St Helena - Travel to St Helena - St Helena


Located in the Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, over 2000 kilometres from the closest major landmass, Saint Helena is one of the most remote locations in the world. The nearest harbour on the continent is Namibe in Southern Angola, and the closest international airport is the Quatro de Fevereiro Airport of Angola's capital Luanda. Although in reality the links to Cape Town in South Africa are used for most transportation needs such as the mail boat that serves the island, the RMS St Helena.

Other nearby islands

The island is linked with two isolated islands in the southern Atlantic, also British territories: Ascension Island about 1300 kilometres due northwest in more equatorial waters and Tristan da Cunha, which is well outside the tropics 2,430 kilometres (1,510 mi) to the south. The island is located in the Western Hemisphere and shares the same longitude as Cornwall in the United Kingdom. Despite its remote location, it is classified as being in West Africa by the United Nations.

Volcanic island

The island of Saint Helena has a total area of 122 km2 (47 sq mi), and is made up largely of rugged terrain of volcanic origin (the last volcanic eruptions occurred about 7 million years ago). Coastal areas are covered in volcanic rock and warmer and drier than the centre. The highest point of the island is Diana's Peak at 818 m (2,684 ft). In 1996 it became the island's first national park.

Much of the island is coated in New Zealand flax, a legacy of former industry, but there are some original trees augmented by plantations, including those of the Millennium Forest project which was established in 2002 to replant part of the lost Great Wood and is now managed by the Saint Helena National Trust.

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Vegetation

When St Helena’s was discovered, it was covered with unique indigenous vegetation, such as a remarkable cabbage tree species. The island's hinterland must have been a thick tropical forest but the coastal areas were likely also quite green. The contemporary landscape is very different with widespread bare rock in the lower areas, however inland it is green, mainly because of introduced vegetation. There are no indigenous land mammals, but cattle, cats, dogs, donkeys, goats, mice, rabbits, rats and sheep have been introduced, and native species have been adversely affected as a result. The significant change in landscape must be linked to these introductions. As a result, the string tree (Acalypha rubrinervis) and the St Helena olive (Nesiota elliptica) are now extinct, and many of the other endemic plants are threatened with extinction.

Smaller rocks and islets

There are several rocks and islets off the coast, including: Castle Rock, Speery Island, the Needle, Lower Black Rock, Upper Black Rock (South), Bird Island (Southwest), Black Rock, Thompson's Valley Island, Peaked Island, Egg Island, Lady's Chair, Lighter Rock (West), Long Ledge (Northwest), Shore Island, George Island, Rough Rock Island, Flat Rock (East), the Buoys, Sandy Bay Island, the Chimney, White Bird Island and Frightus Rock (Southeast), all of which are within one kilometre (0.62 miles) of the shore.

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    History of St Helena

    Uninhabited when first found by the Portuguese in 1502, Saint Helena was garrisoned by Britain during the 17th century (to be utilised as a refreshment station for ships going to and from the East). It gained fame as the place of Napoleon Bonaparte's exile, from 1815 until his death in 1821, but its importance as a port of call declined after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Saint Helena has three smaller dependencies: Ascension Island is the site of a US Air Force auxiliary airfield; Tristan da Cunha has a very small community reliant on fishing for income; Gough Island has a meteorological station.

 

Saint Helena's most well-known resident, of course, was Napoleon, who was sent there by the British. Apparently Elba was not far enough away. He died there, and you can visit his amazing gravesite in a flower-laden glade, but his remains were exhumed and are now at Les Invalides in Paris. You can visit his two residences on the island. He stayed at The Briars for about two months, and lived the rest of his life in a respectable house in Longwood. Both can be visited by appointment.

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