aviation and ask them about it.

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Dorset sheep bound for St. Helena on Royal Mail ship

By Laura Kitching, Dorest Echo, 18th October 2011

Vet Joe Collins with one of the sheep
Vet Joe Collins with one of the sheep

Sixty chickens and a flock of sheep were loaded on to the Royal Mail Ship St. Helena as it made its final voyage from Portland Port.

The 6,767-tonne vessel, which is one of only two Royal Mail Ships left in the world and is a lifeline for its tropical island namesake in the South Atlantic, marked the end of an era as it departed borough waters.

Veterinarian Joe Hollins said the cargo of animals aimed to rejuvenate St. Helena’s economy.

He said:

“The flock of sheep and 60 chickens are designed to transform the island.

Six breeders brought the sheep in three trailers, they are Dorpers - originally Dorset Horns and Persian Blackheads - which were developed by the Department for Agriculture in South Africa for arid lands.

They’re tough, hardy breeds that forage well.

St. Helena has historically imported British breeds because it’s an overseas territory but it’s a tropical island with a lot of fly strike.

This breed is self-sheering so they will be more resistant.

We also had 60 lohmann brown chickens, which are specialist egg layers.”

Mr Hollins, who previously ran veterinary practices in Andover and the Falklands Islands, added:

“We’re trying to make the island more sustainable; the island used to fill three ship holds a day with produce now it doesn’t produce much.

I’m the island’s first vet and it’s such a challenging role - it’s rare to get virgin territory so there’s a hell of a lot to do.

It encompasses conservation, public health and pest control.

It’s a fantastic and beautiful island with laid back and friendly locals but it has severe economic problems because it doesn’t produce much capital and relies on grants and UN aid.”

Mr Hollins said the island had a rich history and had played a key role in the abolition of slavery and the French territories but now suffered from strong and healthy young people leaving to work abroad.

The average salary is £5,000 a year, despite a high cost of living.

RMS St. Helena was docked at Portland Port for a week before making its final scheduled voyage from the United Kingdom last Friday.

The 128-berth cargo and passenger ship, which celebrates its 21st anniversary next month, will instead make more regular trips between Cape Town, Ascension Island and St. Helena to improve island access.

Our Comment

Not a baaaad idea?


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Preston bus station [and St. Helena] on UK monument ‘at risk’ list

www.bbc.co.uk/news, 5th October 2011

Preston Bus Station may be demolished as part of a redevelopment scheme in the city.The “brutalist” style building, earmarked for demolition, is one of seven monuments being placed on an “at risk” list by the World Monuments Fund (WMF).Its 2012 World Monuments Watch list also includes The Hayward Gallery and Coventry Cathedral.

These latest entries mean the UK now has 30 sites on the WMF’s list.Others include Birmingham Central Library, Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight and the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena.

Launched in 1996, the list of monuments at risk is issued every two years and has identified 67 monuments from around the world in its latest report.The WMF has included 688 sites in 132 countries and territories on its nine watch lists so far.

The WMF says its list “seeks to draw international attention as well as local community support for some of the world’s most treasured locations”.It also says that a monument or building’s inclusion on its watch list can be crucial in raising awareness and funds for its preservation.

[For brevity we have omitted information on the UK sites listed]

The report also lists the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena, once home to the French Emperor Napoleon in exile.The WMF notes the island “is not eligible for most conservation funding available in the United Kingdom, even though it is a British Territory”.The watch list adds: “If more resources were made available to the island, the conserved built heritage could be used to bolster the economy through tourism development, especially after the construction of a planned airport.

WMF chief executive Jonathan Foyle said:

For a decade and a half, the Watch has reminded us that no country is immune to man-made and natural disasters, and the casual degradations of its built environment.We can never afford to take for granted our irreplaceable and enriching cultural inheritance, but in an age of greater austerity this Watch further reminds to be vigilant, look after and enjoy historic places, many of which we could not afford to build today.

Our comment

We’re a little disturbed to discover we’re living in a monument . . . but if anyone’s offering funds to help maintain the island’s wonderful collection of historic buildings we’re sure that would be most welcome.


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A long journey begins for Commonwealth athletes

three.fm, Isle of Man, 23rd August 2011

Athletes Jessica Sim, Sarafina Yon, Tyrel Ellick, and Myles Henry

Five weeks away from home for St. Helena team

The first team of athletes to begin their journey to the Isle of Man for the Commonwealth Youth Games - St. Helena - have already begun their journey.

St. Helena is a tiny volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean and is part of the British Overseas Territories, which also includes Ascension Islands and the islands of Tristan da Cunha.Saint Helena measures about 16 by 8 kilometres and has a population of just over 4,000.

The four athletes - 15 year old Jessica Sim, and 17 year old Sarafina Yon, Tyrel Ellick, and Myles Henry - are joined by two officials, Jeremy Roberts and Wendy Benjamin.

They are travelling some 1,200 miles south to Cape Town by ship before they can begin their 11hr flight north to the UK, where travel will then be by coach and ferry before they reach the Isle of Man.

Because St. Helena has no airport and it is serviced by only one ship, the RMS St. Helena, the team is destined to be away from their island home for more than 5 weeks in order to attend the Games.


Follow Up: St. Helena DJ sends best wishes to team after 2 week journey

three.fm, Isle of Man, 3rd September 2011

SaintFM Logo

He said it’s been a major effort for the teenagers due to a lack of facilities on an Island a third of the size of the Isle of Man.

After a journey of almost two weeks across the South Atlantic Ocean, the Commonwealth Youth Games team from Saint Helena arrives on the Isle Of Man this evening.

The four athletes - 15 year old Jessica Sim, and 17 year old Sarafina Yon, Tyrel Ellick, and Myles Henry - travelled 1,200 miles by ship before flying from South Africa to the Isle of Man.

In an exclusive interview with 3FM, Mike Olson from St. Helena’s radio station SaintFM{2} said everyone on St. Helena has been touched by the games.

He said the people are urging the young athletes to perform to the best of their abilities despite it being a major effort for the teenagers due to a lack of facilities on an Island a third of the size of the Isle of Man.

The first day of official competition will be Friday 9th September.


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For Gaddafi, a home on St. Helena

By William C. Goodfellow, The Washington Post, 3rd June 2011 (Reproduced in the St. Helena Independent, 3rd June 2011)

Muammar Gaddafi

In an effort to break the stalemate in Libya and avoid further bloodshed, President Obama asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month to tell Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi that he will remain alive if he leaves Libya.Medvedev, in a news conference, said Russia would not take him in.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam, who certainly belong in The Hague - but at what cost?

Obama wants to avoid a repeat of the four-month battle to dislodge Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo.Thousands of civilians were killed, at least 800,000 were forced from their homes, and that country’s financial capital and largest city, Abidjan, was laid to waste.

Neither the United Nations secretary general nor the French military was able to talk Gbagbo out of his bunker.Facing the prospect of life in prison, he felt that he had no choice but to fight to the bitter end.Had they been able to offer Gbagbo a way out, the standoff might have ended months earlier.The way out would have been permanent exile.

Is it possible that the international community could send a dictator such as Gbagbo or Gaddafi somewhere and ensure that they never return?What is needed is a place so remote and well guarded that these unsavory characters could never escape.

In 1815, Europe had a similar problem.Napoleon Bonaparte was responsible for 17 years of devastating wars across Europe that took the lives of as many as 6 million people.He had escaped from his exile on the island of Elba, in the Mediterranean, and was able to raise an army of 200,000 before his final defeat at Waterloo.

To ensure that he never again returned, Britain exiled Napoleon to St. Helena, a territory in the middle of the South Atlantic.One of the most remote islands on the planet, it is more than a thousand miles from the nearest land.

St. Helena remains incredibly isolated, with no commercial airport (although one is planned) and just over 4,000 inhabitants, a 20 percent decline in the past decade.Blue Hill district, on the southwest part of the island, has an area of 14 square miles with only 153 inhabitants and seems like an ideal spot for what might be called a retirement village for exiled dictators.

Britain, which still owns St. Helena, could lease a parcel of land to the United Nations, whose blue-helmeted guards would be in charge of security.The United Nations could erect a comfortable cottage, or perhaps a large tent, separated from the rest of the island by tall stockade fencing.Gaddafi could get snail mail (which would be read by guards, as is the case in most prisons), but there would be no Internet or phone service.

Gaddafi could bring along immediate family members: his spouse and children.Napoleon arrived on St. Helena with a small cadre of supporters who were forced to sign a document committing them to remain on the island with him indefinitely.(Napoleon’s wife chose to stay in France, where she had a well-publicized affair with an Austrian count who was her escort, much to Napoleon’s dismay.)

Of course, dictators such as Gaddafi should not get a free pass.Exile to St. Helena should be offered to break only the most intractable sieges.The U.N. Security Council has the authority to prevent the International Criminal Court from prosecuting a case.Justice would be better served if Gaddafi and his ilk ended up at The Hague.But the international community has an even higher obligation to protect the lives of innocent civilians and to prevent unnecessary suffering and destruction.

St. Helena could work with Hotel California rules: You can check in but you can never check out.Gaddafi would be destined to die there in quiet retirement.For sure, it would be a great place for penning memoirs, and following in Napoleon’s footsteps would lend a certain cachet.

Another requirement would be total divestment of financial assets of dictators and their family members.Every offshore account and every piece of real estate in London or Dubai would be forfeited, with the money going back to the treasury of their home country.St. Helena would be all-inclusive, so there would be no need to carry cash.

Gaddafi might turn out to be the only dictator to end up on St. Helena.With so many worthy candidates, however, and doubtless many more to come, it is possible that St. Helena could get a much-needed economic boost from new residents.

The real objective in all this would be to avoid the kind of bloodshed and devastation the world witnessed in Ivory Coast.Unfortunately, it continues in Libya.

The writer is executive director of the Center for International Policy in Washington.

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Napoleon used years on St. Helena to learn English

Vicky Buffery, Reuters, 31st May 2011 [taken from the Baltimore Sun]

Greying, inkstained notebook fragments showing Napoleon Bonaparte’s efforts two centuries ago to grasp the English language go on auction in Paris at the weekend, alongside some 350 other Napoleonic artefacts.

Captured by the British at Waterloo and held on the remote Atlantic island of Saint Helena until his death in 1821, the French emperor used his time in captivity to learn English -- although the scraps show the military mastermind to be a less-than-model pupil.Written in Napoleon’s spidery handwriting, the remnants of his lessons from a French count also in exile on Saint Helena show how the headstrong leader doodled to combat boredom, and struggled with the intricacies of English grammar.

“Even learning English, he couldn’t shake off the soldier, the army man inside him.His doodles are of walls and designs of military fortifications,” said Jean-Pierre Osenat, chairman of Paris-based auction house Osenat, which is handling the sale.The auction house expects the paper scraps, mounted on three framed boards, to fetch up to 9,500 euros ($13,660) in total at Sunday’s auction.

As ruler of France from 1804 to 1815, Napoleon established a powerful military empire extending over much of Western Europe before being defeated by the Duke of Wellington’s forces at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815 and taken hostage.It was while being transferred to Saint Helena that he voiced his shame at never having learnt English, and his companion in exile, the Count of Las Cases, happily obliged by giving him lessons over the subsequent years.“It’s incredible to think that after fighting the English for his entire life, Napoleon only decided to learn English at the end.He could have thought of it before,” said Osenat.


But the fearless leader and military strategist, who successfully invaded Egypt and Italy and famously escaped exile in Elba, appears to have stumbled over the idiosyncrasies of irregular English verbs, like many before and after him.

“Run, runned, running,” Napoleon wrote on one piece of paper.On another he translates the French "Qu’est-ce qui etait arrive?" as "What was it arrived," rather than "What has happened?"

Also up for sale on Sunday will be a rare document from the French Revolution, a handwritten record of Louis XVI’s death sentence by the newly formed parliament or National Convention in 1793, a move which was to pave the way for Napoleon’s rise.The document lists the names of all Convention members along with their choice of sentence for the fallen monarch, who was tried for treason after his flight from Paris in 1791 and capture at the town of Varennes in northeastern France.Some members voted for imprisonment, others for exile, but a small majority, including famed revolutionaries Maximilien Robespierre and Jean-Paul Marat chose to sentence the king to the guillotine.

Bertrand Barere, another Convention member, added a particularly damning verdict, transcribed in the record:

"Only the dead never come back, I vote that he die."

Later annotations, added in 1818 in the right-hand margin of each page, show the fate of each member of the Convention, and are testimony to the bloodthirsty turn the Revolution was about to take with the onset of the Reign of Terror.Many of the names in the list, including Robespierre and the Duc d’Orleans, died at the guillotine, while Marat was assassinated in his bathtub by Royalist sympathizer Charlotte Corday.

Also featured in The Daily Telegraph.

Our comment

This reminds me of a more recent event along similar lines.

A few years ago two stowaways arrived in St. Helena, having fled from The Congo.The circumstances of their arrival are rather sad, and their attempt to gain asylum failed so they were eventually sent back to The Congo, with unknown results.But there was one amusing aspect of their time here.

They arrived speaking only French, and learned English during their stay in the local prison (there are no other facilities to house such arrivals).They left feeling confident that they had grasped a new language that might prove useful to them in the future (perhaps in their next escape).But what they didn’t realise, and nobody had the heart to tell them, is that the ‘English’ they’d learned from their fellow inmates was actually broad Saint.

After six years here I can understand many of the local words and phrases, but only as long as the speaker has a relatively light accent.I would certainly need an interpreter to talk to some people on the island (as per the previous post on the subtitling of the Tourist Office video) unless they were to moderate their speech for my benefit, which fortunately most Saints do.How our two Congo boys coped when they discovered that the ‘English’ they’d learned was near incomprehensible to most of the English-speaking word I don’t know.
JT 1st June 2011


Follow Up Story: Napoleon’s English lessons sell for 90,000 euros

AFP, Paris, 6th June 2011

Napoleon’s first English lessons while he was banished to exile on the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena fetched more than 93,000 euros at an auction in France Sunday, several times more than they had been valued.

Click for: A fragment of a sketch made in 1816 by Emperor Napoleon while having English lessons (Click to see the full-sized image, opens in a new window or tab)
A fragment of a sketch made in 1816 by Emperor Napoleon while having English lessons

Three lots of text in English and French, as well as drawings, by the fallen emperor had been valued 7,000 to 9,500 euros, said the Osenat auction house.

“Qu’es qui étoit arrivé.What was it arrived,” Napoleon wrote in his first stumbling efforts to grasp the language of his adversaries.

In other exercises he wrote: “Combien etoint-ils.How many were they” and “Comment se portoient-ils.How do they do”.

The private Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in Paris paid 93,125 euros for the lots, which it said it would put on display from June 21.

The same museum paid 53,750 euros for manuscripts that Napoleon edited at Saint Helena for his memoirs, including his account of his victorious Battle of the Bridge of Arcole in 1796.

It also bought a list of assembly member votes during the French Revolution on the sentence for Louis XVI, who was eventually sent to the guillotine in 1793.

The manuscript of about 20 pages is one of several copies, with the original held in the Archives of France.It nonetheless fetched 35,000 euros after being estimated at between 2,000 and 3,000 euros.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the auction was that 187,500 euros was handed over for a document concerning the end of the French expedition in Egypt.It had been valued at between 6,000 and 8,000 euros.

The 29-line missive by Egyptian general Ya’qub Hanna to Napoleon is written in gold and black ink.

After his defeat to the British at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon was imprisoned and then exiled to Saint Helena where he died in 1821 age 51.


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Napoleon: Saint Helena’s Claim to Fame

By Bob Reis, World Coin News, www.numismaster.com April 2011

Old St. Helena Coins

Saint Helena is a little island in the middle of the south Atlantic ocean about halfway between Brazil and Angola, each about 1,200 miles away.The island is British territory, part of an administrative unit including Ascension Island about 800 miles northwest and the Tristan da Cunha group 1,500 miles south.

There were no mammals there before the humans arrived, probably in 1502 but possibly the year after.Either way, the humans were of the Portuguese persuasion, the name they gave the place referred to the wife of Roman emperor Constantine.It was so convenient for them, the Portuguese, as they were doing business and making mayhem on both sides of the Atlantic at that latitude.There was stuff to eat - birds and fish - trees to repair their boats, fresh water and a great little protected harbor.They just had to build some buildings, a little church, etc., and loosed some livestock (including rats) to roam about, but they didn’t put in any permanent settlers.

The English and the Dutch located Saint Helena in the 1580s and began to hang out there to ambush the Portuguese and Spanish boats that would show up.It was not worth the trouble, the Iberians decided after a while.The India ships would stop off at Cabinda in Angola before proceeding on to Europe.The Dutch made a formal claim in 1633 but did nothing much on the ground.Notwithstanding the Dutch paperwork, Oliver Cromwell in England gave a charter to the East India Company in 1657 to develop the island.

A little fort and some houses were built, and agriculture began.The Dutch occupied the island for a few months in 1673.East India forces took it back and development continued at an increased rate.The first coins attributed to Saint Helena appeared during this period.One can see pictures of them in the Standard Catalog of World Coins: dump type copper farthing and halfpenny, small silver 3 pence, all dated 1714.They are very reminiscent of contemporary company coins of, say, Madras in India.No offerings of these coins were found in a web search.

Administrative ineptitude and corruption on top of ecological degradation (deforestation leading to drought leading to agricultural failure, a bloom of rats and disease) brought a proposal from the governor to abandon the settlement.Strategic considerations prevailed and the colony continued as a money-losing operation.In a 1723 census, 1,100 people were noted, more than half of them slaves.

Reforms in governance allowed some social stability to be attained during the 18th century.Import of slaves was prohibited in 1792, leading to a labor shortage as economic growth continued.Chinese workers were imported, eventually getting to be about a sixth of the population, which in the early 19th century exceeded 3,500.

The island became famous in the standard historical narrative when the British brought Napoleon there.He had escaped from the island in the Mediterranean where they had kept him previously.It was thought, correctly as it turned out, that Saint Helena would be harder to get away from.Napoleon was placed there in 1815 and died in 1821.Rumours that he was poisoned circulated from the time of his death and though nothing was proved, recent tests have shown the presence of arsenic in the green floral decoration of the wallpaper in the house he lived in.Napoleon’s body is in Paris.The French have shown no interest in exhuming it, so the question remains.

1821 is numismatically significant as the year of issue of the inordinately common Saint Helena halfpenny.Why is it so common?Certainly those coins were not all sent to Saint Helena, used, then put up in airtight jars to be rediscovered for marketing to us collectors in the 20th century.Some search turned up the likely explanation.

The coins were struck on order of the East India Company.The same year there appeared a merchant token on the island, perhaps to the displeasure of said company.So, I asked, were the coins struck in India or England?Wish I had the Pridmore books sitting on my shelf.A web search turned up nothing until I looked for Heaton mint, where I found the proper reference.A “second” Soho mint was built in 1798 but had run out of work to do in 1813 when the mass production of private tokens ceased.The machinery was sold to the East India Company along with a contract for a last production run of the Saint Helena coins.Most but certainly not all of the mintage remained in England, along with some of the typical proofs of the period, and that is why we have such an easy time of collecting the 1821 halfpenny today.The machinery was sent to Bombay, where the similar looking coppers of the 1830s were struck.The dies stayed in England, where they were used to create a mule with the reverse of the 1830 Guernsey 4 doubles.

The actual money on the island was reported in contemporary documents to be the usual mix of the period: worn coins of the world, mostly Spanish, counterfeits, bits of metal.Pattern coins dated 1833 listed in the SCWC date to the year of the takeover of the governance of the island by the British crown.I found no information on these other than a 1903 reference to their existence.

Attempts were made to regularize the economy through the 19th century.All involved the import of British coins.The early arrivals disappeared.Gold vanished quickly, silver more slowly, in the direction of India, where they carried a premium.Eventually rates and trade patterns changed sufficiently to keep some of the coins on the island.But the strategic value of the place diminished, neglect ensued, emigration proceeded.Despite a temporary population boom during the 1840s when freed slaves were kept there on their way back to Africa, and another in 1900 and 1901 when prisoners taken during the Boer were similarly accommodated, the island languished.

A business was developed processing flax all the way from New Zealand.It declined after the 1950s and went bust in 1965.

The association of Saint Helena with Ascension began in 1922; with Tristan da Cunha in 1938.Modern coinage began in 1973 when a series of collector coins was launched.Sale of copper-nickel crowns by the British Royal Mint was profitable during that period and apparently has remained so over the years.These non-circulating coins continue to be made in great variety for numerous governments.People buy them, the mint makes money, the governments get something.Apparently everyone is happy.One should mention in this context the manufacture of silver and some gold versions of some of these coins.The silvers are generally fairly easy to find, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of the golds.Big chunk of gold like that, I imagine I would have noticed if I’d seen one at a show.But no, never.

None of these coins circulated to any degree on the island, though I have run into two circulated silver versions of the 1973 25 pence.Obviously this means . . . um, what exactly does it mean?Notwithstanding the low population there (and in Ascension), a decision was made to have a circulating coinage made especially for both of them together.Do they circulate on the islands?Don’t know.One could get the coins as sets from the Royal Mint.Singles have been reasonably available on the market, I imagine by way of favored dealers having purchased them from the mint rather than through travellers returning from there because, after all, hardly anyone visits for tourist purposes.

About 4,000 people live on Saint Helena, about 700 on Ascension and almost 300 on Tristan da Cunha.Probably more people collect the coins than live in the entire territory.

A few collector coins were issued for the two islands together from 1986 to 1996.After a few years’ break in the late 1980s, issue of collector crowns for the individual islands resumed and has continued until today.Why not, must go the reasoning, people buy them.If they weren’t around who would know anything about those places so far from everyplace else?Hurray for coins.

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St. Helena reforestation wins conservation award

www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/st-helena.html April 2011

WILD BEAUTY: St. Helena (wildlifeextra.com image)

A forest restoration project on one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world has just won a major UK conservation award.But this is no ordinary forest and no ordinary island - for the trees are endangered and are found nowhere else in the world and the island is St. Helena, an Overseas Territory of the UK.

Flying the flag for the International Year of Forests, the St. Helena Millennium Forest Project will be presented with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee’s Blue Turtle Award for nature conservation in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

The eastern half of St. Helena was once covered with a huge swathe of native forest known as the Great Wood.During the 1700s most of the native trees had succumbed to the combined effects of felling for timber by settlers, browsing by goats and rooting by pigs; and by the 20th century only a few of the native gumwood trees survived.Gumwoods are found nowhere else in the world, and like other trees endemic to St. Helena, are all threatened with extinction.At the initiative of the local community, the St. Helena Millennium Forest project was launched with the goal of reinstating native forest on degraded wasteland.More than 250 hectares of land has been set aside for restoration and, since 2002, over 10,000 gumwood trees have been planted.

JNCC’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies Programme Manager Tony Weighell, one of the award’s judges, said: ‘I want to congratulate all involved in the St. Helena Millennium Forest Project.This is exactly the sort of innovative, community-based initiative that should be encouraged.St. Helena provides important lessons for our management of forests globally - it’s better to protect and conserve our forests now than to attempt to restore them later.’

UNIQUE BIODIVERSITY: The newly planted millennium wood on St. Helena (wildlifeextra.com image)

Defra is playing an increasingly important role in supporting biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.Presenting the award on behalf of JNCC, Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: ‘Our Overseas Territories are a precious repository of unique biodiversity and often serve as home to some of the world’s most vulnerable species.Recent events in the South Atlantic have shown the fragility of such habitats and our duty to protect them has never been clearer.

‘The St. Helena Millennium Forest Project is an excellent example of how a community can come together for the sake of a better environment and a greener future.I’m delighted to see the excellent efforts getting well-deserved credit.’

Rebecca Cairns-Wicks, president of the St. Helena National Trust said: ‘The Millennium Forest is a genuine community initiative, with hundreds of our islanders already planting endemic trees.

‘Visitors and overseas supporters are also able to donate a tree, leaving a personal legacy to this story of ecological recovery.The St. Helena National Trust has a long-term vision and commitment to the project which will expand and improve the ecological diversification of the forest and develop the site as a leading environmental tourism attraction.’


Our note: The Blue Turtle Award is given annually by The JNCC, a “statutory adviser to UK Government and devolved administrations”.


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Not as Observant as I First Thought

St. Helena Independent, 28th January 2011

The St. Helena Independent

OK, we don’t normally include items from the local press but this, from Vince Thompson’s “A Funny Thing Happened” column, warranted an exception.

I was checking the progress of the ARC Round the World yacht race after they left St. Helena.The leading yacht was just about to leave the South Atlantic.

The report from the yacht, sent to a website, included one observation that surprised me at first.Crew member Dee Caffari said, ‘I think we are going to start a new club, the St. Helena club, as we all float around going nowhere for awhile’.

My first reaction was to think this person was only here for 3 days at most, during that short time they must really have got to know how things are in this Island at the moment.Then I realised the report was talking about the weather.The yacht was being slowed down by the light winds in the South Atlantic high pressure belt, otherwise known as the St. Helena High.


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Comment on St. Helena’s participation in the Commonwealth Games 2010

“the tiny south Atlantic speck of Saint Helena”

sportal.co.nz 04th October 2010

From sprawling Australia to the tiny south Atlantic speck of Saint Helena, they came to Delhi on Sunday night to hear Prince Charles declare open a Commonwealth Games so blighted by chaotic preparations they once feared it might not happen at all.

Read the full article here . . .

Taking the slow boat

www.telegraph.co.uk 04th October 2010

The Saint Helena team, Britain’s second oldest remaining colony after Bermuda, showed us how travel used to be for sporting teams.

Its four-man squad - all shooters whose guns have been lent by the Jersey team - took the RMS Helena, the only boat for inhabitants, which took five days to reach Cape Town.Amazingly, they had to leave for Delhi on August 26 as the boat was being taken to the Cape for repair.

At 69, Cyril Leo is the oldest member and is accompanied by son Rico.Their trip has been paid for by the British government and Leo junior says he would like to train in Britain.Diary wishes them well.

Read the full article here . . .

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St. Helena Pilgrimage

The Press, New Zealand, 12th April 2010

EXOTIC LOCATION: Jamestown, St. Helena

Dependent as the “Saints” are on that vital sea connection, it is no wonder that they throng to the harbour edge when the RMS arrives.

It is almost 11am as my fellow passengers wait in the forward saloon of the ship for the launch that will ferry us ashore.Immigration formalities have been completed on board, and the RMS is anchored off shore from Jamestown.

Beyond the crowds on the waterfront I can see a U-shaped valley dotted with low-rise buildings.To the right of the valley I can just make out the infamous Jacob’s Ladder of 699 steps leading almost vertically upwards to the old military fortifications.I had been told that if you succeed in ascending and descending these steps in one day, the St. Helena Museum will issue you with a special certificate.

Stepping ashore from the motor launch, and taking care not to slip into the water, as certain visitors including a certain colonial governor in his plumed hat are said to have done, I am amazed by the buildings.

Anywhere else, time or a buoyant economy would have ensured their demolition and replacement, or restoration and preservation in a historic precinct.Their use would perhaps be limited to art centres and antique shops, dead affairs after dark.

On St. Helena they are still being used the way they were originally intended, as shops, offices or flats.The absence of a growth economy has ensured their preservation, if not their restoration.

A wide range of accommodation is available for travellers on the island, ranging from full-service hotels to bed and breakfasts and self- catering flats and cottages.

My lodgings of choice are on Napoleon St in the centre of Jamestown.Here, in the middle of things, I can get a good feeling for the town and the island, because much of St. Helena’s daily activity seems only minutes from my door.

My interest in a supposed Napoleon connection with Canterbury had initially sparked my curiosity about the island.

A story exists that the willow trees that used to shade the old French graveyard at Akaroa were grown from cuttings taken from trees beside Napoleon’s grave on St. Helena, and that the willows along the Avon River banks in Christchurch were also from these cuttings.Commemorating this is a plaque beside the Avon in Victoria Park.

Fact or fiction?

I visit the St. Helena Records Office to see whether they have any record of a French whaler, Le Nil, visiting the island in 1837 or 1838, on its way to New Zealand.

Unfortunately, the office, although internationally famous for its records keeping, has no record of Le Nil visiting St. Helena, but visits by whalers, known as the vagabonds of the ocean, were often unscheduled and unrecorded.So the jury is still out on that issue, for a while, I think.

After visiting Napoleon’s house at Longwood and his grave site, I can report that there are no longer any willows growing beside the grave.Nor are there any remains of Napoleon.They were repatriated to France in 1840.

Apparently there were willows - Salix bonapartea - and numerous early images of the grave site confirm this, but they had died out by 1870.Over-enthusiastic souvenir hunters had destroyed the trees.

I had an idea of taking cuttings from a willow growing beside the Avon and bringing them to St. Helena, where I could plant them at the grave site and so repatriate the strain, creating a true willow link between Canterbury, New Zealand, and St. Helena.

But when I put the idea to Michel Martineau, the French consul on St. Helena, he was Gallically unimpressed.The willow link between New Zealand and St. Helena is inconsequential as far as he is concerned.“There are hundreds of these stories,” he mutters into the phone.“They are nothing!Europe and North America are full of willows growing from Salix bonapartea.”

Since he rules over Longwood and the grave site in the name of France on this tiny British island, his word is law.

So the willow-tree story continues to be a pretty “histoire”.

But there is another plant that most certainly links New Zealand with St. Helena: Phormium tenax or New Zealand flax.

For 60 years from 1907, New Zealand flax ensured the economic prosperity of the island.It was planted, grown and processed into fibre for the British Post Office.

Synthetic fibres killed off the industry in 1966, and as a result, St. Helena was thrust into economic stagnation, from which it has never recovered.Indeed, it is now an economic liability for the British Government.The Empire bites back, as it were.

But the flax plant itself certainly wasn’t killed off.It continues to thrive in the ideal subtropical climate, and has started to choke indigenous plants.

Economic hope on the island now rests on tourism, the international economic backstop when all else fails.But that won’t happen until the airport issue is sorted out.Annual tourist numbers now amount to about 1000 a year, so tourism is hardly a growth industry, and if the airport is finally built, one of the island’s major tourist attractions - its remoteness - will be lost.

However, for those who can reach the island, St. Helena offers great opportunities for hiking and climbing amid an amazing variety of landscape and flora, considering that the total land area amounts to only about 120 square kilometres.Within a couple of hours, one can walk from semi-desert to lush rainforest.Much of the landscape reminds me of New Zealand, especially when I see the flax bushes and native cabbage trees waving in the breeze.

On one of my journeys of exploration on the island, I come across a most unexpected artefact: flax machinery hidden away in an old shed down a steep valley.

Wiping away the dust, I note the manufacturer’s name on the machine: Booth MacDonald, Christchurch.

Another Canterbury connection is maritime: steering gear of a ship sticking out of the water in the Jamestown harbour.

It is attached to the wreck of the SS Papanui, destroyed in a fire in 1911 on a voyage from Britain to Australia.

The 350 passengers were all saved, and the “Saints” sheltered them until another ship came by and picked them up.

The event is commemorated on a brass plaque fixed to the wall of the Jamestown library.

As I prepare to farewell the little island that has been my home for eight days and board the boat that will take me back to the RMS St. Helena, I am amazed by how one can travel for a month and many thousands of kilometres to one of the Earth’s remotest places and still find connections with Canterbury.

St. Helena was also used by the British to exile Zulu chief Dinizulu in the late 19th century and up to 6000 Boer prisoners at the turn of the 20th century from the South African War.


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Queen’s Baton meets Saint Helena’s oldest resident

The Sports Campus, 6th February 2010

After an epic journey across the Atlantic ocean on board the RMS St. Helena, the Queen’s Baton 2010 Delhi reached the world’s most isolated island; Saint Helena.

The oldest resident of Saint Helena, Hilda Clingham aged 99 years and 7 months

The entire island showed up to greet the Queen’s Baton amongst a lot of cheering and hooting.Governor of Saint Helena, Governor Gurr was the first to receive the Queen’s Baton before it was passed to the school children who had lined the 699 steps, Jacobs Ladder to the top.

The Baton then went on to cheer and bring joy to the older generation when it visited an old age home and was greeted by the oldest resident of Saint Helena, Hilda Clingham aged 99 years and 7 months, who also has the distinction of holding the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Baton.The Baton travelled through the length and breadth of the picturesque island and was carried by the residents and athletes in a highly charged and happy atmosphere.

The historical island, Britain’s second oldest remaining colony has seen the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte, Dinuzulu KaCetshwayo and over 5,000 Boer prisoners.

Saint Helena with a history of over 500 years is an island of volcanic origin in the South Atlantic Ocean.Britain’s second oldest remaining colony (after Bermuda), Saint Helena is one of the most isolated islands in the world and was for several centuries of vital strategic importance to ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa.Saint Helena measures about 16 by 8 kilometres and has a population of 4,255.

The baton is being carried by legendary RMS St. Helena which is a unique vessel.She is one of the only two ocean-going vessels in the world still to carry the venerable title of Royal Mail Ship, held in the past by so many famous British passenger liners.In addition to carrying passengers in well-fed comfort, she is almost the sole source of supply of all goods for her island namesake.RMS St. Helena is not just a passenger vessel; it’s a working ship, plying the Atlantic Ocean, carrying goods and people nearly halfway around the world.


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St. Helena: The island that Britain forgot

Richard Webber, The Daily Express UK, 30th January 2010

It is just a speck on the world map, a small corner of the globe that is 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa but remains forever and unmistakably British.The last time St. Helena made headlines was when Napoleon Bonaparte died there in 1821.

But now despite deep-rooted loyalty to all things British, the island’s 4,000-strong population feels betrayed by the mother country.And the reason for their anger is Whitehall’s suspension of plans for a long-promised and much-needed airport for the island.The decision has been caused by the recession, the airport evidently seen as an easy overseas spending commitment to cut.

Now the islanders are warning that the postponed air link could sound the death knell for a community that has been under British rule for more than 500 years and is our second-oldest colony after Bermuda.

And already the population is starting to dwindle alarmingly, particularly among the younger age group.St. Helena’s inhabitants warn that 85 per cent of those aged between 25 and 45 have left during the past 10 years.

“Demographically, St. Helena is a ticking time bomb,” says resident Joe Terry.“The average age of the population is accelerating far quicker than it would in a normal community and this is combined with a chronic shortage of working-age people to care for the increasing number of the elderly.”

Islander John Styles adds: “St. Helena is in danger of becoming an expensive, isolated old people’s home funded by the British taxpayer.”

Currently this tiny outpost’s only lifeline is the RMS St. Helena, the last working Royal Mail ship.Two hundred years ago the island was a busy staging post with more than 1,000 ships dropping anchor annually; now this is the only regular visitor.

The 20-year-old workhorse provides the only means of reaching St. Helena from the UK, often battling rough seas to reach the 47-square-mile rocky outcrop.It travels twice a year from Portland, Devon, and the trip takes around 15 days.

It was originally due to be pensioned off this year but plans to replace its two engines will prolong its life.It isn’t immune to the odd breakdown, leading to delays in the island receiving supplies.In the Nineties the ship broke down en route from England full of Christmas goodies.When it finally docked, shops were desperately trying to sell Christmas puddings and mince pies in April.

As well as delivering letters from loved ones and essential provisions around the world it ferries in 1,000 tourists who provide valuable income to the community, as do the approximately 3,000 cruise-ship passengers who stop off for a few hours.

Many come to see Longwood House, where Napoleon lived out his final six years after defeat at Waterloo, and his burial place for 19 years until his body was returned to France.

The main reason the islanders are so keen on the airport was the expected tenfold increase in visitors, pumping an extra £10million annually into the local economy.

“In 2005 the UK government stated that it would fund the design, construction and initial operation of an airport, to open in 2010,” says John Turner, 51, who swapped Hertfordshire for St. Helena in 2005 with his two children and wife Catherine, 48, to manage the island’s only bank.

The islanders want to stand on their own feet, says Catherine, but with the airport project suspended she adds: “The British taxpayer can now look forward to paying £30million a year to St. Helena indefinitely.”

John Styles, 61, an islander since 2000 who runs his own farm and wine business with wife Lynnette, 57, says: “Britain still pours millions in to other countries, even China - one of the largest economies in the world - yet doesn’t seem to care about supporting its own people any more.”

Joe Terry, 61, who lives on St. Helena with his 52-year-old wife Daisy, says: “Decisions are being made on a short-term basis by faraway British bureaucrats who are mostly not qualified to run a barbecue, let alone an island with its own particular strengths, potential and weaknesses.”

Nearly 20 per cent of the population has left the island’s rocky shores in the past decade and businesses, many launched on the promise of an airport, are closing their doors for good.It is estimated that around £19million has been lost because of the airport saga.

Darrin and Sharon Henry are packing their bags for a second time and moving to London to open a photo studio.They lived in Hertfordshire for four years until returning to their homeland in 2004, when talk of an airport meant the future looked rosy.

Having sold their card and gift shop, they’re sad to be leaving their families again.But Darrin, 39, says: “Since the airport project was paused, business died overnight.Throughout 2009 the island began to decline again, making business very hard but the community is suffering socially too.” The Henrys worry about their homeland, where the average manual wage is around £70 a week.“The island will survive on handouts from the British Government but it will be a degrading and meagre existence,” claims Sharon, 35.“Already we are importing expats to fill jobs such as nursing and policing, due to so many people having left.”

For years many of the island’s breadwinners have been forced to work abroad, sending money back to their families left behind.

“The social impact of this, such as children being raised by grand- parents because their parents are overseas, are well documented,” says John Turner.“Go into any school and there will be a map on the wall where children have put pins to indicate where their parents are. It’s rare for a child to have both parents here. Many have neither; the airport would have resolved that.”

The island is so remote that patients requiring major treatment or operations have to sail to Cape Town in South Africa, seven days away.But if the RMS St. Helena has just sailed, it can be eight weeks before the patient can leave.“Even the most virulent anti- airport opponents would welcome air links for medical evacuation reasons.A flight to South Africa would take only four hours,” says Joe Terry.

St. Helena’s stunning landscape of high cliffs, rugged mountains and deep-wooded valleys are a tourist heaven.The island’s only prison currently houses just two inmates, while the crime rate hardly overruns the 26-strong police force.

The police report for last week, for instance, published in the weekly newspaper, revealed a total of 16 incidents including two arrests for being drunk in public places, a verbal warning for a breach of the peace and three people failing to comply with road traffic signs.

St. Helena is a world apart.There are no cinemas, theatres, mobile phones, amusement arcades, multi-storey car parks, traffic lights or fast food restaurants.

“The horrors you get elsewhere in the world don’t exist here,” explains Catherine Turner.“No child has ever been snatched or murdered, there aren’t any hard drugs and road accidents are infrequent because the national speed limit is 30mph - as low as 10 in places.”

More than a third of the working population are employed by local government, while the rest are fishermen, farmers and shopkeepers.

After the hectic pace of life in England, it took time for the Turners to adjust to island life.No one rushes in St. Helena, partly because of the weather.Thanks to its temperate climate, temperatures rarely drop below 10C or above 30C.

“Usually it’s too hot to rush, and being a small island it doesn’t take long to reach anywhere.Besides, you can only drive with one hand on the wheel because it’s custom to wave at every driver you pass,” smiles Catherine.

In the small capital Jamestown, brand new 4x4s share the roads with ageing Austin Maxis, Ford Cortinas and even Zephyrs.

Yet even now with the local economy struggling, wages low and many of the younger population forced off the island in pursuit of work, the advantages of life on St. Helena make up for its current plight say many residents.

Joe Terry says: “Where else can children play safely on their own, and people walk the streets 24 hours a day without fear?We may not have an airport but there’s no road rage, dangerous dogs, racial tension - the list goes on.”

John Turner agrees.“Despite having been kicked in the teeth again, the islanders remain mostly cheerful, albeit in a stoic sort of way, and are always friendly and helpful to each other,” he says.“There are so many things we like about living here; the airport would make many things better but we came here before the airport was announced.”

From the ‘have your say’ section . . .


"The decision taken by HM Govt to "pause" the project was totally irrational in that it flew in the face of all the economic modelling and feasibility studies that DFID themselves had commissioned.Even when the further period of public consultation was announced DFID recognised in the Consultation Document that their own preferred option, to delay making a decision for up to 5 years, was not the most economically viable solution, but again they pressed on with even further extensions to the delay.To say that the project was paused in Dec 2008 because of the "current economic climate", whilst openly showing on their website that they granted £118.4M to the world’s second largest economy is simply a further insult to the British people who are suffering as a direct result of their incompetence...!" (Posted by: RobMidwinter 30.01.10, 3:18pm)


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Life on one of the world’s most remote islands

Simon Hancock, BBC News, St. Helena, 19th January 2010

Some sights are familiarly British
Some sights are familiarly British

The British government has postponed plans to build an airport on the tiny south Atlantic island of St. Helena.What is it like living on one of the most isolated settlements on the planet?

The RMS St. Helena is the only way anything - people or cargo - gets to St. Helena.

It is the last remaining dedicated Royal Mail ship and as it slowly ploughs its way through the south Atlantic, sailing between Cape Town, Ascension Island and St. Helena, it would be tempting to say it represents the island’s lifeline, only for St. Helenians it is even more than that.

Among the passengers, Robert Newman is on the way to attend the funeral of his father, the former chief of police John Newman, who recently passed away on St. Helena.

“My dad died much quicker than we expected,” he says.“I came to see him last month and I’ve been very lucky that the transport has worked out so that I can be here for the funeral.”

“I’ve really only managed it at all because of my contacts at the MoD.”

Mr Newman left the island to join the British Army and now lives in Hereford and serves with the Royal Signals.

He has taken a long-delayed RAF flight from Brize Norton to Ascension Island, meeting up with RMS St. Helena for a three-day sail to the island.Fortunately the boat waited for the late-running plane.

It’s rare for the journey to be even this easy.Often there can be weeks between sailings, and when the ship is being serviced, none at all.

Ford Escorts

The return flight costs more than £1,000 and the return boat trip from Ascension to St. Helena about £1,600.

Perhaps because the island is so hard - and costly - to get to, St. Helena is often said to have been frozen in time, a slice of yesteryear Britain, and arriving on the island, it’s easy to see why.

Steep rocky slopes rise almost from the sea, but nestled in a gully in the otherwise rocky terrain lies sleepy Jamestown.

Ford Escorts

Part incongruously-hot Yorkshire village, part colonial outpost, ancient Ford Escorts pootle up and down its short High Street while people - seemingly for hours at a time - park themselves on benches to chat and look on.

There are no chain stores here and the handful of local shops knock off for the day at 4pm.Wednesday is a half-day and few businesses open at all at the weekend.

Inside the Star supermarket, despite the ship’s recent arrival, there are still many empty shelves.Only carrots, marrows, cucumbers and potatoes are for sale in the vegetable section.

“This actually isn’t too bad,” says shopper Bronwen Yon.“Some days the whole place is empty.In two weeks, there’ll be nothing left again.”

She explains the kind of strategy you need on an island served by just one boat.

“You have to plan when you’re going to buy things.If the ship comes in from Cape Town, you’ll know it will have things like butter, cheese and sugar.”

“It’s probably hard to get your head around if you’re not from here but even simple things like this you need to stock up on when you can.”

“You’ll know exactly how long after the ship arrives the goods will appear on the shelf and you’ll buy a month’s worth.You learn these things.”

But not everyone is prepared to put up with such a life.Once St. Helena used to be a service station on the oceanic motorway, receiving a thousand ships a year.

But since the aviation age arrived and with such poor modern communication links, the economy has been slowly throttled.There is a saying that every time the RMS leaves, it takes two families with it.


The average salary on the island is just £70 a week and one in four so-called Saints have moved away in the last 10 years to seek better-paid employment overseas.

And when they do it is the older members of the older generation - like Melvina Caeser - who are left holding the baby.

She is raising four of her grandchildren while their parents are away working.Such an informal foster arrangement is common on the island.And when these children grow up they too will almost certainly leave.

“It’s difficult but there’s no choice,” she says.“Food is expensive, clothes are expensive.That’s why people have to go away.It’s hard for the children as they don’t have their mummy here but I still love them like my own.”

When the airport was originally promised it was with the idea of stemming this human tide.

St. Helena currently costs the UK about £20m each year to administer and while the airport would cost £300m, it was hoped that it would enable the island to become sustainable.

There was some resistance to the plan, from those who thought an influx of people would risk the island’s close-knit atmosphere.

But in December, the UK government announced it was to postpone a decision for the second time, a move that was greeted with some anger.

“Some people are stuck in their ways - they don’t like change.They’re afraid an airport might bring terrorists to the island or something,” says Annabel Plato, a hotel worker.

Annabel herself moved away to the UK, working as a housekeeper at Althorpe House, but airport or no airport she’s glad she came back.

“It’s like a village.People say hello to each other and always try to help one another,” she says.“If there is a funeral or a wedding for instance and there’s a shortage of flowers, people will cut them from their gardens to help out.It’s really nice and it’s something you appreciate much more after you’ve been away.”

No smoking ban

Despite the lack of links with the outside world, Annabel says she doesn’t feel cut off, pointing out that there are landlines, television and the internet.

True, but the internet bandwidth for the entire island is less than that of many individual households in the UK, and costs £6 an hour, while locals say the phone lines - all with retro four-digit numbers - run out of capacity at times.

In the Standard pub, the regulars puff away around the bar.There is no smoking ban here.

They agree that it’s only in emergencies that St. Helena’s remoteness is really brought home.

“A friend of mine became seriously ill while the ship was back in the UK, ” says Geoff Stevens.“By the time the ship got back and took him to Cape Town it was too late.He died on board.”

For visitors, like Mike and Lynda Vincent, the remoteness makes St. Helena special.

“You’re completely incommunicado.It’s one of the few places in the world where that’s the case.It’s definitely an attraction,” says Mr Vincent.

Attracting more tourists is the only plan for the island economy, but Jamie Roberts of the National Trust sees a paradox here.

“Remoteness is one of the major appeals.It’s one of the things that made me want to come here.There aren’t many places left in the world that can take you six days on a boat to get to.”

“If people could fly here to the UK in seven or eight hours, it would definitely take away from the romance.”

From the ‘comments’ section . . .

"I believe that at one time residents of Saint Helena held British passports that entitled them to live on Saint Helena and nowhere else.They were basically in the same situation as Napoleon.Is that still true?Another question.What about hospitals on the island?Are there any?"

Our reply: Saints are now once again freely able to live and work in the UK, and thereby anywhere in the EU, though British and EU residents need a work/residence permit to live and work here.And, yes there is a fully functioning hospital - only the more complicated cases are sent to Cape Town.


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Lord Ashcroft takes a stand on St. Helena

Tim Walker, Telegraph.co.uk, 2nd January 2010

Lord Ashcroft

To his political foes, he is an unlikely champion of the underdog, but, two years after he launched a campaign in the Caribbean to prevent the resumption of commercial whaling, Lord Ashcroft has chosen another unlikely cause: the isolated islanders of St. Helena.The billionaire Tory peer, pictured, is so enraged that the Government has “reneged” on its pledge to build an airport on the remote British overseas territory - famous as the location for Napoleon Bonaparte’s final exile - that he has staged a private protest.

With the island in the middle of the South Atlantic down to a population of less than 5,000 and in danger of a terminal decline, Lord Ashcroft recently diverted his private plane - en route from Namibia to Brazil - to “buzz” the islanders, who are frustrated that the Department for International Trade and Development has announced a review of the £300 million airport project.“St. Helena is one of the most beautiful places on earth and Michael [Ashcroft] fears that abandoning the airport project would sound the death knell for the island,” says a friend of the peer.“So he decided to fly at very low altitudes over St. Helena in a personal show of support for the islanders.”

Mike Olsson, who runs the island’s newspaper and private radio station, interviewed Lord Ashcroft live on air as the peer made his unusual protest.“Anything that Lord Ashcroft, or anyone else, does to give us exposure on this issue is welcome.”


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The legacy of an inhuman trade

Michael Binyon, The Times, December 10th, 2009

Halfway between the decaying slave forts of West Africa and the overgrown plantations of the New World, on the tiny island of St. Helena, archaeologists have uncovered one of the largest slave graveyards anywhere in the world.

The bones of some 10,000 young Africans lie buried in the rocky valleys

The bones of some 10,000 young Africans lie buried in the rocky valleys of this isolated British territory in the South Atlantic, victims of the ruthless trade that Britain dominated in the 18th century but fought to suppress after the abolition of slavery.

A team of British archaeologists uncovered the first graves last year after preparation had begun to build an access road to the site of the planned new airport on St. Helena.

The bodies, many of them children, were discovered where they had been buried after being brought to St. Helena between 1840 and 1874 by Royal Navy patrols hunting the slavers.The captured ships were forced into the island where the traders were arrested and their victims liberated.By then, however, many were already dead in the fetid holds where they had been packed together for the long journey.

Many of the survivors also died soon after they were brought to Rupert’s Valley, near the capital Jamestown.It was used as a treatment and holding depot by the navy’s West Africa Squadron.Smallpox, dysentery and other diseases claimed many of those who had endured hunger, thirst and the terrible conditions below decks.

The discovery of so many bones is of enormous importance in researching the history of slavery.Few graves have been found of captives who died before they were sold in Cuba, Brazil, the United States and other parts of the New World.The find may stimulate fresh emotional debate, especially in the US and other countries involved in the slave trade until the mid-19th century.

The excavations raise very sensitive issues, not least on St. Helena itself.The island, a vital staging post on the route to India, was governed for almost 200 years by the East India Company, and slaves were used there until long after Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807.Many St. Helenians are themselves descendants of these early slaves, who remained on the island after they were freed, and there is some reluctance to acknowledge that most people can trace their origins partly to slavery as well as to the early British settlers and labourers brought in from the far corners of the British Empire.

The dig was led by Dr Andrew Pearson, an archaeologist working on behalf of the Department for International Development and the environmental consultantcy Aecom.He said the discovery will advance understanding of the 19th-century slave trade and the political machinations behind its abolition."It will also bring a voice to a forgotten people who died in limbo, in a place physically and conceptually between freedom and slavery."

Some 325 skeletons have been excavated.They are now being examined by a research team in Jamestown to determine their age, sex, life history and cause of death.So far, the vast majority have been males, with a significant proportion of children or young adults, some less than a year old.Often buried in groups, the individuals were occasionally interred with personal effects, jewellery and fragments of clothing, as well as a few metal tags and artefacts that relate to their enslavement and subsequent rescue.The dry conditions have led to extremely high levels of preservation and hair has been found on some skulls.

Evidence of disease or malnutrition is easy to establish.Bone specialists - osteologists - can also detect fractures, trauma, osteoarthritis and other conditions.Many of the young captives appear to have had a hard-working life before being shipped out of Africa.Between 1840 and 1850, 15,000 Africans were landed on St. Helena, of whom nearly 5,000 died.The liberation centre did not finally close until 1874.

Further research will be carried out in Britain, using, for example, isotope analysis to trace the signature in the bones left by groundwater.This may help to pinpoint some of the captives’ origins.No one in the 19th century, however, could tell where the slaves came from.Naval officers could not speak their tribal languages, and it was hard to repatriate them to their homeland.

Some of the most striking evidence of their origins, however, comes from their teeth.Most had front teeth filed in particular tribal patterns - either as an M or an inverted U or with a V notch cut into their front incisors.Some of the patterns were made by chipping at the teeth with stones.Often the result was infection and terrible abscesses, which left marks on the jawbones.Anthropologists may be able to relate tooth patterns to the customs of certain tribes.

The excavation in summer 2008 took 10 weeks.All the graves were found in a swath stretching a few feet on either side of where the airport road will run.Thousands more skeletons still lie in Rupert’s Valley, but no more digs are planned, as there is no intention to disturb the other graves.A decision is pending whether the bodies will be reburied in Rupert’s Valley, or placed within an ossuary close to their original place of burial.

An observer in 1861 described the terrible scene when a slave ship landed at Rupert’s."The whole deck, as I picked my way from end to end, in order to avoid treading on them, was thickly strewn with the dead, dying and starved bodies of what seemed to me a species of ape that I had never seen before.Yet these miserable, helpless objects being picked up from the deck and handed over the ship’s side, one by one, living, dying and dead alike, were really human beings.Their arms were worn down to about the size of a walking stick.Many died as they were passed from the ship to the boat, but there was no time to separate the living from the dead."

The only consolation to those whose ancestors suffered such Belsen-like conditions is that most traders tried to keep the captives fed and fit enough to fetch good prices at the slave markets in America.The journey in sailing ships across the Atlantic took weeks, and if most had died there would have been little profit for the slavers.

The Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron was based in St. Helena and Ascension Island, settled by Britain in only 1815.It was an arduous and dangerous job catching the slavers, especially as warships rarely fired on the elusive traders for fear of killing the captives.There were too few warships to patrol an enormous stretch of coast, and most were slower than the fast American-built vessels used by the traders.Only when steam warships were used did the navy really gain a decisive advantage.

Dr Pearson said the analysis of the bones will be completed by next May and the findings published by the Council for British Archaeology.


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Place of Asylum

Thursday, 3rd December 2009 by Clay Coppedge, Country World

If a few Frenchmen and their allies could have had their way, Texas might have become part of a new Napoleonic empire.

Two of Napoleon’s generals seem to have had this in mind when they founded a colony called Champ D’Asile (Place of Asylum) at a site about three miles up the Trinity River, near the present-day town of Liberty.

The official version of the colony’s founding had it that Champ D’Asile would be a place of asylum for officers and refugees from Napoleon’s army and empire after the Battle of Waterloo ended Napoloen’s reign.One of Napoleon’s generals, Charles Francois Antoine Lallemand, led the colonists into Texas under a banner of agriculture.They were to cultivate "vines (grapes) and olives" on that red Pineywoods dirt, a dubious proposition at best.

The real intention seems to have been to establish a French military outpost in Spanish Texas that might help Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, take Mexico, rescue his dictator brother from exile in Saint Helena, and then take over North America.This kind of plan -- taking over the world or at least a large part of it -- was typical of the Bonaparte boys.Joseph Bonaparte also had some experience as a ruler of Spain, courtesy of his brother, and he was in the United States at the time.

Gen. Antoine Rigaud brought about 150 people to Galveston, early in 1818.The French settlers hung out with pirate Jean Laffite and his brother Pierre, until Lallemand showed up with a motley assortment of more troops, including Spanish, Polish and Americans.Laffite’s men led the colonists up the Trinity to their new home away from home, in what turned out to be a "neutral" territory.

Texas was under Spanish rule at the time, but an eastern portion was located in a neutral territory that wasn’t well-defined in the Louisiana Purchase.(The man who would eventually claim the state, Sam Houston, was in Alabama fighting with Andrew Jackson, against the Creeks at the time.)

Both the Spanish and the United States had three concerns about the new French settlement: location, location and location.Both countries wanted the territory but had agreed to leave it alone until the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase could be more firmly established.Then here come the French, just barging into the place like they owned it.

By any material reckoning, the French fared poorly at Champ D’Asile.They spent a lot more time with military manoeuvres than they did with agriculture.No vines.No olives.Nor had they anticipated the sultry heat of an East Texas summer, or the mosquitoes.Though ostensibly an agricultural settlement, the people at Champ D’Asile basically set about starving themselves to death.Some drowned.Others poisoned themselves trying to live off the land.At least a couple were captured and eaten by the Karankawa.

Perhaps a bigger mistake was made in trusting a pirate.Jean Laffite provided his fellow Frenchmen with provisions and boats but, ever loyal to the highest bidder, he probably also reported their activities to the Spanish.Whether he told them or not, the Spanish found out and ordered Mexican troops to find Champ D’Asile and destroy it.Since the settlers were already in the process of destroying the settlement without help from the Spanish or anybody else, Lallemand ordered the settlement abandoned.

Most of the people at Champ D’Asile ended up back at Galveston as unwanted guests of Laffite.The colonists who survived an 1818 hurricane at Galveston soon scattered and went their own not-so-merry ways.And that was the end of Champ D’Asile as its unfortunate inhabitants knew it.

The United States responded to the incident by ordering Jean Laffite and his men to pack their bags and sail away.The nettlesome "neutral territory" where Champ D’Asile had been located was removed in an 1819 treaty and the Sabine River was designated as the boundary between Texas and Louisiana.

Meanwhile, back in France, Champ D’Asile became a symbol of French resistance to the monarchy.Artists opposed to King Louis XVIII portrayed the French vets as noble farmer-soldiers whose peaceful pursuits were destroyed by the evil Spanish, who sent troops to Texas to kill them.

Several French novels were written about the failed experiment, most notably "Heroine du Texas." Though written from the vantage point of Paris, it might have been the first novel ever set in Texas.

Less than two decades later, perhaps swayed by the misty but unrealistic accounts of the patriots at Champ D’Asile, the French became the first European power to officially recognize the new Republic of Texas.


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Angola invades St. Helena

Angola invades St. Helena

A BBC Radio 4 Radio Play, broadcast Friday 27th November 2009.

Officially entitled “The Visigoths Are Coming...” this is part of a series of plays by Jonathan Myerson depicting life inside the UK Prime Minister’s office, Number 10 Downing Street.

In this edition, the Angolan Navy have occupied St. Helena.After six days, the PM and the Angolan Ambassador are locked in talks to try to prevent a declaration of war.

Our Comment:Interesting details emerge, which suggest that the cancellation of St. Helena’s airport project is behind the invasion . . . Good drama and a few amusing references to recent political developments on and in regard to St. Helena.

Click here to download a very low-resolution audio file.This should play on most media players.Filesize c8Mb.

More excellent BBC drama here . . ..


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We must not neglect the outposts of Empire

Michael Binyon, The Times, November 3rd, 2009

Once they were vital strategic assets in Britain’s domination of the globe.We cannot treat them as an embarrassment now

What should be done with the remnants of Empire?A series of pinpricks across the globe, 14 islands and territories still remain British and fiercely loyal to the Crown.But almost every one is deeply unhappy at today’s treatment by the mother country.They feel abandoned, forgotten, former strategic assets that are now seen in Whitehall as costly liabilities.Should they be written off and forced into independence?Or does Britain still owe them a responsibility?

More than a generation ago, Britain gave independence to huge tracts of land that were once coloured pink on the map and contained a quarter of the globe’s population.It was left, however, with these 14 islands and enclaves that were too small, too remote or too threatened by neighbours to go it alone.

Their names are echoes from history: St. Helena, Gibraltar, Bermuda, the Falkland Islands, Ascension, Anguilla and Pitcairn.Most have a population of only a few thousand.On Pitcairn, the remote Pacific haven for the Bounty mutineers, there are no more than 51 souls.Most have been British since the birth of the Empire: Bermuda was one of the first colonies and boasts the oldest Anglican church in the New World; St Mary’s church in St. Helena, the gateway to southern Africa and India, once included in its congregation the captains and crews of more than a thousand ships that used to anchor each year in the seas off the little capital of Jamestown.

Apart from Bermuda, almost none of these tiny colonies, now officially classified as British Overseas Territories, is politically or economically viable.And almost every one has been in the news for the wrong reasons.

Gibraltar and the Falklands face hostility from neighbours that claim their territory.Montserrat was almost destroyed by a volcano and rescue has been costly.The Cayman Islands are accused of offering tax havens for the world’s billionaires looking to hide their wealth.The former inhabitants of the British Indian Islands territory are fighting court battles against their wholesale expulsion to make way for a US airbase on Diego Garcia.Corruption and drugs forced Britain to suspend the Prime Minister and Government of the Turks & Caicos islands and impose direct rule by the Governor.

The problem for most of them is not bad government, but the wrong government.Unlike France, Britain has not incorporated these territories into its domestic political structure and made them equal to the metropolitan mainland.Instead, it has tried to offer as much self-government as possible while retaining an arm’s-length responsibility.The trappings of the colonial era have been dropped: governors no longer wear plumed hats; the territories can largely decide their own domestic affairs; and, after a disgraceful 20 years of second-class status when Margaret Thatcher denied them full British citizenship, their rights have been restored.

But there is no department in Whitehall properly tasked with their management.The Colonial Office was abolished 40 years ago.The Foreign Office sees its focus as diplomatic relations with the outside world.And the Department for International Development’s job is to use aid money to alleviate poverty among the teeming masses of the world’s poorest countries.

Yet it is DfID that now also has responsibility for the overseas territories.It is a far from happy relationship.There is, for a start, a clash of ethos: upholding the rights, pensions and privileges of British citizenship among peoples who are far from starving, is hardly compatible with flood relief in Bangladesh.How can the costs be compared?It costs far more to look after 2,300 people in the Falklands or 3,900 in St. Helena than it does to bring relief to millions in Africa.

Britain would do better to allow these far-flung territories a real voice.Why should they not, as in France, have a vote and a voice in the motherland’s Parliament?What about regional groupings for the Caribbean or the South Atlantic?

Nowhere is the relationship more strained than on St. Helena, an island of spectacular beauty and variety, from which I have just returned.

This volcanic outcrop, more than 1,000 miles from Africa, was settled long before Britain gained a toehold in southern Africa.It was the only refuelling stop on the route to and from the East; without it, Britain may never have conquered India.It played a crucial role in patrolling the African coast to end slavery.And it held Napoleon far enough away from any attempted rescue.

Yet even when ruled by the East India Company, it was never self-sufficient without access to the outside world.Nowadays that access has been reduced to a single supply ship.The answer to viability in a global age is an airport.But DfID, when confronted with the bill - £300 million for construction and initial running costs - got cold feet and pulled the plug.It is a small sum compared with just a few miles of motorway construction.It is little when compared with the cost of isolated communities in mainland Britain.But it seemed a lot compared with the relief of global poverty.

Without better access, St. Helena will slowly die.The young are emigrating at a rapid rate.Wages are extremely low, often less than £5,000 a year, but even minimal social services costs will rise as an ageing population needs pensions and care compatible with British citizenship.

Should Britain instead close St. Helena, shipping out the population as St Kilda was evacuated?It would be grotesque, worse than the eviction of the Chagos Islands.An island-wide consultation this summer found that a mere 1 per cent agreed with the DfID option of a "pause" on the airport.Yet that is Britain’s answer to its historic responsibilities.It is a shabby way to treat these former outposts of Britain’s global role.It is a shameful legacy of empire.

A comment filed on the above article and published on The Times Online

Viney Chander Bhutani wrote:

The author of this article and most of the commenters seem to be working on the basis of Britain’s ‘moral’ responsibility to the remaining colonies which Britain ruled when the empire was still around and which served as strategic assets in the defence of the empire and perhaps also in the making of that empire.A lot can be said by way of a ‘running commentary’ on several instances mentioned here but that will be mere polemics.We need to remember that in this day and age it is impossible and outlandish - not to use stronger words - to think in terms of what in the French experience used to be called ‘overseas departments’.It is wholly unpractical to imagine now that the remaining ‘colonies’ shall attain to greater distinction and better life if they were able to send representatives to the house of commons sitting in Westminster.(Can you allow 53 souls to send an MP?) In practice the inhabitants of these colonies may not care much for such ‘connection’ with Britain.It is strange to think in terms of defending any of these colonies in the manner Falkland was defended in Mrs Thatcher’s time.Perhaps the exercise may be repeated - with similar results, perhaps.But would you, for instance, launch a similar defence of Hong Kong?Britain dare not think in those terms because it could not hope to run a war half a world away with PRC able to just walk in with its tanks and aircraft - which Britain could not hope to match.Britain therefore made virtue of a necessity and handed back Hong Kong at the expire of a ‘lease’, which, to be sure, was euphemism for conquest and annexation as late as the 1890s (which was long past the high noon of the empire).The answer does not lie in bringing these colonies to a stage of graduation where they can send MPs to Westminster but in enabling these colonies and their inhabitants to find accommodation with their neighbours on as good terms as can be devised.Each case shall be governed by its onw considerations.


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Island ‘at risk without airport’

Simon Pipe, BBC News, 29th October 2009

St. Helena scenery
St. Helena’s population has shrunk to 4,000

People on the remote island of St. Helena have warned that unless Britain builds them an airport soon, their economy will collapse.

Without it, children are becoming "economic orphans" as parents are forced to take jobs on other islands and the sick are travelling hundreds of miles by ship for specialist care, often without a nurse.

In May 1659, Captain John Dutton landed on St. Helena, a speck of volcanic rubble more than a thousand miles off the African coast, and founded a British colony.He stepped ashore to the sound of trumpet and drum.

In 2009, there was no fanfare to mark the 350th anniversary.

Down at the castle that the captain built, the people who run St. Helena had other things on their minds.

A few months earlier, the UK government had frozen a project to build an airport on the island.

In the depths of a global recession, it had second thoughts about spending more than £300m on a tiny island in the South Atlantic - for the time being.

Location map

At meetings across the island, people spoke of feeling "disbelief, distrust and betrayal", according to a consultation report published by the government on Wednesday.

In the capital, Jamestown, Vince Thompson read the report and referred back to the day Captain Dutton landed on the uninhabited island and claimed it for the Honourable East India Company.

"After all those years the problems remain fundamentally the same," he said.

Far away jobs

The island, now a British overseas territory, is just as isolated now as it was in the East India days.

Then, sailing ships were a regular sight in James Bay, stopping for fresh supplies on the long haul down to The Cape.

Now the only regular visitor is the Royal Mail Ship St. Helena, which brings nearly all the island’s needs and a very small number of tourists.

It also takes islanders, known as Saints, to jobs far away.With no airport, many find it hard to return.

Often they go to Ascension Island or the Falklands - also British territories.Some employers, including the Ministry of Defence and the US Air Force, will not allow them to take their children with them.

They are left behind, often with ageing relatives.About a quarter of Saint children are thought to be "economic orphans".

Social workers have only recently been introduced to help deal with the severe problems caused by decades of families being parted.

Colonial heritage

The island has four doctors at the old colonial hospital in Jamestown but Saints needing specialist care must travel to the UK or Cape Town - a week’s voyage.

A shortage of nurses means patients sometimes have to travel without one.For some, the ship comes too late and they die at sea.

In 2005, the UK government announced that it would build an airport by 2010.

RMS St. Helena
The Royal Mail Ship brings all the island’s needs

One islander, quoted in the local newspaper, called it "the biggest thing since Napoleon", the French emperor who died on the island in 1821.

The hope is that an airport will bring in enough tourists to give the island a viable economy and end decades of surviving on British aid, currently more than £20m a year.

The island offers tourists a wealth of colonial heritage, with a backdrop of lush mountain greenery.

Cannons still point out to sea from batteries all round the spectacularly rugged coastline.

However, many islanders fear an airborne invasion of tourists would destroy the island’s tranquillity and culture.

Nearly a third questioned, including Saints overseas, said they wanted a faster shipping service instead.

But nearly all agreed the island could not wait up to five more years for their ageing ship to be replaced.

That, said one person, would be "suicide for the island".

Low pay

In the past decade, its population has shrunk by a fifth to only 4,000 because people cannot make a living at home.

The average salary is £4,500 and food and fuel cost more than in the UK.

Now there are not enough people of working age to run all its services, such as schools and the hospital.

And every time the RMS St. Helena sails out of James Bay, it takes more islanders away.

Rosemary Stevenson, the report’s author, said: "There is a strong sense that further delay would take the island to a point where recovery will no longer be possible."

In response to Simon Pipe’s piece, the UK Department for International Development said:

"We will consider carefully the views submitted in the consultation, taking into account the current economic conditions.

"The global economic conditions are very different now from when we tendered the airport contract.We have a responsibility to re-examine matters when the circumstances have changed so significantly.The consultation provided an opportunity for anybody who is likely to be affected by the decision to make their views heard before the decision is made.

"When we launched the consultation we made it clear that the government’s commitment to ensure access to and from the island is not in question: we will not contemplate a reduced level of access to that currently provided by the RMS."


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St. Helena remains cut off from world as Whitehall drops airport plan

St. Helena print

Michael Binyon in St. Helena, The Times, October 31, 2009

Two centuries ago more than a thousand ships a year called in at St. Helena, then one of the most vital maritime staging posts in the world.Today only one supply ship regularly sails into Jamestown, the capital of one of Britain’s oldest and most remote overseas territories.

Now, a recent decision by the Government not to go ahead with a long-promised airport leaves St. Helena isolated, demoralised and resentful of betrayal by a motherland to which the island owes historic and passionate allegiance.

When Napoleon arrived to begin his six-year exile amid the rugged cliffs and spectacular verdant ravines, thousands of troops were garrisoned on what was the gateway to southern Africa and India.It was a strategic asset that Britain defended at huge costs to assert naval control of the South Atlantic.

The troops have left, the towers, cliff batteries and Georgian houses are crumbling and the harbour is empty.Hundreds of "Saints" are emigrating each year to look for work.The island has lost a fifth of its population, especially the young, in ten years.Unless the downward spiral can be halted, St. Helena will rapidly become unviable - with no money, jobs, or future.

Fewer than 4,000 people live on what could be a subtropical paradise.Many are older people returning after years of work in Britain, Ascension Island or the Falklands.The result is a community with few young people, especially men, an ageing population and a growing labour shortage.

The economy in St. Helena is struggling.Many of the family farms have ceased production, small businesses are hampered by a dwindling domestic market and the geographic isolation.Wages are low, electricity and utilities expensive and a well-educated younger generation finds few suitable jobs at home.

Yet only a year ago there was optimism about the future.After more than a decade of lobbying, surveys and official reports, plans were agreed for an airport.It would ensure that the lonely location no longer cut St. Helena off from the world.

It was hoped that tourists would fly in to explore the valleys, unique flora, rich heritage and terrain.Patients could be flown to hospitals in London or Cape Town instead of having to wait for up to a month until the ship came in.Islanders could come and go as they pleased instead of having to book an expensive 14-day journey to Britain up to a year in advance.And niche businesses, capitalising on the flax, fish, award-winning coffee and sustainable products, would be able to reach markets abroad.

The project was massive.A mountain top had to be sliced off to give access to a runway on the only stretch of flattish barren land.A ravine had to be filled in with millions of tonnes of rock.An access road had to be gouged out of the cliffs and everything had to be brought in by sea.The total cost amounted to £300 million.

The Department for International Development, the lifeline for St. Helena’s economy, assured the islanders that all was well despite the looming recession.Contracts were due to be signed.St. Helenians were lured home with promises of building works, supply contracts and economic uplift.Investors bought hotels, promised capital inflow and proposed partnerships.

Then, in December last year, Whitehall postponed the airport plan.

Not for the first time, hopes had been dashed.Whitehall was accused of vacillation and loss of nerve.

All the plans to make the island more sustainable - as it had once been when ruled by the East India Company - melted away.Potential investors pulled out.Plans for a call centre went cold.Rarely, the angry Saints tell visitors, has morale been so low.

The decision has been costly for many people.Several Saints were encouraged to return by the prospect of a boom created by the airport.Many had emigrated, taking jobs on Ascension Island, in the Falklands, or in the large community of St. Helenians around Swindon in Wiltshire.

Attracted by the promise of large construction works and the influx of tourists, several quit well-paid jobs overseas, returned to the island and bought property and small businesses that would benefit from the promised airport access.

They feel let down.Some are in danger of losing thousands of pounds and are preparing to sell their property at a loss and leave the island for good.Three months ago, a handful of younger Saints booked a passage on the Royal Mail ship - still the only means to get on and off the island - to Ascension or Cape Town to seek a new life elsewhere.

Not everyone is eager for an airport.Among the older Saints there are fears that a tourist boom would overwhelm St. Helena, destroy its fragile environment and upset their tranquil way of life.They would prefer a new breakwater to allow more cruise ships to call and say that the present supply ship, at 20 years old, should be replaced by two larger ships dedicated to passengers or freight.

An island-wide consultation exercise in the summer found overwhelming opposition to the postponed airport plan.It found that: "They felt disillusioned, and a sense of disbelief, distrust or betrayal when the pause was announced."

It said that the effect of young people taking jobs abroad and leaving children to be brought up by relatives or grandparents was adversely affecting the social fabric.Some hope that a Conservative victory next year might help.

The airport cost is still less than the £320 million it has cost British taxpayers to sustain the island on minimum standards of income and services in the past 20 years.Private sector initiatives are still possible.

Islanders hope that a new government in London might be more determined to end the dependency culture, which many say is the result of a government employer which is more than twice the size of the private sector of the island.

St. Helenians, who are descended from British settlers, African slaves and labourers brought in by the Victorians from China, India and across the old Empire, are resilient, enterprising and outspoken.They boast a tolerant and integrated society.But there is little tolerance today for what they see as indifference in Britain.

Some ask whether the official policy is to drive the entire population off St. Helena and close it down.

From trading post to prison
Location: South Atlantic, halfway between South America and Africa
Land: Volcanic landscape, 122 square kilometres (47 square miles)
Climate: Tropical - has at least 40 unique species of plants
Population: 7,637
Government: British Overseas Territory, together with Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha islands
Industries: Fishing, livestock, handicrafts; depends on financial support from the UK; hopes to develop wine and tourism.In 19th century was whaling centre, clearing house for freed slaves, and port for trading and military vessels until the Suez Canal was opened in 1869
History: Discovered uninhabited by Portuguese explorers in 1502, it became a regular staging post.In 1659 the British East India Company took possession and built a fort at Jamestown.Apart from a brief Dutch invasion, the island was an established British colony; British Government officially took control in 1833
Prisoners: In 1815 Napoleon Bonaparte was interned in the island after his defeat at Waterloo until his death in 1821 Later, Britain imprisoned thousands of South African Boers there in 1900-03 during the Boer War, and held three Bahraini princes on St. Helena from 1957-1960.The Zulu chief Dinizulu was exiled to the island from 1890 to 1897
Observatory: Edmund Halley, of Halley’s Comet fame, spent a year there in 1676 to map the stars of the southern hemisphere.In 1761 it became the site of an observatory from which Maskelyne and Waddington observed Venus
Residents: known as "Saints", they are mainly descendants of British settlers, East India Company employees, slaves from the Asian subcontinent, the East Indies, Madagascar, and Chinese indentured labourers.About 25 per cent have moved elsewhere for work
Highest point: Diana’s Peak, of volcanic origin, at 2,685ft
Local tipple: Tungi Spiri (pronounced Toon-jee), made from prickly pears.According to the family distillery that produces it, the spirit has "a fruity nose and a distinctive double ripple on the palate, several seconds apart"
Sources: CIA World Factbook, sthelena.se, St. Helena Star


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Hope and survival are the election issues in St. Helena

Michael Binyon in St. Helena, The Times, October 31, 2009

Voters go to the polls on Wednesday in one of Britain’s most remote territories - where there are no parties, no prime minister and no parliament.

But the general election in St. Helena promises to be one of the most passionate and divisive in the history of the lonely Atlantic island, ruled by Britain for almost 400 years.

At stake are just two issues: can hope be restored to St Helana?And - more crucially - can the island’s community survive?There are only two constituencies, East and West, each with six seats.For years, councillors were returned almost automatically.But St. Helena is gripped by an economic crisis, and record numbers of candidates are standing.

The average age of incumbent councillors is 72, and many are likely to be swept from office by challengers with a single demand - change.No new party will come to power: with fewer than 4,000 people, St. Helena is too small for a party system.The 25 men and women standing are campaigning on individual platforms in an opinionated community where almost everyone is known by sight.The promises, however, are as extravagant as elsewhere in the world: money for schools; a better-run hospital; help for farming; higher wages and less bureaucracy.

Click for: Bernice Olsson’s Election Poster (Click to see the full-sized image, opens in a new window or tab)

But even the most ambitious know that they can do only so much.As in the other tiny remnants of empire across the globe, the final say rests with the Governor.And the purse-strings - now drawn so tight that young St. Helenians are leaving in droves - are controlled in London.

The island’s survival is not a question of food, health or shelter.The "Saints" enjoy many of the benefits of their British citizenship: a good secondary school; social security benefits; care homes for the elderly; unemployment benefit and adequate housing.

But living costs almost 1,000 miles from the nearest land are high.Everything - food, medicine, machinery, cars, clothes and the myriad articles of daily life - must come by ship.And though Cape Town is only five sailing days away, transport costs make life difficult and expensive.Electricity prices are among the highest in the world.Petrol is £1.35 a litre.Wages are extremely low; many earn no more than £5,000 a year.A new constitution introduced this year increases the powers of oversight committees and five elected members of the Executive Council.Bernice Olsson, an outspoken member of the outgoing council, says in her campaign leaflets: "The constitution will not clip the Governor’s wings . . . but Bernice will."

But it is hard to see how.Committee chairmen do not have the power of ministers.There is no new money: of the £21 million budget, £12 million comes from London.As in the days when the East India Company ran the island, jobs, land, development and even the single supply ship are in the hands of the St. Helena government - and ultimately London.


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St. Helena on “From Our Own Correspondent”

BBC Radio 4’s “From Our Own Correspondent”

On 24th October 2009 BBC Radio 4’s programme “From Our Own Correspondent” featured an item recorded by BBC journalist Simon Pipe following his recent visit to St. Helena.“From Our Own Correspondent” is always an excellent programme and this was an exceptional piece on St. Helena.The Turner Family congratulates Simon on this remarkable piece of journalism, accurately summarising as it does the island’s hopes, fears and dreams in just five minutes of audio.Click here to hear St. Helena on BBC Radio 4’s “From Our Own Correspondent”.


Rupert’s Valley seen from the battery on the western slopes
Rupert’s Valley seen from the battery on the western slopes

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Filmmaker’s historic revelation

The Teesdale Mercury, Oct 20, 2009

A FILMMAKER from Teesdale has been the first person to reveal the discovery of thousands of skeletons on an isolated island - a find that experts say is of “global historical significance”.

During the 19th century, the South Atlantic island of St. Helena was a Royal Navy base for operations against slave traders.

Archaeologists have now unearthed the remains of more than 8,000 slaves in an area known as Rupert’s Valley on the island.

Historians believe slaves had been liberated by the Navy but died a slow and painful death from diseases such as small pox before they could return home.

Authorities on the island, which is still a British overseas territory, have kept the discovery under wraps until more research is carried out.

But David Rabbitts, who lives near Cotherstone, was given permission to feature the story on his latest film, which is about St. Helena and Ascension Island, 700 miles to the north-west.

By doing so, he became the first person to tell the outside world about the macabre revelation.

Mr Rabbitts said: “We all need a bit of luck and, as a filmmaker, this was mine.It was a privilege to be there.”

“The slaves had been liberated at sea; the hope that they must have had when they reached the shore . . . but for many, it was too late.”

Island historians had known about slaves being buried in the valley for a number of years, but the significance of the site was not known until archaeologists visited last year.

The authorities soon had to ship in more archaeologists after thousands of skeletons were found.

It is now estimated that at least 8,000 freed slaves perished at the Rupert’s Valley Liberation Depot after being unable to survive the depravations endured in the hands of slave traders.St. Helena’s National Trust said the archaeological work “has made it clear that the Liberation Depot is of global historical significance, certainly rare and possibly unique”.

They also called for history books to recognise St. Helena’s role during the period.Mr Rabbitts said he felt an overwhelming emotion when he filmed at Rupert’s Valley.

“It’s a very moving place,” he said.“Many families did not know why their menfolk or children had gone missing.They were never to be seen again.”

“I tried to imagine someone coming into my life and taking me to another country and to be put into forced labour.”

Called ‘Jewels of The Tropical South Atlantic’, Mr Rabbitts’ latest film is subtitled ‘A Country Lad in the footsteps of an Emperor’.

It charts the wildlife and history of Ascension and Saint Helena, the island where Napoleon died after he was exiled.The documentary was ‘premiered’ at Mickleton Village Hall last week to an audience of about 160 people.Before it was shown, Mr Rabbitts read out a message from Stedson Stroud, a conservation officer on Ascension.

Mr Stroud said: “Through the Jewels of The Tropical South Atlantic, you will see the gateway to these two foreign islands.You will see these islands projected as never before.No one has ever filmed and illustrated them in the length and depth in the way David has done.I hope some of you will come down here to visit us as a result of what you see tonight.A very warm welcome awaits.”

The film, which lasted one hour and 50 minutes, was warmly greeted by the audience, who enjoyed Mr Rabbitts’ laid-back style, attention to detail and stories of life and conservation on the windswept islands.

At the interval, it was announced that £1,040 was raised for Cancer Research and Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services (UTASS) through ticket sales and a raffle.

Loud applause followed the film’s finale - the sight of a turtle returning to the sea after its epic journey to lay its eggs on the sands of St. Helena.


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Napoleon rides into Anaheim

Click for: Napoleon I in his coronation robe, c1804 Baron Francois Pascal Simon Gerard (Click to see the full-sized image, opens in a new window or tab)
Napoleon I in his coronation robe, c1804 Baron Francois Pascal Simon Gerard

A rare exhibit of his treasures makes its West Coast premiere.
By RICHARD CHANG, The Orange County Register, Monday, October 12, 2009

Pierre-Jean Chalençon started his obsession with Napoleon when he was 7 years old.

The Frenchman’s father gave him a Superman comic book.When little Pierre expressed his amazement at the Man of Steel’s feats, his father told him, “Superman was not real.Napoleon was real.”

That’s when the fascination with Napoleon started.

When Chalençon was 12, his mother gave him an 1815 poster warning of Napoleon’s return to France after he escaped from captivity on Elba Island.

When he was 17, Chalençon sold his motor scooter to buy Napoleon’s letter announcing victory against the Prussians at the Battle of Jena in 1806.

Since then, Chalençon - a Napoleon scholar, collector and university lecturer - has amassed one of the most impressive Napoleon collections in the world, with more than 500 original objects.

“I am the Indiana Jones of Napoleon,” chuckled Chalençon, 39, whose frizzy blond hair, sunglasses and jewelry make him look like he just stepped out of the 1970s.“I’m like Sherlock Holmes.I’m ready to go 24 hours a day to find something.”

Through Jan. 8, Muzeo in Anaheim is presenting Chalençon’s rich and inimitable collection.“Treasures of Napoléon” is the largest exhibition of Napoleon-related objects to hit the West Coast.

It’s also the biggest exhibition to date at the two-year-old Muzeo, which used to be the Anaheim Museum.

The show includes many Napoleonic items of interest:the earliest-known letter composed in his hand;the gilded bronze sword used to proclaim him emperor of the French empire;the valise that brought him the signed Louisiana Purchase documents from America;his personal map of the French empire, dating from 1812;the clothes, including long johns, he wore soon before his death;and the first will he wrote during exile on St. Helena Island.

“From a Muzeo perspective, it’s our most elaborate, important show, given the pieces on display,” said Peter Comiskey, executive director of Muzeo.“There are some pretty amazing artefacts on view.Plus, it ties into the curriculum for students in our area very well.”

As a special educator incentive, Muzeo is offering free admission to school classes for the duration of the exhibit.


Napolione di Buonaparte was born to Italian parents in 1769 on the island of Corsica.“He was an immigrant,” Chalençon said.“He had a strong accent.”

He attended military college in France and became a successful soldier and officer.At this time, he changed his name to the more French-sounding Napoleon Bonaparte.

By the age of 26, he was a triumphant general, conquering Italy.His aggressive campaigns transformed warfare and changed the political face of Europe.

In 1799, Napoleon seized power in a coup d’état, becoming First Consul of the Republic.He was only 30.

At 35, he crowned himself emperor of the French, ruling 70 million people.

While he had limitless ambition and was reviled by many, Napoleon granted minority rights in many lands, reorganized outdated governments of the French empire into streamlined, efficient administrations, and championed art and artists.

He instituted a system of civil law known as the Napoleonic code, which is still used in France and much of Western Europe today.It’s believed to be the basis of Louisiana state law as well.

After his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon was exiled to Saint Helena, a barren island in the South Pacific.He died in 1821 at age 52.


The exhibit “Treasures of Napoléon” features dozens of objects that surrounded Napoleon when he was a general, First Consul, emperor and an exile.The show includes paintings, some commissioned by Napoleon and others done during and shortly after his time.

Click for: Napoleon Crossing the Alps, by Jacques-Louis David (circa 1801-05) (Click to see the full-sized image, opens in a new window or tab)
Napoleon Crossing the Alps, by Jacques-Louis David (circa 1801-05)

The oil on canvas, “Napoleon Crossing the Alps” (circa 1801-05), is an iconic image.It was done by Jean Baptiste Mauzaisse, a student of the great Jacques-Louis David.

“Portrait of Napoleon I in Coronation Robe” (c. 1805-10) is a gold-framed oil on canvas by François Gérard that portrays a supremely confident Napoleon with a gold laurel crown on his head, reminiscent of a Roman emperor.

A large marble bust of the emperor, done by Antonio Canova around 1810, is also on display.The bust was in the collection of Louis-Philippe, king of France between 1830 and 1848, and suffered major damage during a British bombing campaign in World War II.

“Treasures” includes maps, books and other documents owned by Napoleon, along with silverware, his modest camp bed from the Battle of Wagram, toiletries, a gold snuffbox and a wooden tea-box.

“I think this exhibition is very interesting, because it shows not just a piece of art, but it shows how this guy was living,” Chalençon said.“Like you, like me, he wore underwear.He becomes a human guy.For six years, he lived at St. Helena.It’s good to show that he was not all the time at war.”

The show ends with one of Napoleon’s grand blue hats, an 1805 summer model that was worn in the 1809 Battle of Essling.It’s displayed with Napoleon’s Legion of Honor sash.


In the older, original Carnegie building of Muzeo (once the downtown Anaheim Public Library), French works from the collection of Anaheim Hills resident Dr. Howard Knohl are on view.The paintings, clocks and personal effects from the first and second French empires - which include Napoleon’s reign - coincide with the “Treasures of Napoléon” exhibit, housed in the newer building next door.

Highlights from this collection include a realistic, unromanticized oil portrait, “Napoleon Crossing the Alps” (c. 1848-50) by Paul Delaroche; “Death at Saragossa” (1895), an oil on canvas by Harold Piffard; and “Napoleon Rendant Visite Aux Blesses,” an oil on canvas by Paul Emile Boutigny.

Knohl has also collected hand-painted match boxes and delicately painted cigar, or cheroot, holders.These are on view in a stand-alone case.

“I love history,” said Knohl, 72.“It started with books in the mid-‘80s and expanded with art.Contemporary art may go up or down, but this kind of art never goes down in value.”

Joyce Franklin, director of exhibitions and programs for Muzeo, said showing Knohl’s artworks is a rare chance for Orange County residents to see the Delaroche painting (only two like it in the world have survived) and other precious pieces in a private, local collection.

Combined with “Treasures of Napoleon,” both exhibits represent a unique opportunity to explore an important period in French history and art.Plus, through the end of the year, Muzeo is offering craft workshops, demonstrations, a fashion show and other events to learn about Napoleon and his legacy.Visit muzeo.org for details.


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St. Helena Stuff is here


{1} Actually, of course, it’s the RMS St. Helena

{2} SaintFM was an independent radio station serving St. Helena from 2004-2012. More on the Wikipedia

For an interactive map of St. Helena click here.


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