Anywhere else in the world, to speak of filling a gut would be considered less than polite. Not on St Helena.
It’ll be an international cause for celebration when the eight millionth tonne of rock is tipped into the last dimple of Dry Gut, ready to carry the island’s first airport runway across what was once a deep ravine.
Two years on from the announcement of agreement for Basil Read to build the island’s first airport, on 3 November 2011, the construction team is doggedly getting there, one truckload at a time.
To mark the second anniversary of the signing of the contract, St Helena Online has published an Airport Timeline, charting the 68-year struggle to secure funding and political approval for the project. Start reading it here.
Basil Read has also released three pictures of work in progress on Prosperous Bay Plain. Click on the thumbnails below to see larger versions.
Deon de Jager, the company’s island-based director, noted that all critical milestones to date had been met within a couple of days of the planned dates. The team should reflect on its work with pride, he said.
The filling of Dry Gut is expected to reach the half-way mark in mid November 2013. As the fill has to cover an ever-widening area, so the height reached creeps ever more slowly upwards.
In the meantime, work continues on building the terminal buildings, as well as on the access road and a bulk fuel installation at Rupert’s Valley.
A public consultation is currently under way on new proposals for a permanent wharf in Rupert’s Bay.
But progress has also been made on an “ambitious reform programme” promised by St Helena Government as a condition of UK funding, said policy director Susan O’Bey.
New policies have been brought in for selling off government land and encouraging development, immigration and investment. The benefits system has been reviewed, the Basic Island Pension has been introduced, and a national minimum wage is shortly to be brought it.
St Helena Online has been advised that steps are also being taken to address the “injustice”, as campaigners call it, of Saints being denied pensions on St Helena for the years they worked on Ascension, helping to shore up the economy of their home island.
Housing executive Andy Crowe is understood to be seeking ways to bring down the cost of imported building materials, as part of a drive to build new housing on St Helena – including the first new social housing for many years.
AIRPORT TIMELINE: Click here to read the story of the airport, from the arrival of the first surveyors in 1943 to the historic signing of the construction contract in 2011. The project will be updated and pictures will be added as time allows.