High hopes for Saint Helena’s airport up in the air

High hopes for Saint Helena's airport up in the air

please note, we were sent this update from the Saint Helena government authorities:

St Helena Airport has been certified by Air Safety Support International, is open and operational.  In fact, there are currently two private charter aircraft parked on the Apron at St Helena Airport.

It has not yet been possible to commence scheduled commercial air services to the Island.  However, operations at St Helena Airport are underway and consist primarily of one-off charter flights.  21 flights have successfully landed so far at St Helena Airport including three vital medevac flights.

On 7 December 2016, St Helena Government released a tender for air services for a three year period to provide the best possible air service for the Island.  This tender process will determine the timeline of the commencement of regularly scheduled commercial flights to the Island.  The Royal Mail Ship service has been extended to guarantee access to the Island in the interim.


On Saint Helena, the tiny island  in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean where Napoleon died and was buried, the four  thousand residents celebrated when the British government gave the final go ahead to the construction  of an airport on the island.

After lobbying for the airport for decades, residents were jubilant when the airport finally opened in 2016, the Government having spent more than 400 million dollars on the project.

The frequent high winds prevent aircraft’s from landing, which was the main cause of the extensive delay. However, the project persevered because of the islands isolation, with nowhere else for planes to land; the nearest airport to Saint Helena being Ascension Island, nearly two thousand miles away

Unfortunately, all fears  have now been realised and the airport has been closed much to the frustration of the residents and the embarassment of the authorities and Government now accused of lavishing hundreds of millions on a ”white elephant”.

For the time being, residents and visitors to Saint Helena must continue to travel to the island  the way they have for hundreds of years – by the Royal Mail ship, Saint Helena, which leaves Capetown, in South Africa, every three weeks, the whole trip taking five days.

Now authorities and aircraft companies are trying to agree to plans allowing smaller aircraft, less affected by the winds to use the airport. However it is not  clear whether this will be an economically viable option.

Zay with St Helena's giant tortoise

Zay with St Helena’s giant tortoise

Check out Globe Trekker’s episode on St Helena in which Zay Harding embarks on a five day voyage from Cape Town on the last authentic British Royal Mail Ship to St Helena and checks out the sites  including Longwood House, where  Napoleon lived and died, the tomb where he was buried, the capital, Jamestown….. and the  controversial airport site.

Wonderous winter worlds at Stonehenge

Wonderous winter worlds at Stonehenge

Yesterday, thousands of people gathered at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to watch the sun rise on the shortest day of the year when daylight on 21st December lasted for just seven hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds.

Beneath a misty sky, blanketed with clouds, crowds of pagans and druids were among those to flocked to visit the ancient Neolithic monument late on Tuesday night.

The welcoming in of the Winter Solstice is the most important day of the year at Stonehenge and a truly magical time filled with ad hoc celebration bringing together England’s New Age Tribes including druids, pagans and Wiccans with ordinary families, tourists, travelers and party people – in droves! Anyone who has been witness to the breath taking energy that washes over the crowd drawing to an awestruck silent hush as the sky begins to brighten.

Stonehenge is carefully aligned following a sight-line that points to the winter solstice sunset as opposed to other sites such as New Grange in Ireland, which points to the winter solstice sunrise, and the Goseck circle in Germany, aligned to both the sunset and sunrise.

Newgrange by Shira

Newgrange by Shira

Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC and it is thought that winter solstice was of greater significance than the summer solstice to the people who constructed Stonehenge as the pagan calendar marks the “re-birth” of the sun for the new year.

The winter solstice was a time when cattle was slaughtered (so the animals would not have to be fed during the winter) and the majority of wine and beer was finally fermented.

The solstice can happen on December 20, 21, 22 or 23, though December 20 or 23 solstices are rare.

Join our host Justine Shapiro as she explores the mystical site of Stonehenge

Main image: Stonehenge winter solstice in the 80’s

The Magnificence of Mayan Structures

The Magnificence of Mayan Structures

Rising out of jungle across the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico are the ruins of dozens of Mayan cities. Most of these ruins are at least 1,200 years old, dating back to the glory days of the Maya around 700 AD.

Discovered though largely ignored by Spanish conquistadors during their Aztec conquest in the 16th century, it was 300 years later, in the 19th century, when European explorers ‘discovered’,  and subsequently took the time to investigate and learn the ways to unlock the wonders of this fascinating pre Hispanic civilization.

Mayan structure

A great Mayan structure

Today the sites of Chichenitza, Tulum, Palenque and Uxmal are internationally famous but scores of other sites remain little known and visited.

One  such site, Coba, about two hours drive south of Cancun, and one hour west of Tulum, is home to the largest Mayan pyramid in Mexico, which visitors can still climb.

Coba was an important Mayan city, evidenced by the many raised stone roads linking its buildings which stretch out across a 120 square kilometre site. Here you can see two Mayan ball courts where the Mayans played their ingenious ball game, pelota. Then  bicycle or walk along enchanting paths encased by the jungle canopy to visit the imposing Nohoch Mul, at 138 feet the highest Mayan structure in the Yucatan.

Sak Ch’een, lord of Motul de San José c.8th century,[27] dressed as a ball player with a large yoke, painted deerskin hip guards, and elaborate headdress. He is dropping onto his knee to strike the ball, which is probably exaggerated to huge proportions. Photograph by Madman2001

Sak Ch’een, lord of Motul de San José c.8th century,[27] dressed as a ball player with a large yoke, painted deerskin hip guards, and elaborate headdress. He is dropping onto his knee to strike the ball, which is probably exaggerated to huge proportions. Photograph by Madman2001

For how long tourists will be allowed to clamber up the steps of this awesome structure remains to be seen as the Mexican authorities step up their efforts to preserve the wonders of this magnificent pre Hispanic civilization.

Learn more Mayan culture in our epsiode, La Ruta Maya

Look up, it’s the super super moon!

Look up, it's the super super moon!

Internet legend suggests it was astrologer Richard Nolle who first came up with the term supermoon, which he defined as “… a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 per cent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit”.

Five years ago – when the closest and largest full moon fell on March 19, 2011 – many began using the term supermoon, which we’d never heard before. In the following years, we heard this term again to describe the year’s closest full moon on May 6, 2012, and again on June 23, 2013, and again on August 10, 2014, and yet again on September 28, 2015.

Whilst supermoon is an astrological term, the scientific name for the occurence is perigee-syzygy, but since supermoon is catchier the media use it to describe our celestial neighbour when it gets up close.

Astronomers call it a perigee full moon describing the moon’s closest point to Earth for any given month.

Today’s event is the biggest and best in a series of three super moons, the first of which was on 16 October and the third is due on 14 December.

The moon won’t come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034.

In addition to today’s moon making the moon appear bigger and brighter in the sky, there will also be a “low hanging moon” effect; an optical illusion caused by the moon being close to the horizon making it easy to measure against familiar landmarks or objects such as trees or houses.

The full moon story:

To observers, the moon will appear approximately 7% larger than normal, around 15% brighter – although to the human eye this is barely discernable.

As the Moon traces its orbit around the Earth, we see different proportions illuminated by the Sun. Once in each orbit, our satellite is totally illuminated – a full moon.

And as the Moon orbits the Earth every 27 days or so, it travels in an elliptical or oval shape.

This means that its distance from our planet is not constant but varies across a full orbit.

But within this uneven orbit there are further variations caused by the Earth’s movements around the Sun.

These mean that the perigee – the closest approach – and full moon are not always in sync.

But occasions when the perigee and full moon coincide have become known popularly as supermoons.

To observers, the differences between a supermoon and a normal full moon are quite subtle.

Generally, supermoons can be up to 14% larger and 30% brighter, but only when compared with the furthest point the Moon gets to within its orbit.


main image by: Monday super moon shot by Rob Pettengill as part of his Austin Super Moonset


Getting down at Electric MassKara

Getting down at Electric MassKara

Our crew have been out and about on location shooting in the Philippines for a brand new episode in our Tough Boats series.

As luck would have they were in town to hit the vivacious street party known as Electric Masskara 2016 – in the city of Bacold, where Zoe got stuck into the action…here is the lowdown on this fabulous event:

Zoe at Electric MassKara 2016,  Bacolod, Philippines.

Zoe at Electric MassKara 2016, Bacolod, Philippines.

Bacolod, officially known as City of Bacolod is a city in the Philippines Bacolod is the capital city of the province of Negros Occidental in the Philippines.

The name Bacolod was derived from the Hiligaynon word, Buklod meaning stonehill, as the city was initally set up on a stonehill. Due to Moro (Muslim) raids it was then transferred to the shoreline. Today, the original town called Daan-Banwa meaning Old Town.

Bacolod is known as the Land of Sweet People, for its culinary heritage, including its inasal (a kind of roast chicken on skewers) and sweet dessert treats. But most of all, Bacalod is known for the spectacular MassKara Festival, a popular celebration that traces its beginnings to the early 1980s, is a festival held every October by locals.

Electric MassKara 2016,  Bacolod, Philippines.

Electric MassKara 2016, Bacolod, Philippines.

The name of the festival, MassKara is derived from the words ‘mass’ for many, and ‘kara’, a local word that translated to ‘face’. In addition, the locals use the name as a pun for the local word that translates to ‘masked’.

MassKara Festival began at a point of crisis following a sharp drop in the global price of sugar, one of Bacolod’s key crops. This negative turn of events, coupled with the loss of close to 1000 people following an accident at sea, prompted the city’s administration to hold a ‘smiling festival’ despite all the negativity at the time. The reasoning was, by getting the locals together it would be possible to sail through the tough times.

Highlights of the festival include a dance-off contest where participants show off their skills, a beauty pageant, street dancing, float parade competitions, food frenzies as well as live music – but don’t take our word for it, the photos say it all!

Electric MassKara 2016,  Bacolod, Philippines.

Electric MassKara 2016, Bacolod, Philippines.

Ming Mystery Money Discovery

Ming Mystery Money Discovery

Brace yourselves, this year a ‘mystery money discovery is heading for London’.

Australian auction specialists have recently uncovered a rare Ming dynasty banknote—distinct with three official red seals—within the cavity of a Chinese sculpture set that was set to showcase at The Beaumont Hotel in Mayfair this November where the ancient artefacts will be made available to view, by appointment only.

Part of a Ming Chinese sculpture set

Part of a Ming Chinese sculpture set

Mossgreen specialist, Ray Tregaskis describes the discovery as a ‘thrilling moment’ for Australia’s archaeological community. The Ming dynasty, from which the banknote originates, was the ruling dynasty in China for approximately three hundred years during the C14th-C17th. The dynasty’s founding Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang (Hongwu), was instrumental in reforming China’s civil service and implementing land reforms (having been born a peasant himself) for the country’s rural population.

Also noteworthy is that the Ming dynasty was the first Chinese dynasty to replace coins with paper money—a trend which was later adopted on a global scale. Typically, Ming banknotes were inscribed with the title ‘Great Ming Circulating Treasure Certificate’ and a warning that counterfeiters (who prevailed regardless) would be forcibly punished with decapitation.

However, the historic importance of the banknote extends beyond its own four corners. Tregaski reminds us how it has been used to verify the date of the statue in which it was found. The wooden head of the Luohan (a Chinese word referencing those who have completed the four stages of Enlightenment), now boasts a value in excess of £22,000.

To learn more about China’s rich history, check out our Ultimate China guide, where Globe Trekker favourites: Megan McCormick, Justine Shapiro and Zay Harding divulge the fascinating centuries of Imperial reign.

Ultimate China

Have you seen the all new Globe Trekker Store?

 Have you seen the all new Globe Trekker Store?
It’s all change here at Globe Trekker – we have a brand new shop!

Take a moment to browse our stunning back catalogue of episodes that are now available on DVD and as high quality Download – no shipping fees! – plus your favourite Globe Trekker merchandise – all in a stop bright and breezy new shop.

To celebrate, we are offering a whopping 15% off of our best selling title of 2015 and 2016 – Building England. 

Osterly House, interior, from Building England Part II

Osterly House, interior, from Building England Part II

To whet your appetite, we have an exclusive clip from Part II in which Judith tours the grandiose Osterly Park. Located on the western outskirts of London – it’s a Tudor manor house magically transformed by the architectural star of the day, the Scotsman Robert Adam, in 1761, and designed specifically for the function of the 18th century: grand entertainment.

Artistic Traveller – Osterly House from Pilot Productions on Vimeo.

Designs on the Museum

Designs on the Museum

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years. The Museum holds many of the UK’s national collections and houses some of the greatest resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance. And every year, the museum is the central hub for the mammoth affair that is London Design Festival (LDF) staging an array of specially commissioned installations, talks, projects, experiments and workshops.

This year there were over 25 installations ranging from a ceramic display by the museums Ceramics Resident Matt Smith to intelligent living objects using the property of light colour to convert light into energy like plant photosynthesis.


Also showing was an immersive installation in the Tapestry Gallery entitled Foil by Benjamin Hubert of experience design agency Layer in collaboration with the German brand Braun. The installation was a 20-metre-long undulating ribbon comprising 40,000 individual metallic elements reflecting and bouncing light off the tapestries.


In Stairwell G, a lesser frequented area of the museum that boasts large round windows and a dramatic high ceiling, London-based design duo Glithero has partnered with luxury watch maker Panerai to create a time-based installation emulating the circular motion of the arms of a clock. Veils of colourful strings are lifted and dropped in a series of slow, choreographed movements controlled by a motorised arm.

French designer Mathieu Lehanneur installed the next piece from his Liquid Marble series in the V&A Museum’s Norfolk House Music room. Following on from his previous installation in the courtyard of a French chateau, it is made from a single piece of polished black marble sculpted to resemble a rippling pool.



And for more sights of London, check out our Bazaar London episode in which Kate Comer explores all that this great city has to offer; a vibrant, creative, and stimulating melting pot in which culture, arts, architecture, gastronomy, economics and politics thrive together.

My Notting Hill, My Carnival

My Notting Hill, My Carnival

Founded in 1959, only 100 years after slavery was abolished in the USA, the first Carnival showcased was a cabaret style showcase of the steel bands performing around London each weekend. It is now a hub for people all over the world wanting to experience the vibrancy of Caribbean culture and the all glorious madness of London life.

Notting Hill Carnival parade participant

Notting Hill Carnival parade participant

My Carnival Life

My first memory of Notting Hill Carnival is from 1995. I was five years old, had flowers painted on my face to match my favourite dress. It was my first memory of being there, though I had been already been a regular carnival-goer for the past four years. My mother recounts the story of sitting me on  her lap, aged 8 months, outside of our flat on Lancaster Road to experience what would be the  first of 25 carnivals, and counting.

Mid-August, Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill begins to buzz with an energetic air that emanates the vibrations ‘Carnival is coming!’ Local shops and restaurants are boarded up and sales of Jamaica’s famous lager Red Stripe soar, the community I have grown up in prepares for our favourite time of year.

For me, Carnival, is more than a bank holiday spent dancing the sun (sometimes!) – it’s a celebration of my Bajan & Montserratian Roots, in my favourite city in the world. My blood is Caribbean and Scandinavian but I’m British through and through. London is my home and to have a space to commemorate all of my ancestries and histories over two days fills me with such pride.  It’s a display  of unity, strength and freedom. No matter how far I travel, and how many incredible festivals I go to, I’m always   sure to be home for Carnival,  there is  simply nothing as great.

Held every August over the bank holiday weekend, Notting Hill Carnival is the annual celebration of Afro-Caribbean communities in London, though people come from all over the country, Europe and in fact the world over. Led by the British West Indian community, the Carnival is Europe’s biggest street party, attracting over 1 million people over the two-day event.

Notting Hill Carnival residents

Notting Hill Carnival residents

Some History

At the roots of the Notting Hill Carnival are the Caribbean carnivals of the early 19th century – a particularly strong tradition in Trinidad – all about celebrating the abolition of slavery and the slave trade.

And whilst Carnival’s ethos was stamped with these roots from the outset, its formulation in the mid-1960s came from two separate but interconnected strands.

A “Caribbean Carnival” was held on 30 January 1959 in St Pancras Town Hall as a response to the problematic state of race relations at the time; the UK’s first widespread racial attacks, the Notting Hill race riots in which 108 people were charged, had occurred the previous year. The 1959 event, held indoors and televised by the BBC, was organised by the Trinidadian Claudia Jones, often described as “the mother of the Notting Hill Carnival”, in her capacity as editor of Britain’s first black newspaper The West Indian Gazette, and directed by Edric Connor; showcased elements of a Caribbean carnival in a cabaret style format, it “featured among other things the Mighty Terror singing the calypso ‘Carnival at St Pancras’, a Caribbean Carnival Queen beauty contest, the Trinidad All Stars and Hi–fi steel bands dance troupe and a Grand Finale Jump-Up by West Indians who attended the event ,” as quoted in the “About us”, Notting Hill Carnival ’13, London Notting Hill Enterprises Trust.

The other important strand was the “hippie” London Free School-inspired festival in Notting Hill that became the first organised outside event in August 1966. The key instigater was Rhaune Laslett, who was not aware of the indoor events when she first raised the idea. This festival was a more diverse Notting Hill event to promote cultural unity. A street party for neighbourhood children turned into a carnival procession when Russell Henderson’s steel band (who had played at the earlier Claudia Jones events) went on a walkabout. By 1970  Carnival consisted of 2 music bands, the Russell Henderson Combo and Selwyn Baptiste’s Notting Hill Adventure Playground Steelband and 500 people in attendance.

Moving on to how Carnival came to take the shape in the way it known today, we meet a young teacher, Leslie Palmer, who first organised Carnival as a major festival in 1975. He was the Official Director of the event between 1973 and 1975 and is credited with negotiating sponsors, recruiting more steel bands, reggae and ragga sound systems, introducing generators and extended the Carnival route. She also encouraged traditional costume, and for the first time in 1975 costumed dancers and musicians and steel bands hailing from all across  the Caribbean Islands took part in the street party riding on floats alongside the brand-new stationary sound systems.

By this time, the event had Caribbean flavours running deeply through it’s veins, attracting 150,000 people. And as Carnival grew it was marred by violent interactions with the police and subsequent rioting. The problems appeared to only escalate and it seemed as  likely the event was on course to be banned.

However in recent years, with the installation of more CCTV cameras in the area, better flow management and the deployment of thousands of Metropolitan Police Officers patrolling the street with a more conciliatory attitude to policing, the event has been affected by less violence and trouble and attention is back with the revelry.

As of 2003 the Carnival has been run by ‘The Notting Hill Carnival Trust Ltd’. Whilst the Carnival has come under scrutiny for its cost to the London taxpayer (the cost of policing the event is said to be over £7 million), it is estimated that the Carnival contributes over £100 million to the London & UK economy – even Prince Charles is a vocal supporter of the event!

Notting Hill Carnival crowds

Notting Hill Carnival crowds

Carnival Today

Today Carnival is expression, culture, unity and pride; a celebration not only of  Afro-Caribbean communities in the UK but a celebration of their place in British society. Yet, it’s also a celebration of us all! Everyone is welcome, and encouraged to come with an open mind and comfortable shoes.

Reggae, ragga, dancehall, soca, bashment and house music  fill every street, alley way and square  of Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill and Westbourne Park from the morning  until the summer sun sets with Carnival finishing this year at 8.30pm.

For the authentic  Carnival experience, there’s nothing like  a can of Jamaican lager and a box of freshly barbequed jerk chicken, rice and peas. The procession this year will begin at the top of Great Western Road, follow the floats and vibrant costumes along turning onto Westbourne Park Road to experience some of the best stationary sound systems that Carnival has to offer and meet the floats back on Ladbroke Grove for the rest of the procession.

Sunday is ‘A Family Day’, fewer crowds are in attendance  crowd than the Monday, and families dressed head to toe in Caribbean inspired colours, with face painting happening all over the event. Monday is ‘The Grand Finale’, also known as adult’s day when the crowds are bigger, tunes are louder and the dancing gets sexier.

Whichever day you decide to go,  the welcoming, warm and wonderful hub of this street party’s energy, music and people bathing in the diversity and madness that is Notting Hill Carnival will forever have a place in your heart.

For more on the history look here: http://www.thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com/carnival.html

For info on transport and maps + schedules: http://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/notting-hill-carnival-guide

Further references: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notting_Hill_Carnival#cite_ref-Younge_2002_12-0

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Written by Tasha Brade who is Office Manager at Pilot Productions HQ here in London

You can check out her blog on life as a Londoner here: http://www.lifeblog.org/

For the Love of Lava

For the Love of Lava

In a mere three weeks, with spectacular force, over 8 acres of new land has been created by  two new lava flows that have broken out at the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. Visitors have been flocking to the southeast coast of the Hawaiian Island to go with the flow of the lava and witness molten rock spilling into the Pacific Ocean, creating billowing clouds of steam adding new land to the rugged coastline.

Like most Polynesian islands, Hawaii was created out of lava. So it’s no surprise that the most active volcanoes in the world spout from the Big Island.
Petroglyphs on Pu'u Loa on Big Island, Hawaii

Petroglyphs on Pu’u Loa on Big Island, Hawaii

Pictured to the right is Pu`u Loa, translated as the “long hill”i or “Hill-(of)-long-(life)”ii from Hawaiian, a place considered sacred to the people of Hawai`i, and those of Kalapana in particular. Earlier in the year when we were filming for our new Hawaii episode, we were lucky enough to visit this spot – located in the ahupua`a (an ancient Hawaiian land division) of Panau Nui on the southern flank of Kilauea volcano currently erupting.

To many Hawaiians, molten lava is the kinolau, or body form, of volcano goddess Pelehunuamea or Pele.
hawaii volcano

Some insight into lava:

  • When lava is underground in its molten state it is called magma. As it reaches the ground, and air, it is called lava. Once lava begins to harden it can turn into a variety of shapes and colors. The color of lava depends on the temperature of the flow as well as the chemical composition and any impurities that are in the liquid rock
  • When lava cools it also forms a myriad of different shapes and types of lava. There are two main types of lava pahoehoe (pa-hoy-hoy) and anda’a (ah ah).
  • Pahoehoe lava comes out smooth and dense and can form large areas that resemble flat parking lots or smooth bumps. A’a, on the other hand, forms individual rocks on the surface anywhere from a few inches to many feet in size. The rocks are porous and very jagged. Below the surface a’a is extremely dense. In general, pahoehoe is very easy to walk on and a’a is very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to walk on (at least without getting hurt).
  • A third type of lava, pillow lava, forms only underwater and is created by lava entering the ocean underwater where the pressure of the ocean pushes against the lava to form pillow-like shapes that cool very quickly due to the ocean water.
Now you have the lowdown on lava – you’re ready to watch our exclusive clip of Zoe visiting Pu`u Loa to learn about its significance within Hawai’ian culture.  And of course our brand new episode, Hawaii 2, is available to pre-order now!

For more information visit:


Main image: Pu’u Pua’i fountaining event, Oct. 1959 – Kilauea Iki volcano erupting, big island of Hawaii