Just have to visit St. Helena
Just have to visit St. Helena
No, the island is not in the sailing plan, but we can't miss the opportunity.
On the leg across the South Atlantic from Cape Town to Natal in Brazil, Statsraad Lehmkuhl passes St. Helena. The island is 2,000 kilometers from the nearest mainland, and is one of the world's most isolated communities.
It would be a shame not to take the short detour and visit. Both because St. Helena is a place most people never get to see, and because it is polite to say hello. Statsraad Lehmkuhl therefore makes a short stop, on Thursday February 2.
- To make sure the visit does not mess up the timetable for the rest of this leg, we make it as simple as possible, and lay at anchor for a few hours, says captain Marc Seidl.
A British Overseas Territory
St. Helena was discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1502, and was then uninhabited. The Portuguese never established a permanent settlement there, but used the island as a stop over on journeys between Europe and Asia. In 1657 the British took control of St. Helena, and established plantations there. The plantations were run by slaves brought from Africa, Madagascar and India, and later by Chinese workers.
Together with two other equally isolated small islands in the South Atlantic, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, St. Helena is now a British Overseas Territory
Today, 3,900 people live on the small island, only 122 km2 in area. Jamestown is the only town.
St. Helena is volcanic, in the middle of the island there is an 818 meter high peak, Diana's peak, and from there narrow valleys run down to the rugged coast.
St. Helena is perhaps best known for being where Napoléon Bonaparte ended his life.
After losing the battle against British, Prussian and Dutch forces at Waterloo in 1815, Napoléon's life as a general, head of state and finally emperor of France was over. The British brought him to the island, where Napoléon lived in miserable conditions until he died in the spring of 1821.
St. Helena was not a random choice. It is hardly possible to get further away from the posh life in Paris. In 1840, the remains of Napoléon were transported to Paris, and are now in a sarcophagus in Les Invalides.
A number of tourists travel here to see the house where Napoléon ended his days, and to experience nature and wildlife. There is some farming and fishing, but most of the inhabitants work in the public sector and in tourism.
Cooled by the ocean
St. Helena is at the same latitude as Angola, but the cool Benguela current normally limits the temperature from rising above 25-26 degrees at the coast. The steady trade wind from the east makes the east coast much wetter than the west coast, Jamestown only receives 114 mm of rainfall a year.
The Europeans destroyed much of the original forest, and with it many animals also disappeared. But the island has a rich birdlife, and several species of both birds and plants that can only be found there.