Carnival honours the memory of St Helena exiles

The exile of Zulus and Boer War prisoners on St Helena has been commemorated in a carnival and march led by the premier of KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa.

zulu march 2014 450Before the event at Woodburn Stadium in Pietermaritzburg, Senzo Nchunu urged people of all cultures to unite in paying tribute to figures such as the Zulu King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo.

He said: “Natal, as it was then known, played host to many battles, conflicts and confrontations in South Africa. These resulted in many of our heroes exiled in St Helena island.

“The French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte I, spent six years in exile on St Helena island from 1815 -1821 under stringent British supervision following his defeat at Waterloo.
Importantly, 61 years later Zulu King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo, nephew to King Shaka, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on St Helena island.

“The King had dared defy the British, who had not recognized him as the rightful heir to the throne of the Zulu nation.

“Three years after King Dinuzulu left St Helena, more than 5,000 Boer War prisoners were also exiled in St Helena for having participated in a war against the British.

“Ten years after King Dinuzulu returned home to a Zululand which had been annexed to Natal, he led the defiance to the poll tax imposed by the British to pay for the needs of the developing territory. The King was accused of high treason and was moved to a farm in Middleburg. About 25 Zulu rebel chiefs were exiled to St Helena for their participation against poll tax.”

“These are the heroes who yearned for independence, political self-determination and the protection of their culture and languages. Now that we have achieved democracy and freedom, we must all come together and remember these heroes.”

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Shooter Maddy tastes TV fame in baton relay programme

Maddy sets her sights on Scotland - as seen on the BBC iPlayer

Maddy sets her sights on Scotland – as seen on the BBC iPlayer

Commonwealth Games hopeful Madolyn Andrews features in a three-minute profile of St Helena on a BBC television programme following the Queen’s Baton Relay.

Maddy is seen training to take part in the shooting at the 2014 Games in Scotland.

If she succeeds in her ambition to compete, it’ll be only the second time she’s left the island – and the first time venturing beyond Ascension.

“If I go out in the bigger world to the Commonwealth Games I’ll be able to see what they do and how they do it,” she tells presenter Mark Beaumont.

Patrick Henry: "We'll be ready"

Patrick Henry: “We’ll be ready”

Her coach, Patrick Henry, says it is difficult preparing competitors for overseas competition in such isolation, but says he thinks his team “will be ready”.

The programme is available to UK viewers on the BBC iPlayer. It is scheduled to be shown on the BBC News Channel in the UK on Saturday at 1.30pm.

The Falkland Islands are featured as the “next destination” in the baton’s tour of the Commonwealth – ignoring the fact that it had to be carried ashore at Ascension Island to be transferred to the RAF flight to Stanley.

Ascension is not acknowledged as a stop-over on the baton website.

Mark Beaumont’s blog on the baton’s journey includes a post about the RMS St Helena, with photographs showing parts of the ship not normally seen by passengers. Read it here

And an unnamed Pilling School pupil is captured in a striking photograph on the BBC’s baton website, here

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Alien discovery sparks international beetle drive

The remains of one of the beetle stowaways, with its distinctive swept-back wings. Picture courtesy of St Helena Government

The remains of one of the beetle stowaways, with its distinctive swept-back wings. Picture courtesy of St Helena Government

Three stowaways have been found hitching a ride to St Helena’s airport, nearly two years before it is even due to open.

Even though they had no papers on them, David Pryce of St Helena National Trust had no trouble identifying them as pachylomera femoralis – giant flattened dung beetles.

Their remains were spotted in the back of a trailer by Basil Read workers who were assembling new plant in upper Rupert’s Valley.

The discovery sparked a bio-security alert, and was promptly reported to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Division (ANRD).

Giant flattened dung beetles burrow beside fresh dung of various mammals for feeding, as well as rolling away balls of dung to brood their young. They are attracted to a wide range of dung types, carrion and fermenting fruit. Their native distribution is wide, from South Africa up to the Congo.

Basil Read has mapped the trailer’s journey from Port Elizabeth on the coast of South Africa up to Walvis Bay in Namibia, where it was loaded on to the company’s supply vessel.

A press release from St Helena Government said: “The beetles are believed to be attracted to lights and they probably fell into the open trailer while it was parked under security lights at some point.”

Ravi Michael, logistics manager for Basil Read on St Helena said the discovery was investigated swiftly so that any weaknesses in biosecurity could be closed up.

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St Helena shows UK the way with fizzy drinks tax

St Helena appears to be showing Britain the way to tackle obesity, by introducing a sugar tax.

A levy on high-sugar drinks was announced in the island’s budget in the very month that England’s chief medical officer warned that the British government might have to consider such a measure.

But Dame Sally Davies said she hoped it would not be needed in the UK.

St Helena Government (SHG) is introducing the 75p-per-litre excise duty from May.

It is a move that some on the island have long campaigned for, including shop owner Nick Thorpe, who sees the vast scale of imports of sugary foods and drinks.

The island is reported to import nearly a million cans of fizzy drinks per year, for a population of just over 4,000 people.

The island’s incidence of type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity, is among the highest in the world. The government has warned that the cost of treating the condition has put a massive strain on the island’s health service, as well as damaging the lives of diabetics.

The new budget includes an additional £692,000 for the health service, and more than £1.5 million has been set aside to fund infrastructure improvements to the hospital, including the furnishing of a diagnostic suite.

Colin Owen, the island’s Financial Secretary, said: “The introduction of a new tax on high-sugar drinks and higher-than-inflation increases on tobacco form part of a raft of measures which demonstrate that SHG takes the health of St Helena seriously.”

He also announced the introduction of liquor duty at £3.50 per litre, and a new duty of £1 per litre for drinks with an alcoholic content of 3% or below.

Councillor Ian Rummery pointed out the timeliness of the move in an email to St Helena Online. He wrote:

“I see that a sugar/fat tax is being debated in the UK media with statements from Dame Sally Davies, the Medical Officer, and the BBC World Service Business Matters programme has a week-long special on obesity and discussions on a fat tax.

“While the world talks about it, here on St Helena we have just introduced a tax on sugary carbonated drinks.”

Dame Sally first raised the prospect of a sugar tax in comments to the UK Parliament’s Health Select Committee. She also suggested that sugar might be addictive – though some scientists disagreed.

In his budget speech, Mr Owen said: “On St Helena, over 300,000 litres of carbonated sugar sweetened beverages are imported per year.

“This equates to around 67 litres per year for each person currently on island, each of us drinking around 200 cans a year. Within this, some people will consume very little, while others may consume many more.

“Just to be clear on the figures, we import just under ONE MILLION cans of fizzy soft drinks each year. And each can on average contains over 35 grams of sugar.

“We currently have a very high rate of obesity, and type 2 diabetes. This has a very high cost to the St Helena health service and there is significant evidence to show direct links.

“Every additional regular can-sized, sugar-sweetened drink per day, increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 18%.

“A number of studies document a link between fizzy soft drink consumption and higher blood pressure.

“And dental health is negatively influenced by consumption. Studies have shown that consumption nearly doubles the risk of dental cavities in children.”

He added that healthier diet drinks were currently more expensive than high-sugar drinks, especially those from South Africa.

“Research has shown that increasing the price of fizzy soft drinks will lead to a fall in consumption, as consumers switch to alternatives.”

The island budget also included a range of tax increases for alcohol, and a 5% increase in tax on all tobacco goods, taking the cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes to just under £5.

Mr Owen said: “The rate of throat cancer on island is one and half times more than the UK, the highest risk factors for throat cancer being smoking and drinking alcohol to excess. This above-inflation increase supports the health service.”

In his speech to Legislative Council on Friday, 21 March 2014, Mr Owen said:

“Madam Speaker this budget is different. It seeks to support not just economic development, but to support SHG’s top priority, health – and not just the health of individuals but that of the nation.

“I do not believe it’s right anymore to sit on the sidelines. We need to grab every opportunity available to support our health and green objectives, and that includes using the tax system to provide appropriate financial incentives. We need to change our tax policies to address the growing number of concerns around diabetes and cancers.”

He said the budget had been compiled by councillors, not just officials, which had brought fresh ideas.

SEE ALSO: 
Killer diabetes puts island under strain, says the Castle
Diabetes cases soar as island struggles with cost of healthcare
My sadness and anger at diabetes crisis, by writer Doreen

Plastic bag tax aims to cut landfill waste

The budget included new taxes of 5p on plastic bags and 1p on styrofoam containers for takeaway foods – both excise taxes, imposed within the island, as opposed to customs duties.

Mr Owen said: “Both products are made from petroleum and are not degradable. St Helena does not have the facilities to dispose of them and they end up in the landfill.

“Roughly 500,000 bags and containers are used per year and this is only likely to increase as tourism grows. Similar policies to reduce use of plastic bags have been very successful in places such as Wales.”

Budget facts

In his budget speech, Mr Owen said:

Prices in island shops rose by only 1.5%, against a forecast of just over 5%. But it was expected to rise during 2014.

The resident population averaged 4,297 people through 2013, and is forecast to reach to nearly 4,500 people in 2014.

More than 360 Saints were working on the airport project and unemployment was at an all-time low, with vacancies in government and the private sector. In total, 550 people were working on the project.

Income tax was set to have raised £3.4 million, some £325k ahead of targets.

Saints are letting out more properties than ever before.

Earnings from customs duties on alcohol and tobacco exceeded targets by £115,000 and £10,000.

The offshore fishing vessel MFV Extractor had been purchased, partly with funds from Enterprise St Helena (ESH) and would soon be leaving Cape Town to fish St Helena’s seamounts.

ESH had assisted in 30 youth training schemes and five public-private partnerships. More than 40 people enrolled as apprentices.

A 30-year planned maintenance programme for government housing began with the rewiring of flats in Jamestown.

Planning permission was granted for 65 homes in Half Tree Hollow, featuring wheelchair access and rainwater harvesting.

Two new “chuck and chew” waste lorries had been procured, along with 1,500 new wheelie bins.

Four conservation and environmental projects, due to start in April 2014, attracted grants worth more than £260,000.

Significant advances were made in standards of education. Almost half of the young people who took GCSEs in 2013 achieved a C grade or better in English and maths.

Mr Owen also said that December 2013 saw the introduction of a Minimum Income Standard. “St Helena should be proud that it is leading the world in ensuring that our benefits system properly reflects the actual costs of living here,” he said.

“This will be reviewed at least annually, with benefits adjusted accordingly – a tangible demonstration of our commitment to protect the most vulnerable from the rising cost of living. But this is only a starting point and we all know that there is much more to do.”

Other recommendations in the Sainsbury Report, commissioned from York University, would be considered over a five-year period – including a child benefit allowance, which the government planned to introduce from April 2015.

But he added: “Bringing benefits up to the level that we all see as desirable will be expensive, and to introduce every proposed reform now would simply be unaffordable.”

A settlement of £13.55 million in UK aid was confirmed on 13 March 2014 - an increase of £150,000 – with a further £4.5 million to cover the running costs refurbishment of the RMS St Helena.

The amount set aside for overseas medical referrals rose to £947,000, more than double the previous year’s figure.

Mr Owen said the budget also reconfirmed the government’s funding for the National Trust, New Horizons, Heritage Society and South Atlantic Media Services, and saw increased funding to SHAPE and the Public Solicitors Office, along with new funding for the Human Rights Office.

European funding of around 21.5 million Euros was likely to be made available for infrastructure development on St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island over the period 2016-20. Specific projects had yet to be formally agreed.

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Not for sale: the shirt worn by ailing Bonaparte on St Helena

A French court has stopped the auction of the shirt that was worn by Napoleon just before he fell into his final coma on St Helena, reports The Guardian.

The sweat-stained garment was one of a number of souvenirs taken back to France by Achille Thomas Archambault, a former horse-breaker who became a member of the fallen emperor’s domestic staff at Longwood.

The items, including a small walking stick and a lock of the emperor’s hair, were due to go under the hammer at Fontainebleau on Sunday, 23 March 2014.

But the servant’s descendants obtained an injunction preventing the sale shortly before it was to take place, fearing the objects would leave France. The newspaper also quotes the auction house, Osenat, saying that various people claim ownership rights, including a government minister.

Read the full story here.

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UK set to respond to accusations on island treasures

The British government is responding to accusations that it has failed to protect vulnerable species in the UK overseas territories. In January 2014, MPs said it had failed to uphold international treaties and did not even know what it was responsible for, or why. “In environmental terms, the 2012 Overseas Territories White Paper was a missed opportunity,” reported the Environmental Audit Committee. The government’s response is due to be published on the committee’s website on Monday 24 March 2014, at 1100.

SEE ALSO: 
UK ‘doesn’t even know’ about island eco threats, say MPs
Sustainability in the UK Overseas Territories – report and links

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Don’t stay too long at St Helena’s craziest attraction…

In seven years of non-stop travelling to more than 140 countries, Gary Arndt has photographed some extraordinary sights: the rainbows over the Victoria Falls, a diving penguin in Antarctica, even human skulls in the killing fields of Cambodia.

But on St Helena, what caught his eye was the parking sign in Jamestown.

Click here to see his picture of what he believed to be “the world’s most complicated parking zone” (and he’s in a good position to judge).

True, he also took pictures of Sandy Bay and Jonathan the tortoise.

Within a couple of days, his shot of the 58-word No Parking sign had been given more than 50 “likes” on Facebook. Catch Our Travel Bug commented: “By the time you read the sign, your time is up.”

St Helena was one of 13 places around the world that Gary most wanted to visit, on a list he published on his Everything Everywhere travel blog in 2011. While on the island, he marked the seventh anniversary of the day he handed over the keys of his house to go travelling. When he left, he told friends he’d wander the world for a year, but privately thought it might be two years.

He’s since taught himself to become an award-winning photographer. His website attracts more than 100,000 readers a year – many of whom will doubtless savour his descriptions of St Helena.

He was not disappointed by a “gorgeous island with some of the most interesting people in the world”.

And perhaps, with the eye of a travel expert, Gary has identified a tourist attraction that hasn’t been properly appreciated by those whose job is to promote St Helena.

World’s Oldest Tortoise, World’s Toughest Stairs and World’s Most Remote Nearly Everything are all great claims to fame, but World’s Craziest Parking Sign might appeal to an entirely new breed of tourist.

Those who cross oceans to see it are unlikely, one feels, to pull up in a car.

 

SEE ALSO: Everything Everywhere – Gary Arndt’s travel blog.

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When Jonathan met Sally – and the story went global

 

Jonathan stares at the camera, beak open wide

Jonathan the tortoise, pictured by Guy Gatien

The BBC’s prestigious From Our Own Correspondent programme evidently has a fascination for St Helena: the island has featured on it at least four times in the space of five years. Judged against the size of the island’s population, this might make it – unofficially – the most interesting place on the planet, in the eyes of one BBC editor, at least.

Strange, then, that the BBC refused to answer a Freedom of Information request a couple of years ago, asking how many programmes it had recorded on St Helena in the 80-plus years of the corporation’s existence.

It claimed the matter was editorially sensitive, but it may well be that it didn’t want to admit that the answer, as far as anyone can recall, would be “none”. Foreign and independent documentary crews have been out, but Britain’s state broadcaster has not done so well.

From Our Own Correspondent, though, has enjoyed rich pickings from the island – this time, with a piece on Jonathan the tortoise, the world’s oldest known living creature.

The full text of Sally Kettle’s piece was published in the St Helena Independent on 14 March 2014 and can be found on her website.

Sally achieved the distinction of having an extract played on BBC Radio 4′s Pick Of The Week programme a couple of days later, when it was introduced with the question, How can you tell whether a 200-year-old tortoise is happy?

Jonathan’s age dropped to a mere 182 in the piece itself (leaving aside the fact that his exact age isn’t known; he could be 20 years younger).

It was Sally’s passionate delivery of her script that really stood out. Click here to listen.

She describes watching Joe the Vet feed Jonathan, whose blindness and blunted beak have made it difficult to find food for himself – but whose greedy hunger almost cost Joe the tip of a finger on one occasion. 

As often reported, the old boy has no difficulty mating, producing what Joe calls “a noise like a loud, harsh escape of steam from a giant battered old kettle, often rounded off with a deep oboe-like grunt.”

Sally reports that her piece was picked up “like crazy” on Twitter, the micro-blogging site.

Her website also includes an interview with the St Helena Wirebird, in which she talks about the visit she made (at two weeks’ notice) to film a documentary about St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension.

She says she can see the benefits of the island’s airport project, including medical support, work opportunities and tourism.

“But I can also appreciate the drawbacks that are perhaps difficult for outsiders to understand,” she says. “I spoke to the head girl at Prince Andrew School and she explained her reticence. She told me that the voyage on the RMS prepares you for the gentleness of the island; it gives you time to think about the journey and appreciate the remoteness the islanders’ experience. When tourists arrive on the plane they will just step off without that appreciation. I can see her point. The trouble is the airport is coming, and I’m not sure everyone is prepared for it.”

SEE ALSO: 
Carnival catcall echoes round the world – St Helena on From Our Own Correspondent
Jonathan the Tortoise on From Our Own Correspondent
Sally Kettle website
Rower Sally heads for islands (the easy way)

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The RMS St Helena casts a light over the water

Click the pic to see the image full-size

Click the pic to see the image full-size

Photographer Christopher Godden has kindly given consent for this site to publish his fine picture of the RMS St Helena at Cape Town, taken from the MSC Sinfonia. Christopher is a member of The Ship Society of South Africa, whose club house in the city’s harbour area has a library of several hundred books and journals on shipping. Christopher says that a party of 30-or-so members of the society are planning a voyage to St Helena in March or April of 2015. Doubtless they’ll enjoy swapping tales with Bruce Salt, the island’s own shipping enthusiast and a much-valued contributor to this site.

SEE ALSO:
The Ship Society of South Africa
Follow Christopher Godden on Twitter

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St Helena Online: out for war, back soon

The wartime journalist Cassandra resumed his Daily Mirror column when peace returned with the words, “As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted…”

It feels a bit like that with St Helena Online, though no one died.

The site has been put out of action by a battle against a grotesque, exploitative plan to build 80 houses in open countryside, just across a quiet lane from the house from which this website is produced.

I don’t expect people on an island 5,000 miles away to share my disgust for the profiteering developer, Charles Church, or the contempt with which it has treated this and other communities – especially people on an island with some severe housing needs. We have only a modest housing need here, and it’s being dealt with.

It has come about because an unscrupulous British Government made an immoral pact with the developers to wreck our planning system, giving our countryside rather less protection than St Helena’s green hills now enjoy.

I have had to abandon my work on this website to play my part in a campaign that has turned out to be rather brilliant, but which has left me exhausted. I’m just about recovering.

I hope, now, to be able to resume work on the site, though it will have to be a low-key project for a while. Mostly, I expect to keep an eye out for interesting things on the web relating to St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, and share them.

My apologies to those who have kept visiting the site in surprisingly large numbers, to find no new content. Thank you for sticking with it.

Simon

 

 

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