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Hear all about St Helena at World Travel Market

October 31, 2014 in News

Gary Arndt is the 2014 Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) Travel Photographer of the Year, 2013 North American Travel Journalists (NATJA) Travel Photographer of the Year, and travel-blogger with the blog Everything Everywhere.

He will do a presentation at World Travel Market (WTM) on the 5th of November 2014 at 14:30 in the South Gallery Rooms no.27 & 28.

He visited St Helena earlier this year and has posted a number of posts featuring amazing photographs of the island. All members of the trade and public interested to hear more about St Helena and who have any questions regarding getting here and itinerary planning, are more than welcome to attend.

Please contact Cathy Alberts at cathy.alberts[at]tourism[dot]co[dot]sh to book a seat (limited number) for catering purposes.

Moving from the UK to live on St Helena

October 30, 2014 in Islander's Perspective

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.

Jamestown and Half Tree Hollow St Helena

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 long. 1200miles from Africa, 1800miles 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, http://twoyearsintheatlantic.com/

 

 

RMS St Helena Celebrates 25 Years

October 28, 2014 in News, Tourism

The legendary Royal Mail Ship (RMS) St Helena celebrated its 25th year in operation this month. The RMS, one of only four surviving Royal Mail Ships in the world, connects St Helena with Cape Town. To mark this special milestone, Master Rodney Young welcomed guests on board the ship moored in Duncan Dock, of the Cape Town Harbour.

The RMS approaching St Helena

Young, who was born on St Helena, is one of two shipmasters who share the responsibility of sailing the ship. The second captain of the RMS is Young’s cousin. He has been the captain of the ship since 25 October 2000. “I was married exactly one month prior to my appointment. For every year that’s gone by, I’ve worked for six months on board the RMS. The RMS is very much part of the Island; it’s an extension of the Island. I know the passengers, I know who the cargo is intended for, and I know the store owners”.

Over the weekend the RMS St Helena was featured in The Sunday Times’ ‘Small Ships, Big Adventures guide’. This shows that the RMS St Helena holds a prestigious place in the highly competitive UK cruise market, offering a truly unique journey.

In 2010 the Government of St Helena and the United Kingdom announced plans to construct St Helena airport, which will be operational by 2016. The airport project continues to run on time and on budget. With the opening of the airport, the future of the RMS St Helena has yet to be determined but Young is optimistic about the crew’s prospects.

“The crew has worked together for a long time. They are very close, and in fact some are family. We have a brother and sister, mother and daughter and a father and daughter on board. Whatever the plan following the completion of the airport, the RMS St Helena crew is very well trained and service orientated – they will be an asset to St Helena as tourism develops.”

A Photoblog: St Helena takes part in the Worldwide Photowalk

October 23, 2014 in Island Life, News

On Saturday, 11 October, St Helena took part in the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk for the very first time. Cities from all over the world have been participating in this global event for the past 7 years, and this year St Helena’s photographers took up their cameras to become the 1000th registered country.

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Credit to Paul Tyson

A group of enthusiastic walker-photographers – young, young-at-heart and four-legged, met at White Gate on Saturday morning to start off on the walk. Even the weather played along, with the sun peeking out from time to time.

The energetic group winded their way up to High Knoll Fort and from there descended to Prince’s Lodge where photos, tips and tales were shared.

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It was the first time that the island had officially participated in this global event. St Helena was the 1000th country to register for the Photowalk in which almost 20 000 walkers and 1058 cities worldwide participated.

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The focus of the walk was on taking part as a community in a worldwide event. Participants were also able to enter their favorite photograph into the international World Wide Photo Walk competition.

Credit to by Paul Tyson

Credit to by Paul Tyson

Chanelle Marais, Marketing and Communications Manager for St Helena Tourism, and organizer of the event said: “This was an excellent platform to create awareness of the natural and historical beauty of St Helena and to showcase the talent of our local photographers. We were very happy with the turnout at the event, and hope that our photographers’ photos receive the recognition that they deserve.

 

About the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk:

The Worldwide Photo Walk is the world’s largest global and social photography event, and has grown immensely in size and popularity since the inaugural walk back in 2007. This year St Helena becames part of this global event.

 

 

 

 

General’s Quarters Reconstruction Almost Finished

October 16, 2014 in News, Tourism

People involved with providing tourism services are taking a close interest in the reconstruction of the General’s Quarters at the rear of Longwood House. The French Consul, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, gave a member of the St Helena Tourism Association a conducted tour of the General’s Quarters last February and outlined his plans for this new facility when the work is finished. This week Michel Dancoisne-Martineau offered to show us the progress that has been made in the last seven months.

Front-of-The-Generals-Quarters-February-2014

Front of The Generals Quarters: February-2014

Front of the Generals Quarters

Front of the Generals Quarters: October 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reconstruction is now almost finished, leaving the all important internal decoration together with some of the fixtures and fittings to be completed. Michel is now coming to the end of a lengthy and complex project involving the French Government and The Foundation Napoleon as well as the usual authorities and agencies in St Helena. The work was always intended to mark the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s exile to St Helena and it has been successfully completed well in advance of the October 2015 anniversary.

The Large Room for Public Events

The reconstruction of what was the accommodation for Colonel Marquis Montholon, General Baron Gourgaud and Napoleon’s physician, Barry Edward O’Meara, has formed rooms of various sizes for public events. The large and well-equipped kitchen will provide catering for small dining parties in one of the smaller rooms or buffets for large gatherings in the main public room.

The Front of the New Building

The Front of the New Building

There are also two private, self-contained suites that will provide living accommodation for special guests. The attractive garden at the front of the General’s Quarters is also being improved and will be used for outside events during the summer months.

The Garden for Public Events

The Garden for Public Events

Michel explained he has arranged for 25 people to visit St Helena to mark the bicentenary of Napoleon’s exile. They will be using the facilities at the General’s Quarters for some events during their visit but will be accommodated at various Jamestown hotels and guesthouses.

Michel pointed out he used only local construction workers and craftsmen for the entire work and is very happy with job they have done.

 

 

Building an Airport – Dry Gut Fill and Airport Buildings

October 9, 2014 in News, Tourism

Building an airport in any location is a complicated business. Building an airport on St Helena, one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world, is a task of mammoth proportions. We follow the progress of the project with great anticipation.

Credit to the Access Office

Credit to the Access Office

Dry Gut Fill

Recently a very significant milestone in the construction process was reached when Dry Gut was filled. If you’re not a Saint (St Helenian!), living on the island or involved in the airport project, this may sound like gibberish. In short, this means that a great, gaping valley was filled so that the 2.4km runway can be constructed on a flat stretch of land.

The Dry Gut. Credit to SHG.

The Dry Gut. Credit to SHG.

The impressive filling of Dry Gut at the airport site at Prosperous Bay Plain, a critical element in the entire airport construction programme, was completed at the end of August after 22 months of hard work and perseverance by the Basil Read Earthworks Team.

The last production load was placed on Saturday, 30 August 2014 at 3pm. The total volume of the Dry Gut fill is 7,612,255m³, giving a total height between the lowest and highest point of 119.8m. A total of 450,000 truckloads of material were used for the fill.

The last truck load of material into the Dry Gut. Credit to the Access Office.

The last truck load of material into the Dry Gut. Credit to the Access Office.

Head of Earthworks, Deon Robbertse commented: “The Dry Gut fill is an example of what teamwork can do. I take my ‘hard’ hat off and salute everyone who helped with this part of the project. Through some good days and some bad, misty, rainy, downright awful days and nights, the team kept on producing and kept reaching their targets. They literally filled Dry Gut one load at a time. It was a privilege to work with the team and thank you to everyone who did their bit.”

Did You Know?

  • The first production load went into Dry Gut on 14 November 2012.
  • 19 trucks were used day and night (with night shifts starting in February 2013, equating to over 12,500 loads per operator.
  • Over 22 months, 503 day shifts and 437 night shifts took place to completely fill Dry Gut.
  • In filling Dry Gut, each ADT has travelled around 60,000km, a total of 1.2 million km (750,000 miles).
  • It takes five buckets per excavator to fill one ADT, which means that the four 70t excavators have turned and scooped up a bucketful of rubble more than 3.125 million times to fill the ADTs and to fill Dry Gut.

Airport Buildings

In the mean time the airport buildings are also progressing at a rapid pace. The structure of the combined building has been completed, and the control tower has now taken its final form with the installation of the cladding and windows. The brickwork is also complete and plastering is in progress. The installation of the services has started and the erection of the roof was scheduled to commence from 6 October.

The Control Tower. Credit to SHG.

The Control Tower. Credit to SHG.

The structure of the terminal building is currently 70% complete. Brickwork to the ground floor of the building is ongoing, and the installation of electrical, mechanical and plumbing works will start shortly.

We congratulate all who have been involved in these achievements and look forward to the completion of the next phase.

For more information about the St Helena Airport Project, visit the Basil Read website.

Credit to the Access Office.

Credit to the Access Office.

World Tourism Day – it’s all about community development

October 2, 2014 in Island Life, News

World Tourism Day’s theme this year was Tourism and Community Development, and with that in mind St Helena had a fun filled month with two main activities underwriting the theme: the first Mountain Bike race, which took place on a track built by Saints. Also, a prize-giving as a result of the photography competition “Saints at Work and at Play” (on the 27th September).

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At the prize giving ceremony, Dr Niall O’Keeffe, the Chief Executive for Economic Development of Enterprise St Helena, highlighted the importance of tourism to a destination, the global contribution to the economy that tourism delivers and how miniscule in the global context, the expectation for St Helena is, post airport opening.

Overall winner

The judges had a tough time determining the winning entries and were all in agreement that the quality of the photographs was high.

Prize winners were:

  • Adult Class: 1st David Higgins, 2nd Paul Tyson and 3rd Ceri Sansom
  • 12-15yrs: 1st Tiffany Herne, 2nd Shelby Bargo and 3rd Jacob Bowers
  • 8-11yrs: 1st Nesta Yon, 2nd Cerys Joshua and 3rd Luke Bowers
  • Under 8yrs: 1st Jodie Thomas

Highly Commended:  Richard Moors, Ceri Sansom, David Higgins, Pilling teachers, Steve Evans and Noleen Herne.

On your marks, get set, GO! St Helena’s first mountain biking competition

September 25, 2014 in Island Life, News

This is a guest post from Christina Stroud of the tourism office.

St Helena’s Mountain Bike Competition started off at 11:00 am at the Millennium Forest.  Tourism Projects Manager, Merrill Joshua, welcomed spectators and riders. After a briefing all riders were assigned their numbers and got ready on the starting line, the Millennium Forest. The route was across a five-mile challenging track, on route towards Cox’s Battery along hilly, steep terrain and eventually looping back to the Millennium Forest. It takes skill, dedication and fitness to reach the winning positions.

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The riders that participated were:

No Name Time out Time In Total
1 Remi Bruneton 27.49 27.49 2nd Place
2 Alonzon Henry 27.01 27.01 1st Place
3 Rick Walters -30 29.00 28.30
4 Andy Day -30 Did not complete
5 Ross Antonion Leo -60 29.10 28.10 3rd Place
6 Nigel McMichael -60 31.15 30.15
7 Lizemarie Robbetse - - - -
8 John Woolacot - - - -
9 Michael Davis -1.30 28.10 26.80 Ineligible (discussed and agreed 20/09)
10 Hannah Lowe -1.30 51.33 50.03
11 Louis Allen Youde -2.00 53.44 51.44
12 Deon Robbertse - - - -
13 Richard Moors 2.30 48.34 46.04
14 Derrick Alexander 2.30 48.49 46.19
15 Dennis Leo 3.00 52.19 49.19
16 Steven Theron 3.00 47.34 44.34

Remi Bruneton took the lead closely followed by Alonzon Henry, hot on their heels were Rick Walters, Ross Leo and Michael Davis.  At the bottom of the valley there is a dangerous drop zone so all riders were advised to get off their bikes and walk this area. It was here that Alonzon Henry took advantage and got into lead position and continued to hold his position to the finish line at the Millennium Forest.

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There was also other activities and family entertainment on the day with Mr Colin Peters providing musical entertainment, National Trust with a cafe, SanRay’s selling food and soft drinks, Leroy Fowler selling pop corn and candy floss, Creative St Helena with their kiddies creative section, National Trust plant a tree and paint a footprint trail, and also the Forestry Projects debut kiddie cycling track through the Millennium Forest.

Alonso winner Mountain Bike Competition

Alonso winner Mountain Bike Competition

Winner of the Kids track was Scott Thomas.

The event finished with a Prize Giving and a general message of gratitude to all that contributed and supported St Helena’s first Mountain Bike Competition.

3rd Place                Ross A Leo                         Mountain Bike T Shirt and water bottle

2nd Place               Remi Bruneton                   A portable barbeque

1st Place                 Alonzon Henry                        Go Pro Camera & Trophy

 

 

 

Twice the size in just two years

September 11, 2014 in Island Life

St Helena Arts and Crafts moved to the Canister from a gloomy room at the back of Broadway House just two years ago.  The move to larger and certainly more pleasant premises in a far more prominent location has brought with it an Arts and Crafts organisation which is thriving now more than ever before.

The number of people making craftwork for sale at the Canister has increased by about forty, making the total number of craft workers providing work for sale double what it was just before the move.  The range of local craftwork offered for sale has also increased.  The longstanding wood and lace craft continues but the range of items made from local wood is larger and more people are now offering lacework as well as adapting the style of their lacework to what today’s tourists want to buy.  Recycled products made at SHAPE’s (St Helena’s Active Participation in Enterprise) headquarters in Sandy Bay add further to the range of choice available.

The range of crafted wood available using local materials now includes dishes, clock faces and book-ends made to commemorate the RMS being taken out of service in 2016.  A further range of commemorative items, this time marking the bicentenary of Napoleon, will also be available.

The wood craft includes the recent addition of souvenir items to commemorate the RMS being taken out of service in 2016

The wood craft includes the recent addition of souvenir items to commemorate the RMS being taken out of service in 2016

Locally crafted wood can be inlaid with Napoleonic images to mark next year’s bicentenary

Locally crafted wood can be inlaid with Napoleonic images to mark next year’s bicentenary

In addition to the recycled works from SHAPE another relatively recent addition to the range of souvenirs available is the raw flax work where some skilled work has been produced since the visit of world renowned flax artist Veranoa Hetet in 2012.  Veranoa came to St Helena to train some craft workers in how to use flax.  Since the training sessions given by Veranoa, Wanda Isaac has developed her skills to a high standard and is teaching others how to work with flax.

A bouquet of flowers, handmade from flax

A bouquet of flowers, handmade from flax

Embroidered shopping bags and handbags are another increasingly popular line and more interest is being shown since the Artists Corner Exhibition in November last year in offering paintings for sale.

Arts and Crafts have established their own quality assurance mark.  ‘Uniquely Saint’ is the mark used to assure customers that what they are buying has been hand crafted in St Helena using local materials to a high standard.

Arts and Crafts is developing into a ‘nice little earner’ for those who are interested in craftwork and are lucky enough to have the necessary skills.  The revenue taken by Arts and Crafts at the Canister is gradually and consistently increasing.  The Arts and Crafts organisation seems to be positioning itself well to take advantage of the increased numbers of tourists expected after the airport opens.

Anyone interested in contacting Arts and Crafts directly can email them on uniquelysaint@outlook.com

Goodbye to the Giant Earwig

September 4, 2014 in Island Life

The St Helena Giant Earwig is following the St Helena Olive into extinction.  Last sighted in 1967 and otherwise known as Labidura herculeana the official announcement that the Giant Earwigis no longer with us is really just part of a massive operation involving a tremendous amount of field research and an untold number of hours recording everything that is known about St Helena’s 457 endemic invertebrates, otherwise known as ‘bugs’.

 

The Giant Earwig

The Giant Earwig Labidura herculeana – now officially declared extinct

 

David ‘The Bug man’ Pryce has spent the last eighteen months searching through the undergrowth, under rocks and among the trees and shrubs in search of all sorts of insects.  Most of his time though has been devoted to searching through old books, manuscripts and scientific papers for information and records.  All of this effort is focussed on counting and cataloguing all species of bugs from the bottom of guts to the tops of ridges which are known to man.  Some of the rarest bugs can be literally under your feet; others are clinging to the side of a remote valley.

The Frosted Fungus Weevil is one of those you could easily have trodden on.  It is so small you need a microscope to identify it properly.  Like the Giant Earwig, the Frosted Fungus Weevil has not been seen since 1967 but is now known to be alive and well and living in Lower Rupert’s Valley.  The home of the Frosted Fungus Weevil is under Samphire.

The Blushing Snail was thought to be the last remaining endemic snail surviving in St Helena until 1994 when Phillip and Myrtle Ashmole discovered a reasonable number of Ammonite Snails quietly going about their business in a small remote corner of a high ridge.  Previous records of very small populations at two nearby locations were not considered reliable enough as confirmation that Ammonite Snail still lived and breathed.  Unlike the Giant Earwig, the Frosted Fungus Weevil and the Ammonite Snail are again known to man and have been officially brought back from near extinction; they are now one step away from the fate of the Giant Earwig and are respectively classified as Endangered and Critically Endangered.

The Ammonite Snail

The Ammonite Snail

David Pryce’s work comes to a close at the end of the year.  So far he has 41,773 individual records in his species information data bank and 267,400 pieces of data in his records file about the 1,337 bugs living in St Helena.  457 of these bugs cannot be found anywhere else on earth; this means 29%, an unusually high proportion, of the invertebrates known to be surviving here are endemics.  To put this in proportion, apart from the Frosted Fungus Weevil there are 28 other species of Fungus Weevil in St Helena.  The 29 species of this type of weevil surviving within our 47 square miles is more than the total number of similar species known to exist throughout the entire continent of Europe.  The Galapagos Islands are world renowned for the unusual species existing within those shores; the tortoise being the most famous of them.  When it comes to endemic bugs, St Helena beats the Galapagos hands down.  St Helena can claim to have more than seven times more species of endemic invertebrates per square mile than the globally famous and much studied Galapagos Islands.

Apart from assembling the biggest and best bank of data about St Helena’s invertebrates, if David Pryce’s work is put together with Judith Brown’s similar work on marine species and the data held on plants, lichens and mosses; much of it published in 2012 by Phil Lambdon, Martin Wigginton and Andre Aptroot, St Helena now has the best knowledge base on its endemic terrestrial and marine wild life populations of any geographical area anywhere in the world.

The downside to all this is that when David Pryce’s work is finished it is expected that most of the 457 bugs will be classified as Endangered, Critically Endangered or Vulnerable and will be officially ‘Red Listed’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN].  At present only 24 St Helenian bugs are officially red listed; a further 391 need to be classified.  So far, work on only 16 of the 391 has been completed.   The IUCN have rigorous methods for officially classifying any species and David’s field research and records are being used to confirm the status of the Island’s invertebrates.  Together with Liza White at the Environmental Management Division David is working through the list of endemic bugs to put together the data required for each individual species in order to get official international recognition of their extinction risk.  Having established the numbers of species in St Helena whose existence is threatened it is possible that international cooperation to protect them will be more forthcoming.

David Pryce is part of the St Helena National Trust Bugs on the Brink Project which is working to lay the foundations for the conservation of St Helena’s unique bugs, many of which are on the brink of extinction. It is a partnership project between Buglife, Saint Helena National Trust, Saint Helena Government and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and is funded by the Darwin Initiative.