Hotel plans win support from ExCo

A large hotel could be built on Jamestown’s Waterfront.

Executive councillors gave approval for the idea to be explored as a future option – after endorsing a separate plan to convert numbers 1, 2 and 3 Main Street into four-star accommodation.

Both ideas were put before the council at a special meeting on Tuesday, 23 September 2014.

A press release says tourism experts have advised that accommodation of a high standard will be needed when the island’s airport opens in 2016.

The council approved the option to develop the Government-owned building into a hotel with at least 30 bedrooms.

The former East India Company building would have a restaurant and bar that could cater for up to 90 people.

A new building would be constructed at the rear to provide accommodation, including hotel rooms with disabled access – if planning permission is given.

The press release said: “This four-star hotel will complement other local initiatives in developing tourist accommodation, and will serve as a catalyst for economic development, including the involvement of local producers and service providers.

“Executive Council also considered an option for the development of a larger hotel at the Waterfront and approved the exploration of this option for the future.

“Further detailed design work will now proceed for the development of 1, 2 and 3 Main Street as a quality hotel. The public will be kept informed and will have an opportunity to view the plans and drawings once these have been finalised.”

  • Executive Council also noted a positive meeting at the Rock Club to consult on the development of a solar farm around the site of the current rifle range at Half Tree Hollow.  “There was overwhelming support for the project,” said the press release.
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Lost chance to save the giant earwig: they got there too soon

Labidura herculeana - picture courtesy of the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Belgium. Click to see a larger image

Labidura herculeana – picture courtesy of the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Belgium. Click to see a larger image

If only things had been different back in the 1960s, Dave Clarke of London Zoo might now know what it was like to have a three-inch-long earwig wriggling in his hands.

But they weren’t, and half a century on, the St Helena Giant Earwig looks set to be declared extinct. Not that Dave is giving up hope completely.

He led an expedition to the island in 1988, hoping to find live specimens for a captive breeding programme to save the species. It appears they got there too late.

Dave Clarke looked for giant earwigs in the 80s

Dave Clarke looked for giant earwigs in the 80s

The tragedy was that a team from Belgium found live specimens in the 1960s, but the idea of captive breeding just hadn’t taken hold yet. In effect, they had got there too early.

“It is a massive frustration,” admits Dave, team leader of the Bugs and Butterflies exhibits for the Zoological Society of London.

“The last time they had been properly seen was in the 1960s – the Belgian expeditions,” says Dave.

“They made an assessment of live specimens but they weren’t properly seen since, though there was a report of them being seen in 1967.

“Back in the 50s and 60s it wasn’t such a high consideration to be looking at conservation breeding. It is much more an initial consideration these days.”

To be fair, even London Zoo didn’t start doing it until the 1980s. Now it can have the main population of a threatened species in a single room. “You can do a lot in a small space,” says Dave. “It’s not quite as expensive as trying to save tigers.”

Earwig hunters travelled from the Royal Museum of Central Africa

Earwig hunters travelled from the Royal Museum of Central Africa

Even with invertebrates, though, funding is a problem – including on St Helena. And even if the Belgians had taken live specimens of Labidura herculeana back to the Royal Museum for Central Africa, they may not have survived.

It has since been tried with another of St Helena’s more “charismatic” invertebrates – unsuccessfully.

“There’s only a limited amount you can do with captive breeding, even with invertebrates,” says Dave. “Many species are reliant on habitats which are difficult to replicate in captivity.

“A current example is the St Helena Spiky Yellow Woodlouse, which is only found on The Peaks. That is probably a population of a hundred, but we wouldn’t want to take animals out of the wild for captive breeding because we simply don’t know the best way to keep them in captivity.

“We have tried once before, but none survived.”

Sadly, no members of the Belgian expeditions are thought to be alive either, so they cannot be asked about their adventure. The Africa museum kindly supplied pictures of the giant earwig in their collection, but could find none of the expedition itself.

Their findings were included in a 1980 book on the island’s natural riches.

Extract from a 1980 book describing the giant earwig, by Alan Brindle

Extract from a 1980 book describing the giant earwig, by Alan Brindle

When Dave Clarke led the Operation Hercules expedition to St Helena in 1988, the giant earwig was already listed as threatened and potentially extinct. But there were grounds for hope.

“We knew that the chances were slim,” says Dave.

“Knowing that specimens of the forceps were being found we thought there may be a chance, especially with the recent efforts to recreate some of the habitats with the planting of gumwoods on the side of Horse Point Plain.

“We thought, if there was a remnant population there was a chance they could improve and hang on and do better given the habitat protection that was going on.”

The Dodo of the Dermaptera, as it has been nicknamed, was always elusive. The Belgium team had described now the earwigs lived under rocks, and would quickly retreat into deep fissures in the soil.

“It was just physical searching and setting up pitfall traps, because we were also looking for the endemic ground beetle. Unfortunately we weren’t finding any of those either.

“We did come across some of the pincers of the earwig but we weren’t able to tell how recently they were alive. They did look quite fresh, although may have been decades old.”

At the time, there was little understanding of the global significance of St Helena’s invertebrates. In 2014 the island was declared to have more endemic species of them, per square mile of land, than the Galapagos Islands.

London Zoo saw its importance, sending a second expedition in 1993. “We did quite a lot of publicity, including going on the Wogan programme, which was one of the biggest TV slots in the UK.

“We ran a symposium in London – St Helena Natural Treasury. That did stimulate more interest.

“The giant earwig was very much a flagship for endemic invertebrates, and something that would capture the general public’s imagination, having an earwig over three inches long.”

Even the most glamorous of St Helena’s invertebrates are no match for the marine iguanas of the Galapagos in terms of public appeal, admits Dave. “But they can be flagships for protecting the habitat, which has a knock-on for other species.

“That is being done on The Peaks. But it’s a slow process.”

Dave supported the recent idea of choosing a new national flower in place of the arum lily – a beautiful but invasive alien species. It makes a poor symbol for St Helena’s efforts to protect the endemic plants that are unique to St Helena.

“St Helena has suffered more than most from introductions having a negative effect on the native flora and fauna,” he says. “So I would support it being an endemic.”

And what about a national invertebrate?

“I hadn’t thought about that. Certainly highest in our mind is the spiky yellow woodlouse, because it does still exist. We might have considered the giant earwig before but I think we are too late.

“It will be 50 years next year since the last definitive living specimens were collected. But we never know: it might still reappear.

“A species of snail from the Seychelles was declared extinct in 2007 but was found this year, alive.

“Maybe there are some earwigs clinging on there somewhere. But they will only survive if we reinstate those habitats.”

  • Dave had strong praise for his namesake Dave Pryce, who has been assessing the state of St Helena’s 400-or-so endemic invertebrates for the Bugs on the Brink project – and who warned that he expected to submit a formal proposal to declare the giant earwig extinct. But there were concerns about whether there would be enough funding for him to continue his work on the island, especially his efforts to conserve the spiky yellow woodlouse.

SEE ALSO: Rare island woodlouse ‘is just hanging on’

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Oh no, earwig go…

Takeshi Yamada, a collector of strange creatures, is the proud owner of what appears to be a St Helena giant earwig – a specimen made more valuable by last week’s news that the species is likely to be officially declared extinct.

But it doesn’t deceive Dr Roger Key, who visited St Helena in 2013 as part of the Bugs on the Brink project.

He has posted a picture of the creature on the internet, with the following caption:

“Don’t be fooled! This a clever fake, produced by Takeshi Yamada. As far as I can gather it is the head of a longhorn beetle, various bits of probably two cockroaches (the thorax, abdomen and wings) and the ‘pincers’ are probably jaws from a large beetle or dobsonfly.”

Mr Takeshi is no fraud. He is an artist who creates fantastical creatures, including a vast sea monster, using his skills as a taxidermist.

Click here to see the picture.

SEE ALSO: Rare island woodlouse is ‘just hanging on’, says expert

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Pictures bring back the holiday fun

children's medals 2 640The summer holidays have come to an end for UK school children but one last gallery of images should bring back happy memories of the 2014 Reading Sports. Click here to flick through 68 pictures – cheerful and cheeky – of the children’s medal presentations.

children's medals 640 3SEE ALSO:
Gallery 1: Fancy Dress
Gallery 2: Seen at the Sports
Gallery 3: Children’s races
Gallery 4: Teen races
Gallery 5: Adult races
Gallery 6: Inflatable fun

Plus: Donald whizzes from Oz for ‘brilliant’ Reading Sports (report)

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Donald whizzes from Oz for ‘brilliant’ Reading Sports

reading sports flag 640The organisers of the Reading Sports must be doing something right – because Donald Joshua came all the way from Australia to attend.

Donald – whose brother Brian still lives on St Helena – was one of more than 1,500 people who turned out for the annual UK gathering of Saints and their friends and families.

The organisers have been basking in the success of the event after taking a bold decision to move to a new venue at Reading Abbey Rugby Club.

The campsite filled up

The campsite filled up

Vilma Toms, secretary of the St Helena Association, said the high turn-out would mean bigger donations to charities back home.

She said: “It was absolutely brilliant. We had so much positive feedback from everybody.

“First of all, so much more space we had, and the fact that they could party all night should they want to.

“They enjoyed the club house, the disco, everything. It was a real party atmosphere.”

Staff from the rugby club and the inflatable rides were also enthusiastic about the event, said Vilma.

“The bouncy castle people said they’d love to come again because people were friendly and everybody was happy. The people in the rugby club are over the moon. They couldn’t do enough to help us. They just said, ‘The ground is yours, do what you like’.”

Click for fancy dress images

Click for fancy dress images

There was much more entertainment for children than in previous years, including bouncy castles, an inflatable obstacle course, a rodeo ride, and zorbing – rolling around inside giant transparent balls.

Some of the rides attracted just as many adults as children.

But while the races went ahead as usual – with adults required to run with balloons between their legs in the egg and spoon event – one traditional fixture was missing.

No one was willing to put up a team against the defending tug o’war champions, who were awarded the winners’ crate of beer without having to pull for it.

Perhaps they were all too busy zorbing.

Attendance was up on 2013, with about 1,100 paying adults and an estimated 500 children.

“More people were camping as well, so the party atmosphere started on Saturday and carried all the way through until three o’clock on Monday morning,” said Vilma.

Zorbing: click for a gallery

Zorbing: click for a gallery

Nick Stevens, who had travelled to the UK with the island’s Commonwealth Games team, manned the Enterprise St Helena stall, encouraging Saints to consider returning home to help build a new economy.

In the case of Pamela Ward Lees, departing chair of the Friends of St Helena, no persuasion was needed: she and partner Andy were at the sports to say farewell to friends before heading out to settle in Longwood (and make cakes).

The event itself took place in brilliant sunshine, but those who stayed on until bank holiday Monday had to take their tents down in heavy rain.

Hundreds of pictures were posted on Facebook by Paul George and official photographers Jessica Osborne and Emily Braden.

The association is supporting the same island charities as last year, including the arts and crafts group, the family support group and Father Dale Bowers’ fund for vulnerable people.

Facebook comments: 

Plenty of entertainment: click for gallery

Plenty of entertainment: click for gallery

Ronnie Benjamin Joshua: What an absolutely fantastic bank holiday weekend!!! Thank you all, a whole bunch of lovely family and friends in one place!

David Peters: What a great day on Sunday. Reading sports day was fantastic. Many thanks to the organisers St Helena Association for a great job and great venue. Clean toilets, plenty of parking, friendly staff, and most of all, so good to see so many familiar faces. It’s like a day of an analogue version of Facebook. Thanks for re-uniting us with long lost friends and relatives.

Patrick George: Thank you St Helena Association for making it all happen. I know a lot of blood, sweat, tears and possibly sleepless nights went into the preparation. It was my first time ever and I feel like I made history for myself. Met old school friends, family and people I didn’t know except they knew my late parents Eric and Ivy George.

Monica Yon: I would like to say a huge thank you to the St Helena Association for all their hard work and making such a wonderful entertaining day for all of us. I thoroughly enjoyed it and meeting everyone, well most people as I miss so many I would have love to chat and laugh with. Such a lovely turn-out too, and great location. Thank you.

Carryn Jones: Another fantastic weekend that was well worth the long drive from Aberdeen. Love the new venue!! Thoroughly enjoyed catching up with friends and family.

Children's races: click for gallery

Children’s races: click for gallery

Ursula Harris: I would like to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to the St Helena Association for all the hard work that went into organising another memorable Sports Day.

Rio Duncan-Prasetyo: Thank you for an awesome long weekend! The foods, music, sports, hospitality….and the weather (how lucky). The committee are friendly, helpful and hard working. The Reading Rugby club staff – thank you so much for welcoming us.

Joanne Tori Bowers: Had a wonderful day at Reading Sport. St Helena Association always do their best to make our sports day special and great job for making everyone come together. Unfortunately that was my last sports day but it has been really good for all the years I have been going and good luck in future (Joanne is returning home).

Trevor Toms: Big thanks to the few people who help us – Renee and Rio Prasetyo and Larry Hudson for running the sports events – what a brilliant job they did. Thanks also to Felicity Walters, Darlene Peters, Lorraine Duncan and Pat Harris for helping us on the day. Special thanks to James Miller for all his help and enthusiasm. Grateful thanks also to Leon Miller for all his help. Thanks to Phil and Paul for the entertainment on Saturday night, and to Phil for the amazing disco on Sunday night – loved the lights and the smoke – cool!!. Thanks to the Brooks Brothers and Sawdust for giving us great entertainment in the clubhouse.

SEE ALSO:
Gallery 1: Fancy Dress
Gallery 2: Seen at the Sports
Gallery 3: Children’s races
Gallery 4: Teen races
Gallery 5: Inflatable fun

 

 

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Ocean slog ends with a man overboard

Malcolm Russell aboard Ambre, ready to cast off

Malcolm Russell aboard Ambre, ready to cast off

Yachtsman Malcolm Russell reached St Helena exhausted but unharmed after a gruelling 1,600-mile voyage – then fell overboard in James Bay.

He couldn’t climb up out of the water, and his brother Rusty no longer had the strength to haul him in.

Now Malcolm has told how the pair were taken in by “the angel of the island” when they finally got to dry land, because they were in such a bad way.

Malcolm fell when he tried to launch the dinghy

Malcolm fell when he tried to launch the dinghy

The two “trade wind gypsies” were recreating a voyage Malcolm and his wife undertook 40 years earlier.

They left South Africa on 1 May 2014 in the yacht Ambre and soon found themselves wallowing in dangerous and uncomfortable conditions off uninhabited Dassen Island.

Then Neil developed a throat problem, so they put into Saldhana Bay in South Africa, where they took on board “the worst tasting water”, before turning towards St Helena.

“We went straight into the heaviest seas we had seen so far,” says Malcolm. “They were all over the place. We got banged around and hammered.”

During the storm a pulley failed and jammed the steering, meaning a difficult repair job.

Rusty was below deck when Malcolm went overboard

Rusty was below deck when Malcolm went overboard

Then continuous cloud meant the solar-powered engine battery ran down, and the auto helm stopped working.

“Now we were stuck with our biggest fear, that we would have to helm 24/7,” says Malcolm, describing the voyage on the YouTube video website. “Rusty would helm for four hours I would helm for four hours, and we would switch and switch about.

“It meant our sleep pattern got down to two and a half hours. And rusty had to call me if there was anything that needed my attention – ships close by, or something going wrong with the sails.

“I felt it.

“We finally arrived at St Helena. We lost the steering altogether and the auto helm blew up. The last three days of helming was in no wind.

“We were absolutely shattered. I had lost a huge amount of weight; so had rusty. We battled our way in, picked up a mooring and I thought our troubles were over.”

The two yachtsmen were on continuous four-hour watches

The two yachtsmen were on continuous four-hour watches

But they were denied the sleep they craved when customs and immigration asked them to go ashore.

“So these two shattered tired old guys decided to get the dinghy over,” says Malcolm. “Neil was working below decks while I went to get the dinghy and I fell overboard.

“You can’t believe what a shock it was.

“I gave rusty a yell. There was no way he could get me out, no way I could pull myself up. I was absolutely exhausted. Finally I said ‘Get a piece of rope, put a knot in it, and at least I’ve got a foothold.’

“After a lot of sweating and trying we managed to get me aboard.”

They got ashore instead on the ferry service and cleared customs.

“That’s when we decided to go and see the angel of the island.”

Grateful: Malcolm relaxes at The Consulate

Grateful: Malcolm relaxes at The Consulate

When they turned up at the Consulate Hotel to find old friend Hazel Wilmot, she was appalled.

“She took one look at these two old wrecks and she said, ‘No way: you’re not going back to the boat, you are staying here at the hotel as our guests. So we have a huge debt to Hazel.

“We had a really rough ride. But we are here now and loving St Helena once again.”

Part of the purpose of their voyage is to observe the state of the oceans and compare it with what Malcolm saw on his first voyage, 40 years ago, in a yacht he built for himself “in the middle of Africa with no idea how to sail”. He chronicled the trip in a book he has never finished, because “the voyage isn’t over”.

He says they saw lots of bird life this time, but only one flying fish. “That’s very scary because flying fish are prolific around here. We saw one dolphin, only one. That’s very different from last time – we had lots of sea life all around us.”

Next stop for the two mariners: the West Indies, “hopefully in time to beat the hurricane season”.

With their luck…

Watch the videos
Start of the adventure
Cape Town to St Helena

Gallery – from YouTube
Click on any thumbnail to see images from the Trade Wind Gypsies videos

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Marine teacher Beverley brings an expert in her wake

Teacher Beverley Tyson will be bringing an added extra when she turns up on St Helena: a husband who’s got the bug for museums.

Beverly is arriving in August to start work as an education officer, setting up a marine science programme to help make the most of the island’s extraordinary environment.

And husband Paul comes with his expertise as curator of the aquarium and the bug house at Liverpool’s World Museum.

Their local paper, the Rhyl, Prestatyn and Abergele Observer, says Paul might help out with some of Beverley’s marine science modules.

But when word of his museum work gets out, he might well be asked to get involved with work to protect St Helena’s multitude of endemic invertebrates.

Its 400-or-so unique species make it richer than the Galapagos Islands when it comes to bug life.

The newspaper reports that the couple will arrive on the island with sons Oliver, six, and Charlie, three.

Beverley told the paper: “I’m thrilled, as well as slightly blown away that I’ve landed my absolute dream job.”

SEE ALSO:
Family’s adventure trip to remote island – Rhyl Observer
St Helena tops the league table for unique species

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Saints in court in stolen motorbikes case

The UK trial of two Saints accused of shipping stolen motorbikes to St Helena is reported in the Gloucestershire Echo. Click here to read more.

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Take a trip into Jamestown – at breakneck speed

gravity rush 2014 by Julian Beard 640Click the pic above to experience the thrill of the 2014 Gravity Rush kart race down the hill into Jamestown, courtesy of Julian Beard’s YouTube video. It’s bumpy, and a bit scary.

gravity rush 2014 by Andy Day 300Then click the image on the right for Andy Day’s film over Nick Yon’s rather less successful run down the hill, waved off by Napoleon himself. Unless it’s Andy Crowe dressed up…

SEE ALSO:
Gravity Rush 2013 in pictures

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The day a tortoise turned turtle for the King of England

Flags flapped along the seafront as King George VI stepped ashore on St Helena… a small island, somewhere off the coast of France.

Quite a long way off, actually – and the same goes for the rest of the text that accompanies newly released archive footage of the royal visit.

One is left wondering whether it is possible to libel a tortoise.

Undiplomatic blunder: film notes put St Helena in France

Undiplomatic blunder: film notes put St Helena in France

The five-minute British Pathé news film, now made public on the YouTube website, shows the King and Queen stepping ashore at the wharf on 29 April 1947.

They were accompanied by the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

The royal party are seen looking round Napoleon’s badly dilapidated home at Longwood, and then admiring Jonathan the tortoise on the governor’s lawn.

The King even crouches down to try to feed him a banana, which the old boy appears to treat with some disdain.

There is also brief footage of two unnamed young Saints showing the traditional technique for sliding down Jacob’s Ladder, at an impressive speed.

The film is silent – it would have been shown in cinemas with a scripted voice-over, and music – so viewers must rely on the accompanying text to learn what is going on in the pictures.

But the text isn’t too reliable. For one thing, it says the men are sliding down St Jacob’s Ladder.

And the location of the film is given as “St Helena, France”: a bit of a slip, given that the Queen was later to summon the French Ambassador to explain why his government had allowed Longwood House to fall into severe neglect.

But the greatest indignity is suffered by old Jonathan, who even in 1947 was considered impressively ancient.

The notes refer to “several shots of the royal family observing a giant turtle.”

Turtles are indeed found in the waters around St Helena, but they’re not often seen eating bananas on the governor’s lawn, a thousand feet or so above sea level.

Eventually the royal party make their way back to the landing steps, with several straw bonnets and pith helmets in evidence in the large crowd.

The royal party stopped at the island on their way back from South Africa, on their first overseas visit after the Second World War – as noted by future governor David Smallman in Quincentenary, his history of the island.

He says that the present Queen Elizabeth clearly remembered her first experience of arum lilies growing in the wild. She had celebrated her 21st birthday a week earlier.

As the royal party prepared to leave the island, His Majesty told the crowd: “This is the first occasion on a which a reigning Sovereign has ever set foot on St Helena.

“I wish to tell you how much the Queen and I, and our daughters, have enjoyed our brief visit.

“We wish you all prosperity in the future.”

Mr Smallman also notes that the Queen’s remonstrations led to the posting of a French official to care for the Napoleonic properties on St Helena.

The online notes record that the film ends with “more daytime shots of the royal party looking around from the deck” of HMS Vanguard.

Hmmm – nice beaches. That looks a bit like Ascension…

The text accompanying footage on YouTube

The text accompanying footage on YouTube

Click here to watch the British Pathé news film

SEE ALSO: 
Royalty on St Helena – in David Smallman’s book, Quincentenary
Reflections on a Journey to St Helena – pictures of the royal visit

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