St. Helena


Saint Helena is a volcanic island in the South Atlantic. Together with Ascension Island and the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, it forms the British Overseas Territory of St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

The island of Saint Helena is 1859 km from Africa (Angola) and 3286 km from South America (Recife, Brazil). It lies on the African Plate. The distance from Jamestown to Georgetown on Ascension is 1297 km, from Jamestown to Edinburgh of the Seven Seas on Tristan da Cunha is 2442 km.

In addition to the places whose names correspond to those of the districts, there are a few other places such as Ruperts and Scotland. The largest town is not the capital Jamestown with 629 inhabitants (as of 2016), but its suburb Half Tree Hollow with 984 inhabitants (as of 2016). Collectively, this "capital region" comprises about 35 percent of the island's population.

side islands
Numerous minor islands, islets and rocks lie along the coast, including Castle Rock, Speery Island, The Needle, Lower Black Rock, Upper Black Rock (south), Bird Island (southwest), Black Rock, Thompson's Valley Island, Peaked Island, Egg Island , Lady's Chair, Lighter Rock (West), Long Ledge (Northwest), Shore Island, George Island, Rough Rock Island, Flat Rock (East), The Buoys, Sandy Bay Island, The Chimney, White Bird Island and Frightus Rock (Southeast ), all within a distance of one kilometer from the coast.


Landscape and environment
See also: List of mountains in Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
The highest elevation of the 123.28 km² island is the 818 m high Diana's Peak; however, there are other peaks over 500 m high.

The island's isolated location - just a step away from a satellite colony in space, according to Edward O. Wilson - has given rise to a flora and fauna characterized by a high number of endemic species and genera. More than 400 species exclusively native to St. Helena are known to date; alone among the flowering plants on St. Helena there are 36 endemic species.

After the discovery of the uninhabited island at the beginning of the 16th century, human influence led to increasing destruction of the natural vegetation. Several phases can be distinguished here:
1502–1659: The vegetation at lower elevations was disturbed by grazing by introduced mammals, primarily goats
1659–1750: Destruction of the Commidendrum forests due to the settlers' need for timber and firewood
1860–1930: Clearing of the tree fern and melanodendron stocks at altitudes over 600 m in favor of Phormium tenax plantations
1930–present: Displacement of native species by further spread of introduced species such as Phormium tenax, Buddleja madagascariensis and Fuchsia coccinea

Plant species endemic to the island include St. Helena Redwood (Trochetiopis erythroxylon), Baby's Toes (Hydrodea cryptantha) and Black Cabbage (Melanodendron integrifolium). Some other endemic plant species have died out in historical times, such as the moor bells Wahlenbergia roxburghii and now also the St. Helena olive tree (Nesiota elliptica), the last specimens of which died from fungal diseases.

Also extinct are introduced coconut palms that once grew in Jamestown and Sandy Bay. In 1985, a shipload of 100 coconuts was reintroduced from the Caribbean island of Antigua and planted in Rupert's Bay. They needed special protection from the whitefly (Aleurotrachelus atratus). However, in 2002 they fell ill and today there are no more coconut palms on St. Helena.

The island's only endemic vertebrate is the St. Helena Plover (Charadrius sanctaehelenae), nicknamed the Wirebird by the islanders. It is also the national and heraldic animal of the island. Some of the endemic animal species have gone extinct in recent years, such as the world's largest earwig, the St. Helena's giant earwig.

Today the island is mainly covered with grass and bushes. Efforts are being made to protect what little remains of native vegetation on the island's higher elevations. In 1996, the Diana's Peak area was declared a national park. Due to its ecological uniqueness, the island has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since January 2012.



St. Helena was an uninhabited island until the 16th century because of its remoteness and cliffs. In May 1502 she was discovered by the Galician navigator João da Nova as commodore of a Portuguese fleet of four naos returning from India. He named the island after St. Helena, the saintly mother of Emperor Constantine, on whose name day the discovery fell. The Portuguese anchored in what is now James Bay, landed and built some houses and a chapel. They left their sick, but did not establish a permanent settlement on the island, and reached Lisbon in September of the same year. The island's existence and location were kept secret for some time to ensure its strategic importance. The first permanent resident of the island became a Portuguese soldier, Fernão Lopes, who had been severely punished for treason by the Goan governor. This was exposed on the way back to Portugal in 1516 during a stopover at St. Helena. He remained alone on the island and died there around 1546.

The first Englishman on the island was Thomas Cavendish, who on June 8, 1588 coming from the Pacific with his ship Desire threw anchor off St. Helena and stayed twelve days. He described the island as an "earthly paradise"; it was no longer a secret from now on. In 1591 James Lancaster reached the island. Around 1600 the Portuguese abandoned St. Helena. Immediately afterwards it was occupied by the Dutch. The Dutch occupation lasted until 1651. In 1659 the British East India Company took possession of the island and established the fort (Jamestown) and a garrison. In 1673 the Dutch reoccupied St. Helena but were soon driven out by the English. The company that officially owned the island established large farms employing many blacks and Chinese. The wealth of St. Helena increased because of the safe location, large amounts of gold were kept and rich merchants resided on the island. Among the governors there were also Huguenots like Stéphane Poirier, who tried in vain to grow wine. The astronomer Edmond Halley visited the island at this time. Halley's Mount was named after him.

From the 17th century onwards, a culture of excessive drinking, especially of arrack and arrack-based punches, developed on St. Helena, in connection with which the mortality and disease rates on the island reached high levels. During the Christmas season of 1783 and 1811, soldiers of the garrison rebelled against government measures to curb excessive alcohol consumption. In both cases, the uprisings were put down and many of those involved were executed.