In this program, Zay Harding embarks on a five day voyage from Cape Town on the last authentic British Royal Mail Ship, travelling 2000 miles across the South Atlantic to one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands – the tiny British Overseas Territory of St Helena, marooned over 1300 miles from the nearest mainland. The island is blessed with spectacular scenery and a fascinating history, but as yet it has no airport, so it’s very rarely visited.
Formed by the peak of a huge, extinct underwater volcano, measuring just 10 miles long by 5 miles wide, with a total population of less than 5000, St Helena’s capital is tiny Jamestown.
Zay takes a tour of the quaint, historic settlement, dating from the C17th, meeting many of the friendly islanders nicknamed ‘Saints’, before heading out to explore the surrounding countryside in a 1929 Chevy Charabanc, which operates as a remarkably unusual local taxi.
St Helena’s most famous resident was Napoleon, who was exiled here following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, until his death in 1821. Zay visits the beautifully preserved Longwood House, where Napoleon was detained under house arrest, and the tomb where he was buried.
Unlike Napoleon, St Helena’s second most famous resident is still alive, and Zay goes to see him – a remarkably ancient giant tortoise, who lives in the garden of the British Governor’s official residence. At over 180 years old, he’s possibly the world’s oldest living land animal.
The pristine ocean off the dramatic cliff-lined coastline is also brimming with wildlife, and Zay takes a spectacular boat trip amidst a school of hundreds of pan-tropical dolphins, who swim alongside his boat, showing off their athletic prowess by jumping high in the air.
Although the island is very small, there are plenty of other attractions to interest the traveller – amongst other sights, Zay visits the huge, well-preserved High Knoll fort for example, sees how daredevil Saints speed dangerously down a rock-cut set of cliffside steps known as Jacob’s Ladder, and climbs the island’s highest peak, whose slopes shelter numerous plant species that grow nowhere else in the world.
Finally, it’s time to leave on the long 5 day, 2000 mile voyage back to Cape Town. Soon an airport will open up St Helena to the whole world, but until then the necessity of travelling by ship certainly makes you appreciate just how remote and special St Helena really is.
with thanks to
Anthony Thomas, Sub-Tropic Scuba Adventures
The Crew of the RMS St Helena
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British Overseas Territory
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