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In the media

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)

Writer says Michel deserves top honour for Napoleon role

Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, and Napoleon at a Legion d'Honneur presentation. Click the pic to see the painting in full
Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, and Napoleon at a Legion d’Honneur presentation. Click the pic to see the painting in full

Film star Clint Eastwood has one, and so has the singer Bob Dylan; and now a writer on Napoleon says Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, custodian of the emperor’s homes on St Helena, deserves to receive France’s highest honour.

 

Andrew Roberts makes the tongue-in-cheek nomination in an article for Britain’s Spectator magazine, after visiting the island to research a biography.

“Napoleon’s house at Longwood in the Deadwood Plain is kept up superbly,” he writes, “despite the fact that, as the curator and French honorary consul Michel Dancoisne-Martineau points out, just as in Napoleon’s day it’s enveloped in cloud for 330 days of the year, with all the problems of damp that that implies.

Click the pic to see the full article
Click the pic to see the full article

“Monsieur Martineau deserves the Legion d’Honneur for the years of love and attention he has dedicated to Longwood, which now looks exactly the same as it did on 5 May 1821, the day of Napoleon’s death.”

The Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur was established by Napoleon Bonaparte himself on 19 May 1802, with five degrees, from Chevalier (Knight) to Grand Croix (Grand Cross).

The order’s motto is Honneur et Patrie (“Honour and Fatherland”).

 

Michel was toasted at a party in November 2012 to celebrate 25 years as custodian of the Napoleonic properties on St Helena.

The tourism department on the island may not be so taken with another line in Andrew Roberts’s article, referring to Longwood suffering “the same infestations of rats, cockroaches, midges, termites and mosquitoes that plagued the emperor.”

He writes: “The diving and hiking are said to be great, but I wasn’t sold on the plans to turn the island into one of the world’s greatest bamboo exporters. And before any of the 30,000 tourists turn up, they are going to have to extend the total of hotel bedrooms available (presently standing at an impressive 18).

Michel and tourism chief Mike cut cakes in 2012
Michel and tourism chief Mike cut cakes in 2012

He continues: “Saints have rather a schizoid attitude towards Napoleon; he is the only reason most people have heard of their island, yet it equates it in the public imagination with remoteness, exile and death.

“Many of the population are descended from slaves, and they complain that their ancestors weren’t consulted about him being sent there by the colonialist government in London.

“If they had been consulted though, I bet they’d have voted to take Napoleon, and enjoy their 15 minutes of world fame.

“They certainly wouldn’t otherwise have been able to sell little bars of soap in the shape of Napoleon’s head, such as the one that [the Times journalist] Michael Binyon kindly gave me (perhaps as a hint?).”

Click here to read the full article – with a cartoon of Napoleon lying on a map of St Helena

LINK: Legion d’Honneur

SEE ALSO: 
Napoleon rides down Main Street: St Helena’s Day 2013
Michel celebrates 25 years as French Consul

 

 

Intrepid South Africans playing key role in St Helena airport adventure

The first plane to officially land at St Helena’s new airport – the first airport in the island’s more than 500 years of human habitation – is scheduled to do so in February 2016.

Saints Take To Flight
Saints Take To Flight

Building an Airport by Ship

Jimmy Johnston says the biggest challenge in building St Helena Airport has been creating and maintaining an efficient logistics chain.

There are no capital equipment dealers on St Helena, no cement plants and no brick factories. Almost everything, excluding rock, water and a large portion of the workforce necessary to construct the airport, has to be brought to the island.

To make this happen, Basil Read chartered a 2 500 t ocean-going vessel for a period of three years. However, there was no direct landing infrastructure on the island, and limited mooring facilities at the seafront of the capital, Jamestown.

Read More: Engineering News

Batelco completes buyout of Cable & Wireless; includes Falklands, St Helena and Ascension services

Now let’s see what greater synergies and pricing are brought to the island to benefit the community.

Batelco Group (Ticker: BATELCO), the regional telecommunications operator headquartered in Bahrain, today announced the finalisation of its recent acquisition of various companies from Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), which comprise its Monaco and Islands Division.

Batelcos Group Chief Executive Shaikh Mohamed bin Isa Al Khalifa and CWC announced that, following the agreement entered into with CWC on 2 Dec 2012, all necessary regulatory approvals and conditions precedent have now been satisfied and ownership of specific companies has now been transferred to Batelco, effective today.

“As a result of this deal and the further diversification of our business we have the opportunity to deliver greater innovation and value to our customers across many markets whilst also enhancing our ability to maintain strong levels of profitability and to deliver on our commitments to shareholders,” concluded Shaikh Mohamed.

Press release
More about Batelco

Astronaut chases a white herring

By Guy Gatien

So, International Space Station Astronaut Chris Hadfield—commander of Expedition 35, so you better take him seriously, folks—tweeted a picture of a certain volcanic island in the Atlantic that looks like the head of a giant fishbone skeleton made of clouds.

Still with me? Well, see for yourself:

Canadian Astronaut, currently living in space aboard the International Space Station as Commander of Expedition 35. http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/default.asp

SEE ALSO:
Swirling spectacle over St Helena – visible from space
Swirling clouds over St Helena, photographed from space

LINK:
Amazing gallery of images by Commander Chris Hadfield 

Mantis to Develop New Hotel on Saint Helena, Island in South Atlantic

Mantis, a collection of privately owned boutique hotels and eco escapes around the world, announces its latest project will be the development of a five star hotel on the island of Saint Helena, a British overseas territory located in the South Atlantic Ocean.



View from Ladder Hill Fort
View from Ladder Hill Fort

As one of the most remote places in the world, more than 1,200 miles from the nearest major landmass and with its rich flora and fauna, the island certainly fits with Mantis’ mantra of “unearthing the exceptional”.

A team of six from Mantis, including founder and chairman Adrian Gardiner, visited the island in January of this year and identified Ladder Hill Fort as the location for the five star hotel, which will have 45 bedrooms, including 10 self-catering units, a restaurant, spa and fitness facilities.

Read more at: Luxury Travel Magazine or view the Mantis Collection.

Isle of Man work placement for remote island residents

Two residents from one of the most remote group of islands in the world have begun a four-month work placement in the Isle of Man.

Martin and Iris Green have travelled from the volcanic island of Tristan Da Cunha in the south Atlantic ocean.

Each will be given experience of various areas of Manx life which relate to their professions at home.

A government spokesman said the scheme is part of the Isle of Man’s commitment towards international development.

Tristan Da Cunha is a British Overseas Territory located 1,750 miles from South Africa and 1,500 miles from the nearest land mass of St Helena. The volcanic island is accessible only by a seven-day boat journey from Cape Town and has a population of 260.

Mr Green works with the island’s agriculture department and Mrs Green heads up the island’s Post Office and Philatelic Bureau.

Bulletins go live – before radio switch-on

News bulletins from St Helena’s newest media organisation are now going out on the airwaves – before it has even launched its first radio station.

The St Helena Broadcasting Corporation has been publishing audio bulletins on its website since April, but now it has arranged for them to be transmitted on Radio St Helena – the station its services will eventually replace.

In recent weeks, Radio St Helena has been sharing material with its former rival, the independently-owned Saint FM.

The SHBC bulletins go out at 5pm, 8pm, 10pm and again at 7am, local time (Greenwich Mean Time).

SHBC is a “community-owned” company, set up and funded by St Helena Government with the aim of becoming financially self-sufficient as the island’s economy grows. It also publishes The Sentinel newspaper.

SEE ALSO:
Media saga takes new twist as Mike plans more radio stations

LINK:
SHBC webcasts

Gays who served in Falklands War tell of their pride

Gay men weren’t allowed to serve in the Royal Navy back in 1982, but that didn’t stop some homosexuals sailing off to service in the Falklands War, reports the Pink News website.

It tells of Roy “Wendy” Gibson, who declined the chance to leave his ship when it was commandeered to join the British Task Force. Instead, he kept spirits up among the Paras by playing hits on his pink piano. Barbra Straisand went down a storm.

The site tells how openly gay stewards on civilian vessels worked under fire, gave blood, trained to operate guns, and volunteered in the ships’ hospitals.

Their presence has not been acknowledged in official histories, says Pink News, “but they value their campaign medals and feel proud that they didn’t turn back when offered the opportunity at Ascension Island.”

The Mirror website in the UK also tells of the bravery of Falkland Islanders who used their tractors to transport arms and equipment under the eyes of their Argentinain invaders, risking their lives.

SEE ALSO:
Falkland Islanders gather in snow to mark 30 years of freedom

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