Travelling in
Saint Helena

 
 

Click for Saint Helena Island, Sankt Helena Forecast

 


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Uninhabited when first discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, Saint Helena was garrisoned by the British during the 17th century (to be used as a refreshment station for ships travelling to and from the East). It acquired fame as the place of Napoleon Bonaparte's exile, from 1815 until his death in 1821, but its importance as a port of call declined after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Saint Helena has three smaller dependencies: Ascension Island is the site of a US Air Force auxiliary airfield; Tristan da Cunha is home to a very small community reliant on fishing for income; Gough Island has a meteorological station.

Saint Helena's most famous resident, of course, was Napoleon, who was exiled there by the British. Apparently Elba was not far enough away. He died there, and you can visit his beautiful gravesite in a flower-laden glade, but his remains were disinterred and are now at Les Invalides in Paris. You can visit his two residences on the island. He stayed at The Briars for less than two weeks, and lived the rest of his life in a respectable house in Longwood. Both can be visited by appointment.

The grandest house on the island, however, is that of the governor. It looks like it was lifted straight out of 18th century England. There are marvellous land tortoises on the grounds, including one purported to be the oldest living vertebrate in the world.
 

 

The flora and fauna of the island are marvellous. Though many endemic species have become extinct, there are some left to be seen. Cabbage trees, gum trees and the local ebony can all be seen. The ebony was thought to be extinct until a local botanist found a specimen hanging off a cliff. It is being propagated and planted around the island. The islanders have also begun to restore the native forests of the island. The Millennium Forest has been planted by many volunteers and consists largely of local gum trees. Native, old growth forests can be found on the highest peaks of the island. High Peak and Diana's Peak have beautiful natural areas.

Two animals are of note. The giant earwig was the largest in the world. Truly a terrifying beast for those who fear earwigs, it was between two and three inches long. The species was made extinct by researchers who literally collected them all!

The second species is a happier story. Though endangered, with only about 300 remaining, the Saint Helena Wirebird is a plover-like bird with long beak and legs. It is a land bird, and can be found in open areas. The playing fields behind the high school are a particularly good place to look without having to take a longer hike. The Wirebird is Saint Helena's national bird.

A list of contributors is available at the original article on Wikitravel.
 
 
 
 
 
 


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