Saturday, 21 January 2017

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LONDON AND ST HELENA: NOW THAT’S A CONTRAST!

By Simon Quarendon; published on The St Helena Wirebird 7th November 2014.
Comparing where you live with the destination you are visiting adds enormously to the joy of travelling. The bigger the contrast between the two, the more pleasure you get. Conversely, arriving somewhere that seems to be pretty similar to where you live leaves one feeling a little flat and, well, cheated.
One of the biggest contrasts that a traveller can hope to discover is between London, where I live and work, and St Helena, where I was fortunate to visit in September of this year. Here are a few comparisons that may inspire you to visit the island.
Let’s get the comparative statistics out of the way first. London’s population is 8.4 million. St Helena’s is 4,255. London’s geographic area is 1,522 square kilometres while St Helena covers just 122 square kilometres.
Jamestown [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Now let’s consider what those differences mean on a day to day basis.
When driving in St Helena, expect everyone (and I mean everyone) to wave at you. Some waves will be perfunctory, but some will be genuinely warm and friendly. But a wave is a wave and always deserves one in return.
After a while, you can expect to look forward to getting into the car and driving somewhere just because of the waves. It seems to lift the spirits to know that total strangers are willing to not just acknowledge you but wave at you too.
Could you ever imagine looking forward to driving in London? And would anyone there wave at you? Leaving aside the irate delivery drivers and mad cyclists.
As part of the UK it’s estimated that 93% of Londoners own a mobile phone and the chances are they’ll be on that phone. While they walk down the street, whilst travelling or even when with a group of friends. While using that phone they’ll be oblivious to their surroundings, including the people they are bumping into.
Currently, St Helena doesn’t have any mobile signal, so no one owns a mobile phone{21}. As contrasts go, this is a pretty big one. And although the St Helenean youth may disagree, this is an incredibly liberating experience. People stop and talk in the street. Yet more waving happens at those driving by. Meetings take place that are uninterrupted by irritating ring tones. People leave messages at those places where they think you’ll be or where they think you’re going to next. Amidst all the waving, you’ll have a chance to take in your surroundings or just contemplate life. Which, once the ‘oh my god, where’s my phone?’ feelings fade away, feels pretty good.
Let’s finish by comparing the surroundings. Located next to the river, your views of London will be essentially flat and urban. Apart from London’s wonderful parks and green spaces, your views will be of buildings and people. Street lighting will prevent you from seeing the stars and unless you’re up a skyscraper, you’re unlikely to have an uninterrupted view of more than a few hundred metres.
Which makes for the biggest contrast with St Helena. Formed from volcanos, St Helena’s views are best described as ‘rugged’. In just a few minutes’ drive, one can experience several different micro climates, with each one having its own flora. With very minimal lighting, the night sky is truly memorable.
If you are fortunate and fit enough to climb to Diana’s Peak, rising 818 metres from the sea it’s the island’s highest point, you’ll experience a truly majestic view. On a clear day, the horizon is 40 kilometres away and, with a 358 degree view of the Ocean (one tree prevents it from being a 360 degree view) means looking at 40,000 square kilometres of empty sea.
Now that’s what you call a contrast.

YOU’RE GOING TO REALLY HAVE TO WANT TO GET TO ST HELENA

By Carly Ledbetter; published in The Huffington Post 30th October 2014.
If you’re looking to get away -- and we mean really away -- from a fast-paced life, you probably should head on down to St Helena. You may have heard of it thanks to 10thgrade history when you learned that Napoleon was exiled there, but you may want to go to it now because there (supposedly) aren’t any ATMs or businesses that take credit cards.
Did we mention that the island, which is a British territory in the South Atlantic, is only accessible by boat? It’s not a self-proclaimed one of the most isolated islands in the world for nothin’.
Huffington Post 2014 Image 1 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Visitors arrive from Cape Town via a Royal Mail Ship called the RMS St Helena -- a journey that takes roughly 5 days to complete. Or head to the island between October and April via cruise ship. Don’t like ships? A new airport should be ready by 2016 in the hopes of attracting more tourists.
Huffington Post 2014 Image 2 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Huffington Post 2014 Image 3 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Despite all the road blocks to get there, there are still beautiful cathedrals, old cemeteries and even Jonathan, who is regarded as the oldest tortoise in the world.
Huffington Post 2014 Image 4 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Make sure to also take the challenging trek up Jacob’s Ladder, a 699-step staircase that runs from the capital of Jamestown up Ladder Hill. From the top, you can get some of the best views of the island.
Huffington Post 2014 Image 5 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Huffington Post 2014 Image 6 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Don’t look down -- or with this view, DO.
See you on St Helena!

MOVING FROM THE UK TO LIVE ON ST HELENA


By Paul Tyson; published on The St Helena Wirebird 30th October 2014.
Nine months ago my wife saw a job advert; an amazing, if unlikely opportunity, that would change our lives. Without any real regard for the consequences I encouraged my wife to apply, not believing said life-changing adventure could ever become a reality.
At yet, now I sit here with my wife, Bev, and two young boys, Oliver (6) and Charlie (3), in the tropical sunshine of St Helena; a small British overseas territory that is one of the most remote places in the world.
Without a doubt, our adventure started with our journey here, and it is no ordinary journey. St Helena is remote, very remote, 1200km from the West coast of Africa without an airport. After an 11-hour flight to Cape Town and a night spent enjoying the sights and sounds of South Africa’s capital, we boarded the RMS St Helena; one of the last remaining Royal Mail ships that would take us to St Helena, a 5 day journey.
The RMS St Helena has a reputation for leaving a lasting impression on people, and it is easy to see why. It is a throwback to a bygone era with games of dominoes and shove half penny, cricket, and tug o war on deck. The passengers and crew make this journey truly special and interesting. The ship contains an endless list of nationalities, personalities and stories each with their own tail to tell. We met many people from the UK in the same situation as ourselves, off to St Helena for new work and a new way of life.
We also had our first experience of the local Saints, warm, friendly and fascinating people. Always with time to say hello and spin a tale. Life on board is one of routine, based around meal times, but in between, regular entertainment is provided.
Our final night aboard was spent enjoying a fabulous feast on the deck, with barbequed meats, fresh fruit a plenty, and significant portions of cake before we headed off to bed. We had mixed emotions; excited to arrive at the island but sad to be leaving our extended family on board the RMS St Helena.
The next morning, crawling out of bed at 7.30am we made our way to the deck and there she was, the island, the focus of our attention for the last 5 months, the vision in our heads for what feels like a lifetime. What a wonderful exciting moment, shared with others emerging on deck to see their new home for the first time, whispers and murmurings of emotions giving way to a tide of noise and chatter as eventually all 125 passengers appear on deck wide eyed.
I peered at the rock emerging from the sea, imagining myself in the opening scenes of King Kong. As we approached the barren rocky cliffs the island’s secret lush interior is revealed only by the sight of a loan tree, sat on the Island’s highest point, Diana’s Peak (823m). Two things struck me; this is a small island, a spec in an endless ocean.
My mind turned to the pioneering explorers, the Christopher Columbus’s of this World, the excitement and sheer overwhelming joy that must have greeted those brave men who crossed Oceans with no maps, in the hope of forging brave new worlds. St Helena, although a British Territory for hundreds of years, was discovered in 1502 by Portuguese navigator João da Nova, on his voyage home from India and what must he of felt when, like me, he first saw the looming sea cliffs ahead of him?
The second thing that struck both Bev and I was its apparent lack of any recognisable inhabitants. Approaching the South side of the island, a huge wall of rock and sheers cliffs is all that can be seen, this imposing structure changes and becomes more welcoming as we move East round the island, the barren rock face gives way to welcoming peaks and troughs with lush green valleys and dry peaks. Eventually the ship approaches the North of the island, the capital Jamestown and the first clues of the Islands inhabitants and long history comes into view as we weigh anchor to disembark.
From our steady anchor point, Jamestown is clearly visible, a narrow town of colourful houses rising up following the line of a steep sided valley. We get our first glimpse of Half Tree Hollow, a residential suburb of Jamestown perched high on a plateau and our soon to be new hometown. We can even see our new house from here and thoughts of evenings spent looking out across the setting sun over the Atlantic Ocean fill my head.
Before we know it, our time aboard the RMS is through and we disembark onto a small shuttle boat that takes us to the Wharf. Waiting for a favourable wave to lift our boat high enough to step onto the dry land we have a nervous excitement and butterflies in our stomachs. A short shuttle bus journey to the customs post is filled with the chattering’s of expectant and nervous new Islanders.
Can this be true, that we are here; that this surreal dream is a reality; that I and my family now live, on an Island, six miles wide and ten miles long. 1,200 miles from Africa, 1,800 miles from South America in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; that we live, on the Island of Saint Helena.
To read more and see photos of our adventures on St Helena take a look at my blog, twoyearsintheatlantic.com.

ROYAL MAIL SHIP ST HELENA - SAYING FAREWELL TO THE BEATING HEART OF A COMMUNITY

By John Honeywell; published in The Daily Mirror 23rd August 2014.{3}
Dwarfed: RMS St Helena meets the Queen Mary 2 [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Dwarfed: RMS St Helena meets the Queen Mary 2
No one could quite understand my determination to visit the remote island St Helena.
Why would I take three weeks out of my life - a week to get there, eight days on a speck of rock in the South Atlantic, and a week to get home?
I wasn’t even sure myself, although once the seed had been planted it began to grow and grow; nothing would stop me.
Here was an opportunity to visit one of Britain’s last remaining outposts before it changes forever and the opening of an airport drags it into the 21st century.
I was invited because I write about cruise ships.
The only way to reach St Helena - unless you happen to own your own yacht - is by passenger ship.
The sturdy RMS St Helena is the vessel that makes the journey regularly.
Not long ago it ran a scheduled service from the UK, now it is reduced to shuttling from Cape Town, sailing onwards to Ascension Island and occasionally making a detour to Tristan da Cunha.
It is one of only two remaining passenger vessels designated Royal Mail Ships - Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is the other; they once ‘met’ at Tristan da Cunha - and who knows what might happen now our post offices have been privatised.
Community: View over James Bay and Jamestown waterfront [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Community: View over James Bay and Jamestown waterfront
The hefty subsidy that the Foreign Office lays out each year to keep the service afloat is one reason why we are pouring £250million into building St Helena’s first airport, which should open in about a year.
Once flights become established, the 344ft RMS St Helena - built in Aberdeen in 1990 - will be pensioned off and the unique experience of its passage across the South Atlantic will be gone.
The ship is more than just 6,767 gross tonnes of steel capable of carrying 156 passengers, 55 crew and up to 1,800 tonnes of cargo.
It is the beating heart of the small community.
When the ship is in James Bay the 4,000 islanders smile more broadly than usual.
When it bobs at anchor, life in the sleepy capital, Jamestown, perks up; shops and bars open specially, or for longer hours, than during the rest of the month.
The RMS is the residents’ lifeline. The ship is the only way to get to Cape Town when islanders need treatment beyond the capabilities of the island’s small hospital.
It transports them to the outside world for education, training and employment.
It brings them back for family celebrations and when they decide to return home for good.
It brings everything needed for daily life - food, household goods, cars, tools.
You name it, it’s all there in the containers winched off the ship and on to pontoons to be floated ashore.
For many Saints, a regular job on the ship has set them up for life.
History: Catching some sun on deck [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
History: Catching some sun on deck
Like the island, the ship is a journey back in time, but it would be wrong to pretend it offers a luxury cruise experience.
The cabins, some shared by four people, are as basic as those on a cross-Channel ferry.
The extras-indulging occupants of the few suites are limited to a fridge and a bowl of fruit.
No balcony, or even picture window, from which to survey the ocean; just a simple porthole within splashing distance of the swell.
No television, just a radio with a choice of two channels - BBC World Service or music.
There’s a small gym somewhere up near the funnel - climbing the steps to reach it would be enough exercise for me.
The view forward from the ship’s main lounge is of containers on the cargo deck; the Sun Lounge looks out across a small swimming pool to a large area of open deck and the seemingly endless wake trailing behind the ship.
The emptiness of the sky is only occasionally broken by an albatross or a pair of petrels.
Highlight of the journey is the fiercely competitive cricket match between passengers and crew.
Nightlife: Barbecue night on RMS St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
Nightlife: Barbecue night on RMS St Helena
Whether it was thanks to the presence of Governor Mark Capes on board to cheer from the boundary we will never know, but the passengers scored an exceedingly rare victory.
Just as on a cruise ship, the captain holds a welcome cocktail party; officers share tables with guests in the compact dining saloon, and there’s a quiz which is almost as cut-throat as the cricket.
The crew seem to have abandoned the habit of putting on a cabaret, although they still serve hot beef tea at 11am.
Entertainment is limited to deck games, the well-stocked bar and a few film nights.
Days are spent reading, sleeping, and scanning the empty ocean with nothing to see but sea and sky.
My journey coincided with Remembrance Sunday and the captain and the governor held a moving service on the afterdeck.
Eerily, an albatross flew over the wake as the Last Post sounded and a wreath was dropped on to the waves.
Before long, the Last Post will be sounded for RMS St Helena.
There are precious few opportunities remaining to make the journey before the ship sails into the sunset for the last time.

I LOOK AT ST HELENA EVERY DAY

By Erik Brown of Halcyon Collections, a bespoke travel company; published on St Helena Wirebird 18th August 2014.
I look at St Helena every day. It’s the screensaver on my Apple Mac - a shot I took as we were sailing away from the island after a too short four-day visit. St Helena is hazy in the photograph, but I can still make out Lot’s Wife and Sandy Bay. The sky is cloudy, but there’s plenty of blue around the clouds and the ocean is a deep indigo.
Island by Erik Brown of Halcyon Collections [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St Helena (Older)]
I don’t know about you, but it often takes me a while to work out what I think about a place. There are trips I’ve been on - and quite expensive trips, at that - that I still have no real opinion about: Thailand, for instance. We spent three weeks driving across the country from temple to temple until I could have launched a magazine. But I still don’t really know whether it was a good holiday.
St Helena, on the other hand, left me wanting more. It’s getting on for a month since we left, and I’m still having flashbacks: of three of us sitting, drinking coffee, in a café by the moat watching a Fairy Tern preen itself in a tree; of me snaffling some of Marlene Yon’s superb cake left for us under a little cloche in Susan’s Town House; of four of us drinking Stephen Biggs’s excellent coffee on the veranda of Farm Lodge; and of all of us hanging on while Aaron Legg drove his Mitsubishi people carrier into places that even the most adventurous donkey might have shied away from.
There had been four of us in our party: me - representing Halcyon Collections; Clive Stacey, founder of Discover the World; Max Johnson, founder of The Great Canadian Travel Company; and Janet Shankland, who represents St Helena Tourism in the UK. I was incredibly lucky with my travelling companions. Within a few hours we chaps had become ‘Janet’s boys’, and the practical jokes had begun.
I’ve written elsewhere that travelling to St Helena was like going home. And I don’t just mean going home to my geographical birthplace in the North Riding of Yorkshire. I mean it was like going back to my childhood in the 1950s and 60s.
The comparison is entirely positive. I found the Saints friendly, warm and willing to stop and chat on the street, just as people had been in my home town all of those years ago. It’s something I miss in the driven chaos of London.
The journey on the RMS St Helena had a nostalgic feel too. The last time I played a game that involved racing plywood animals threaded with string across a floor was probably at Butlin’s in Filey on the North Yorkshire coast in the 1960s. And the RMS has rekindled a forgotten taste for beef tea, which I now have at least once a day - with a dash or two of Tabasco.
The RMS was a vital part of the journey. I’ve been to countries all over the world, and I’ve usually descended from the skies after an uncomfortable journey in the belly of a plane. The sense of arrival has always been enfeebled as a result.
Catching sight of St Helena as a smudge on the horizon after five days at sea was genuinely exciting. The sea journey made the arrival special in a way that arriving at an airport can never be. And even our passage through immigration was a pleasure, with smiling officials laughing and joking as they checked our documents.
I was mortified to hear that the plucky little RMS could be sold for scrap. (And if anybody wants to launch a Save the RMS campaign, consider me a signatory to the petition.)
And so to business. What do I make of St Helena as a tourist destination? Well, I think there are two answers to that question, and they are time tied.
Before the airport opens in 2016, I think the journey to this most remote of islands is one of the last Great Adventures in the world. And that is how we are marketing it at Halcyon.
Curiously, our group of travellers was bang on target market. We chaps were aged between 58 and 63. All three of us had founded companies. Two of us had sold them. We were still fit - in an act of sheer chutzpah, Clive actually got to the top of Jacob’s Ladder - and we were curious enough to want to know about pansubtropical dolphins, Tungi and Napoleon’s bathtub.
After the airport opens, I guess there’ll be a steady increase in the flow of tourists from Europe, albeit from a low base. The age of the target market could drop significantly: big game fishing, scuba diving and hiking should exert a strong pull on a younger market. But whatever the age the ideal, I believe, would be a lower volume of higher-spending travellers.
Yesterday, somebody asked me what the highlight of the trip was, and for once I was completely lost for words. Then I realised, it was all highlight: I honestly loved every minute of it.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

GLASGOW 2014: ST. HELENA FINALLY ARRIVE AT COMMONWEALTH GAMES

St. Helena finally arrive at Commonwealth Games [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St. Helena (Older)]

By Saj Chowdhury, BBC Sport in Glasgow, 23rd July 2014
A Royal Mail ship, two flights, 8,500 miles and 10 days of travelling - the St. Helena team’s route to Glasgow 2014 has been nothing short of epic.
St. Helena is a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean which has a population of only about 4,000.
The party of eight, six athletes and two officials, set off on a five-day crossing to Cape Town on 11th July and stopped off for three days before arriving, via Amsterdam, on Monday.
“It has been all-out, non-stop travelling,” said 22-year-old badminton player Lee Yon, who did short running bursts on the RMS St. Helena to keep fit. “It took 10 days to get here.”
Yon’s team manager Nick Stevens said: “I got him to do some shadow play, so he was doing his strokes without the racquet and the shuttle on the top deck, similar to shadow boxing. But the area to practise in was not even the size of a badminton court.”
Since 1989, St. Helena has relied on RMS St. Helena, a cargo-passenger ship and one of the last remaining Royal Mail ships, for transportation of people and goods. However, from 2016 it will have its own airport.
“That will make it a lot easier for us to compete,” added Yon.
St. Helena at the Commonwealth Games: This is their sixth CWG - they have yet to win a medal; St. Helena will be competing in the swimming, badminton and shooting

BRITAIN’S LAST OVERSEAS TERRITORIES HOME TO MORE THAN 1,500 UNIQUE SPECIES

BRITAIN’S LAST OVERSEAS TERRITORIES HOME TO MORE THAN 1,500 UNIQUE SPECIES

Spiky Yellow Woodlouse getting world famous [Saint Helena Island Info:Read articles about St. Helena (Older)]
Spiky Yellow Woodlouse getting world famous{a}
The Independent Wednesday 21st May 2014, by Cahal Milmo
Britain’s remaining colonial possessions - stretching from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean - are teeming with unique animal species ranging from a spiky woodlouse to a shrimp confined to two mid-Atlantic rock pools, according to a study.
The first comprehensive survey of wildlife on the 14 Overseas Territories from Montserrat to the Chagos Islands found more than 1,500 animals and plants which are unique to their surroundings and found nowhere else on earth.
The findings mean that the islands outside the United Kingdom mainland are home to nearly 95 per cent of all uniquely “British” species. Experts at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which was commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to conduct the research, said it was possible a further 2,000 unique or endemic species exist in the territories.
The unique creatures already known to exist include the Cahow, a dove-sized seabird found only in Bermuda and thought extinct for 300 years until it was rediscovered in 1951, and a flightless moth recently discovered on Tristan da Cunha in the southern Atlantic.
But the researchers warned that many of the species are extraordinarily rare and work needs to be done to assess their conservation status. Among the rarest creatures are the Ascension Island predatory shrimp, which exists in just two rock pools, and the spiky yellow woodlouse, of which just 90 individuals have been found on St. Helena.
Jonathan Hall, of the RSPB, said: “Because there has been no assessment of these unique British species, we have no idea how they are faring: they could be thriving, or hurtling off a cliff. We simply don’t know, but we urgently need to find out.”
St. Helena, the volcanic outcrop in the middle of the Atlantic used to imprison Napoleon, was found to contain the highest number of endemic species with 502 unique animals and plants, followed by Bermuda, with 321.
Anguilla in the Caribbean had fewest with five, followed by the British Indian Ocean Territory, better known as the Chagos Islands, with nine.

Editor’s Note

We tried to find this article on www.independent.co.uk but failed. Their search just didn’t work and the pages were to slow and too illogically categorised to search manually. So this copy comes from the St. Helena Independent.
See alsoEndemic Species