St Helena Tour with Robert – 11/4/2017

We did a tour with Robert and our friends from Divanty and Tin Tin in his open top bus.  Robert is an extremely knowledgeable and likable character to do a tour with.  We started our tour by heading for the hills, literally, to a viewpoint overlooking Jamestown and also a photo opportunity.

Overlooking Jamestown

Our next stop was at the Heart Shaped Waterfall, which was once part of the land given to Napoleon III after his father died, but has since been transferred to the St Helena National Trust and is open the public.  You can walk there from Jamestown and there is a viewing platform as well.

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Heart-shaped waterfall as they had, had rain it was running too.

We continued on to the St Helena Distillery, where Paul, the owner gave us a guided tour of his distillery and let us sample some of his spirits that he brews there including wine, Tungi, a prickly pear spirit, rum and coffee liqueurs. We did try it and our friends said the coffee were good, we are not spirit drinkers so we didn’t purchase any.

The thing I’ve been most looking forward to visiting was the house Napoleon lived in during his exile, which is where we went next.  Longwood House was Napoleon’s home from the 10th of December 1815 to his death on 5th May 1821.  Napoleon’s history with St Helena begins with his exile there by the British government to such a place that there was no way for him to escape and that he would be forgotten.  Napoleon arrived on board the Northumberland on October 17, 1815 and spent his first night in an Inn before visiting Longwood House.  he had to stay in Briar’s house for a coupe of months while is accommodation was made suitable for the former emperor.

After Napoleon’s death his son organised for Longwood House and the Valley of the Tomb to be bought in 1858 from the British and later Briar’s House was too.  These properties are now owned by the French government and a french government representative lives on the island and manages the property.  Longwood is now a museum open to the public and includes his billiards room, drawing room, the room he died in, the dining room and his private suite.  Throughout the house are paintings, busts and death masks of Napoleon as well as furnishings, personal belongings, maps and letters.  There is an audio, which is very thorough, we listened to a bit of it but actually found it more interesting to talk to the local ladies that worked at the museum who told much more interesting stories about him.  Great house in a beautiful location.

Longwood House where Napoleon was exiled and also died.

After lunch we drove up in the mountains and had a phenomenal view of St Helena.  Robert gave us a demonstration of how the fibers of the flax plant was used.

High Knoll Fort

The fort was built in 1799 to protect against potential french invaders and to protect the battery at Ladder Hill.  Since then it was briefly used during WW2 to incarcerate Boer prisoners from South Africa.  The Saint Helena Trust is now in the process of restoring and protecting the fort.

High Knoll Fort with a lookout over the yachts and Jamestown

Ladder Hill Fort

In the early days Ladder Hill Fort was similar to Tower Hill of London, a place where prisoners were hung, drawn and quartered and the public could watch.  Later troops were stationed at the fort and originally rope between the fort and Jamestown was the only way for the troops to ascend the hill as no road was cut.  Jacob’s Ladder started as a funicular, its construction began in 1828 to provide transportation of manure from Jamestown’s animals to be used as fertilization on the hill.  When expenses were cut and roads were built, the rails and cars were removed and now just the staircase of 699 steps exists and is a tourist attraction in itself.

Ladder Hill Fort with its views over the boats and Jacob’s ladder.

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Ava at the bottom of Jacob’s ladder

Jamestown – 8/4/2017 – 21/4/2017

We arrived in St Helena in the early evening but unfortunately due to bad weather we were advised to stand off and not try to come in.  So that met heaving to until light when we could come in and pick up a mooring.  At the time it was very disappointing as we were all tired after 8 days at sea and ready to sleep.

We were not able to clear in until later in the day as it wasn’t safe with the waves to get the ferry to shore.  I must admit I was feeling very apprehensive of getting on and off the ferry at shore.  Basically the ferry sides up to the dock and when the waves lift the ferry up, you grab the rope and jump off, but you really need to time it carefully as the ferry could be a few meters below you or move out from the shore.  The kids enjoyed using the rope to get on and off and didn’t have the same fear that I had.

Tristan, Max and Ava on shore with the ropes you use to get on and off the ferry.  The ferry service to take you from your boat to the shore.

Jamestown is a bit like a quaint English village.  The stores supplies are dependent on what can be grown on the island, which is very limited and dependent on monthly deliveries from the HMS St Helena.  This had been a bad year for the ship as it had, had to cancel some trips due to engine problems which meant the Saints wouldn’t get their food, mail, cars and anything else supplied.  The ship was due to retire the previous year as the airport was to replace it.  Unfortunately problems with the planes landing meant that the airport opening has been delayed and the ship is struggling.  We were fortunate during our 3 weeks there to be able to get fresh vegetables and supplies.

One of the highlights beside the ferry trip for the kids would have been when they were jumping off the back of the boat and swimming they spotted a whale shark.  Supposedly they had all ready left.  The kids and Andrew jumped in the dinghy with their snorkel gear and drove near it before jumping in.  It was a juvenile but still big.  Andrew had Max and Ava get in the dinghy a few times when it got curious and came near, he was a bit worried it might accidentally eat them.

We enjoyed our time in St Helena, this little jewel of an island, I couldn’t live somewhere this isolated, but the Saint’s make it work.  Hopefully they get the airport up and running to bring in the tourist business for the locals and boost their economy.

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Jamestown on a calm day.

Ascension Island History

“To travel is to evolve.”

Pierre Bernado

Ascension Island is a British overseas territory, located in the Atlantic Ocean, north west of Saint Helena Island.  It is not part of the United Kingdom and it is self governing, making its own laws and raising taxes, although the UK is responsible for providing it with defense and internal security.  Ascension is a volcanic island and the western side is made up of volcanic ash and very little grows there.

Ascension Island History

Ascension Island was named after a Portuguese navigator, Afonso de Albuquerque sighted the island on Ascension day (the 21st of May that year).  The Portugeuse never claimed the land for the crown as they saw little appeal to it.  They and later ships collected fresh meat from the seabirds and green turtles, as well as introducing goats to the island for future ships.

Captain Cook even passed the island in 1775 and one of his crew, Georg Forster, described the island as a “ruinous heap of rocks”.  It was later that the British claimed the island and established the first settlement in 1815 as a precaution in case it be used as a staging post to rescue Napoleon, who had been exiled at nearby St Helena Island.

Ascension Island also made a useful stopping point for ships on route.  Charles Darwin stopped there in 1836 on board the HMS Beagle, where he saw an arid, treeless island with sheep, goats, cows, horses, guinea fowl, rats, mice and land crabs.  There were some houses on the mountain at this point fighting survive the elements.

When Darwin returned to England he encouraged his friend Joseph Hooker, a botanist and whose father was the director of Kew Gardens to visit Ascension.  Darwin also encouraged Hooker with the help of kew gardens to send shipments of trees to Ascension Island.  With the help of the Royal Navy the trees were planted on the mountain.  The purpose of the trees was to capture more rain, reduce evaporation and create rich soils.  Starting in 1850 shipments of trees arrived from Europe, South Africa and Argentina.  By the late 1890s, Ascension Island had been transformed and the mountain, now referred to as green mountain was filled with Eucalyptus, banana trees, pine and bamboo, creating a cloud forest.  Although a farm on Green Mountain to grow food, it is not able to support the population of Ascension Island and ultimately they import most foods needed.

By the end of the 19th century steam engines and the Suez canals meant there were less and less boats stopping at Ascension to top up their meat supply.  However in 1899 a telegraph cable connecting Britain to Cape Town, increased Ascension Islands importance again.  During the first world war radio receivers helped to communicate information to ships at sea.

In the early 1940s the US troops built an airstrip on the lava fields on St Helena, this allowed American aircraft to refuel their planes when flying from South America to Africa and Europe.  The only military action that took place in Ascension Island was on the 9th December, 1941, when a German submarine approached George Town with the intent to bomb any ships in the harbour, it was fired upon and retreated.

Americans returned to Ascension island in 1956, extending and improving the runway at the airfield to be used as an emergency runway for the space shuttle, although never used, it was the longest runway in the world at the time.  NASA later used Ascension Island as a tracking station from 1967 – 1990.  Although NASA no longer uses the tracking station an European Space Agency now operates a monitoring facility.

The British used Ascension Island with the BBC installing an Atlantic Relay Station in 1966 for broadcasts to Africa and South America.  Aditionally during the 1980s, the British used Ascension Island as a staging post during the Falkands War, to deploy bombers and tankers at the airfields and for the Royal Navy to refuel on its way to Falklands.  The British continue to use Ascension Island to provide a refuelling stop for planes between Britain and the Falkland Islands.

Ascension Island is a British overseas territory, located in the Atlantic Ocean, north west of Saint Helena Island.  It is not part of the United Kingdom and it is self governing, making its own laws and raising taxes, although the UK is responsible for providing it with defense and internal security.  Ascension is a volcanic island and the western side is made up of volcanic ash and very little grows there.

Our Time on Ascension

We spent the first couple of days on Ascension Island recovering from our passage before delving into hiring a car and exploring the island.  The cars we hired were reminiscent of the Mr Dinn cars in Langkawi, Malaysia, in other words old, barely holding together but will just get you from A to B.  We hired the cars with our friends, Ants and Div (from Divanty), Max and Ava eagerly went with them, which meant Tristan was stuck with us.

You would think in such a small place its not possible to get lost, however we couldn’t find the road to get to the beach, after a few failed attempts we asked a local, who set us straight.  To get to the beach we drove through the volcanic landscape, what I imagine perhaps Mars would look like.  We stopped for some obligatory photos before passing a myriad of BBC transmitter aerials, which form part of the BBC Atlantic Relay Station before reaching English Bay.

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Volcanic landscape of Ascension Island.

The water and beach at English Bay is beautiful, but it does have strong undercurrents which have caused a few drownings.  While in St Helena we had heard that Ascension had, had its first shark attack with a St Helena resident on holidays there being bitten.  We have discovered since arriving in Ascension that there are a large number of Galapagos sharks, we have had one nudge our dinghy.  We have been advised not to dive, due to the sharks.  There was another shark attack in July after our time in Ascension.

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Ants and Div with Max and Ava at English Bay

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Just before we arrived in Ascension Island, a tourist was bitten by a shark, the first time that has happened.

We happened to spot some empty turtle shells, green turtles breed on Ascension Island.  On closer inspection we saw the nests, a couple of dead turtles and large frigate birds hovering above.  At the bottom of one nest we saw a turtle which we assumed was dead until we saw his/her flippers move.  Max went down and put it in his hat and anxiously raced it down to the shore.  We all excitedly watched as the turtle slowly made its way into the water.  Hopefully this is one of the few that will survive.

Lone baby, green turtle on his way to the water at English Bay

We enjoyed a relaxing lunch with Ants and Div before making our way home.

Day 2 – Of our Car Trip

We had a leisurely Sunday lunch over at the British RAF base with Ants and Div before driving up the steep roads, which our car struggled with, to get to Green Mountain.  With the rest of the island so desolate it is amazing to see this mountain of greenery and also so much cooler up there.  Our walk up to the farm at the top of the mountain took us past some wild raspberries which Div and the kids enjoyed before walking past a couple of greenhouses growing indigenous plants.  We wandered around the grounds and looked through the windows of the old farmhouse.  Although the farm is closed down, there was, who I imagine is the caretaker out in his garden tending his plants.  On our drive back down we did spot some land crabs hiding in the old stone walls.  Amazing to think that Darwin had a hand it turning this desert into a green oasis.

Green Mountain: View from Green Mountain, Ascension Island land crabs, Red Lion Farm, wild raspberries and Ava  under a rock arch.

Time to Go

We had planned to go to shore to use the internet but were told that due to weather changes no one was allowed to come to shore as it was too dangerous.  We went on deck to have a look and shore enough there were huge waves crashing meters above the area we clambered from the dinghys to shore.  The weather was supposed to get rougher so we made a decision to refuel and head off.  Refueling in the increasing waves was a bit of a challenge, but worse was when one person from each boat had to go to shore to check out.  They sent a boat out for a crew member to go ashore and I definitely opted for Andrew to be the person from ours, he did admit it was a little scary.  Once checked out and all fueled up we headed for Brazil.

Ascension Island Fishing – Tristan

We were quick to whip out the fishing rods upon arrival at Ascension Island. Experimental casts in the water caused the swarms of small black triggerfish. They covered the whole surface of the water, and any hook placed into the sea was stripped of bait within minutes. One unlucky triggerfish was hooked and chopped up, as a bait fish. Another was caught, too, when we threw the bucket in to clean up after the grunting triggerfish; they were so densely packed around the boat, they flowed into the bucket. Their tough skin meant the other triggerfish couldn’t chew it off the hook, and the skin sank to the bottom. Within a few seconds, a fish was hooked and reeled up. There were many Rockhind Grouper on the bottom, spotted fish with big mouths and white flesh. With the newly devised tactic of triggerfish skin, we were able to catch several fish a day, for dinner; the fillets were thin enough that we could justify this number. We also caught some for Divanty, our sailing companions, though Antony was very hesitant to cut them up. So Dad showed me how to fillet the fish, and soon I was catching them and filleting them efficiently. A trawl along the reef edge proved unsuccessful in catching anything but black trevally and Rockhind Grouper; I guess what Ascension lacked in diversity, it made up for in sheer volume. It was possibly the easiest fishing I’d ever seen; it made Chagos look difficult in comparison. You can only eat so much of one fish after a while, though. Still, it was great fun and very delicious.

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One days catch of Rockhind Grouper

St Helena Island

ST HELENA TOUR WITH ROBERT – 11/4/2017

We did a tour with Robert and our friends from Divanty and Tin Tin in his open top bus.  Robert is an extremely knowledgeable and likable character to do a tour with.  We started our tour by heading for the hills, literally, to a viewpoint overlooking Jamestown and also a photo opportunity.

OVERLOOKING JAMESTOWN

Our next stop was at the Heart Shaped Waterfall, which was once part of the land given to Napoleon III after his father died, but has since been transferred to the St Helena National Trust and is open the public.  You can walk there from Jamestown and there is a viewing platform as well.

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HEART-SHAPED WATERFALL

We continued on to the St Helena Distillery, where Paul, the owner gave us a guided tour of his distillery and let us sample some of his spirits that he brews there including wine, Tungi, a prickly pear spirit, rum and coffee liqueurs. We did try it and our friends said the coffee were good, we are not spirit drinkers so we didn’t purchase any.

The thing I’ve been most looking forward to visiting was the house Napoleon lived in during his exile, which is where we went next.  Longwood House was Napoleon’s home from the 10th of December 1815 to his death on 5th May 1821.  Napoleon’s history with St Helena begins with his exile there by the British government to such a place that there was no way for him to escape and that he would be forgotten.  Napoleon arrived on board the Northumberland on October 17, 1815 and spent his first night in an Inn before visiting Longwood House.  he had to stay in Briar’s house for a coupe of months while is accommodation was made suitable for the former emperor.

After Napoleon’s death his son organised for Longwood House and the Valley of the Tomb to be bought in 1858 from the British and later Briar’s House was too.  These properties are now owned by the French government and a french government representative lives on the island and manages the property.  Longwood is now a museum open to the public and includes his billiards room, drawing room, the room he died in, the dining room and his private suite.  Throughout the house are paintings, busts and death masks of Napoleon as well as furnishings, personal belongings, maps and letters.  There is an audio, which is very thorough, we listened to a bit of it but actually found it more interesting to talk to the local ladies that worked at the museum who told much more interesting stories about him.  Great house in a beautiful location.


LONGWOOD HOUSE WHERE NAPOLEON WAS EXILED AND ALSO DIED.

After lunch we drove up in the mountains and had a phenomenal view of St Helena.  Robert gave us a demonstration of how the fibers of the flax plant was used.

The finger like protrusion in the distance is called Diana’s Peak and you can actually hike to it.

HIGH KNOLL FORT

The original structure was built around 1790 with the purpose to protect James Valley and as a secondary defence if ladder hill fort was ever breached.

In 1874 the fort was further fortified and improved incorporating the earlier building with aditional guns trained on James Valley and others trained inland to defend against attack from either direction. The idea was that the population could seek shelter behind the fort walls if there was an invasion, unfortunately there was no water supply so it wouldn’t have been very effective if there had of been a siege.

Since then it was briefly used during WW2 to incarcerate Boer prisoners from South Africa.  The Saint Helena Trust is now in the process of restoring and protecting the fort.

HIGH KNOLL FORT WITH A LOOKOUT OVER THE YACHTS AND JAMESTOWN

LADDER HILL FORT

In the early days Ladder Hill Fort was similar to Tower Hill of London, a place where prisoners were hung, drawn and quartered and the public could watch.  Later troops were stationed at the fort and originally rope between the fort and Jamestown was the only way for the troops to ascend the hill as no road was cut.  Jacob’s Ladder started as a funicular, its construction began in 1828 to provide transportation of manure from Jamestown’s animals to be used as fertilization on the hill.  When expenses were cut and roads were built, the rails and cars were removed and now just the staircase of 699 steps exists and is a tourist attraction in itself.


LADDER HILL FORT WITH ITS VIEWS OVER THE BOATS AND JACOB’S LADDER.
The view from Jacob’s Ladder Fort.
The 699 steps of Jacob’s Ladder.

JAMESTOWN – 8/4/2017 – 21/4/2017

We arrived in St Helena in the early evening but unfortunately due to bad weather we were advised to stand off and not try to come in.  So that met heaving to until light when we could come in and pick up a mooring.  At the time it was very disappointing as we were all tired after 8 days at sea and ready to sleep.

We were not able to clear in until later in the day as it wasn’t safe with the waves to get the ferry to shore.  I must admit I was feeling very apprehensive of getting on and off the ferry at shore.  Basically the ferry sides up to the dock and when the waves lift the ferry up, you grab the rope and jump off, but you really need to time it carefully as the ferry could be a few meters below you or move out from the shore.  The kids enjoyed using the rope to get on and off and didn’t have the same fear that I had.


TRISTAN, MAX AND AVA ON SHORE WITH THE ROPES YOU USE TO GET ON AND OFF THE FERRY.  THE FERRY SERVICE TO TAKE YOU FROM YOUR BOAT TO THE SHORE.

Jamestown is a bit like a quaint English village.  The stores supplies are dependent on what can be grown on the island, which is very limited and dependent on monthly deliveries from the HMS St Helena.  This had been a bad year for the ship as it had, had to cancel some trips due to engine problems which meant the Saints wouldn’t get their food, mail, cars and anything else supplied.  The ship was due to retire the previous year as the airport was to replace it.  Unfortunately problems with the planes landing meant that the airport opening has been delayed and the ship is struggling.  We were fortunate during our 3 weeks there to be able to get fresh vegetables and supplies.

One of the highlights beside the ferry trip for the kids would have been when they were jumping off the back of the boat and swimming they spotted a whale shark.  Supposedly they had all ready left.  The kids and Andrew jumped in the dinghy with their snorkel gear and drove near it before jumping in.  It was a juvenile but still big.  Andrew had Max and Ava get in the dinghy a few times when it got curious and came near, he was a bit worried it might accidentally eat them.

We enjoyed our time in St Helena, this little jewel of an island, I couldn’t live somewhere this isolated, but the Saint’s make it work.  Hopefully they get the airport up and running to bring in the tourist business for the locals and boost their economy.

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JAMESTOWN ON A CALM DAY.