categories: africa travel
Hear about travel to Saint Helena as the Amateur Traveler talks to Gary Arndt about his visit to this isolated island between Africa and South America. Gary has come on the show a number of times to talk about obscure, out of the way and small places. Saint Helena qualifies as all three.
“A lot of people may have heard about Saint Helena in high school history when they heard about Napolean because it is the island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where he was exiled. Saint Helena is a British territory. It is located in the South Atlantic Ocean about 1500 miles off the west coast of Africa. It is approximately the same latitude as the Namibia Angola border. It would be maybe 2000 miles south of the Ivory Coast. It is part of the territory called Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.” It only has a population of about 4000 people. “As far as I know, Saint Helena is the largest
settlement on the planet that can only be reached by sea. The only way to reach it currently is a 5 day boat trip from Cape Town.”
“They are building an airport that opens in 2016. It will be the biggest change that the island has seen in 400 years. Getting to see it the way it is today was a real treat. It doesn’t really get a lot of tourism now. Right now it requires commitment to go there. The boat, the RMS Saint Helena, is one of the last two Royal Mail ships in operation. It’s only mission is to go to Saint Helena and Ascension. It is half a cargo ship and half a passenger ship. Most of the passengers that were there for tourism… and there weren’t many… a couple dozen… tended to be older and retired, people who had two weeks to do this.”
Saint Helena was an uninhabited island when it was discovered by the Portuguese over 500 years ago. “It was first settled by the British. It was originally given to the British East India Company to manage. At it’s peak there were almost 17,000 people on the island and its primary function was servicing ships that were going around Africa. They would stop there and get fresh water, produce, food before continuing on their journey. At its height two ships a day were stopping in Saint Helena as opposed to one every three weeks now.”
“The thing that struck me the most was the people. There are three S’s that were involved in the creation of Saint Helena: soldiers, settlers and slaves. After slavery was abolished in 1833, Great Britain began to actively pursue slave ships in the region. As many as 30,000 slaves who were freed from captured slavery ships were brought to the island. On Saint Helena the people intermarried and blended together. At the beginning of the 20th century a group of chinese laborers were brought to the island, the British brought Indian laborers to the island and everyone melted together. You will see some people you think are Native American, you will see some people you think are Hawaiian, some people you think are African, some people you think are European, some people you think are Asian and it all comes from intermingling of so many people. I have never seen anything like this anywhere in the world other than Saint Helena.”
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