RMS St. Helena Retires

Now that the St. Helena airport is up and running the RMS St. Helena, the last ship in the world to actually carry the British mail, is taking down her flags. It’s on its last visit to the island this week.

Here are a few photos from St. Helena, a tiny speck of land 1200 miles west of Africa in the south Atlantic Ocean, formerly only accessible via the RMS St. Helena.

St. Helena is a product of the same British colonialism that brought us the map in the previous post. It’s a place out of time.

It’s lovely, too.

The only population center, Jamestown.

There are more photos in the St. Helena Gallery at EarthPhotos.com, and here is a link to posts I wrote at the time of our visit.

A plucky little charter company called Atlantic Star Airlines is arranging a charter flight now for Christmas 2018 from the U.K:

Here’s their web site. And here is the local paper, the St. Helena Sentinel.

Stranded


The Royal Mail Ship St. Helena is under repairs in Capetown, South Africa. For a normal ship that wouldn’t generate any headlines. But the RMS St. Helena serves as a literal lifeline and the only means of transportation for the inhabitants of St. Helena Island, a speck of land way out in the South Atlantic ocean. This document, attempting to address questions from stranded and potential passengers and businesses, shows the RMS St. Helena’s importance to St. Helena Island and also to Ascension Island, where the RMS usually calls on it’s regular itinerary. It’s interesting to follow this link and read about the trouble caused by the possible dry-docking of the Royal Mail Ship.

You can feel the remoteness of these places when you take the three day journey out from the African mainland to St. Helena and the overnight journey onward to Ascension. But that just became way more immediate for the unfortunate subject of an article headlined British woman mauled by shark near Ascension Island saved after husband punched it. The only way off Ascension Island is the RMS St. Helena or via the British Ministry of Defense’s “airbridge,” used to shuttle troops between the Falkland Islands, the military base at Ascension and the Brize Norton base near Oxford, England. The airbridge, it turns out to the ill fortune of our shark attack victim, is temporarily not calling at Ascension either, as you can see from the question and answer sheet.

As a result,

the family found themselves “pretty stuck” by travel chaos across the South Atlantic. 

St Helena’s airport, built with the help of £285 million from the Department of International Development, was due to open last May but flights have been postponed indefinitely as it is too windy for commercial aircraft to land safely.

As a result, people normally get the island’s ageing supply ship, the RMS St Helena, to Ascension Island, but it broke down near South Africa in late March and it remains there having repairs to its propellor.

Furthermore, flights have stopped touching down on the military runway on Ascension for safety reasons, reportedly because of cracks in the runway.

Here is an idea of a bit of the other-worldliness of Ascension Island:

See more photos of both islands in the Ascension Island and Saint Helena Island galleries at EarthPhotos.com. More of my stories about St. Helena and Ascension here.

St. Helena Flight

Here’s video of that first Comair flight to the remote island of St. Helena, 1200 miles west of Africa in the south Atlantic Ocean. They mean to make it a weekly flight in time. As the island newspaper has it (pdf), the shaly-looking landing encountered wind shear, causing authorities to rethink things. Back to the drawing board for now.