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A vast swirl of rubbish: site ranks St Helena with deadly islands

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Buzzfeed tells readers not to visit St Helena. Click the pic to read the piece
Buzzfeed tells readers not to visit St Helena. Click the pic to read the piece

No snakes infest Diana’s Peak National Park, and crocodiles are noticeably absent from The Run in Jamestown. But even without these failings, St Helena still makes it on to a list of deadly tourist destinations to avoid.

And this on Buzzfeed, a globally acclaimed video-sharing website that is aiming to move into serious journalism.

The article, 9 Places You Never Want To Go On Vacation, lists St Helena alongside a poison garden and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a vast swirl of floating plastic rubbish.

Under a picture of Jamestown, it says:

“If you somehow end up in the same place where Napoleon was imprisoned and spent his final days, things are probably going wrong.

“Oh yeah, and there’s no functioning airport, either. The only way you can get on or off the island is via container ships from South Africa. Which only come every few months.”

The piece was originally published in 2012 to help promote a horror movie, but has just resurfaced, 18 months on.

It has drawn an angry reaction from Saints who’ve stumbled across it, including Shelley Phillips. Her comment on the web page reads:

“To see our unique and beautiful island on this list is a disgrace and your reasons for why people should not go to St Helena on a vacation is complete bull.

“Our island is the rarest and most unspoilt place in the world… the island’s isolation is part of its sheer beauty.”

She says the article’s writer should visit the island instead of “sitting behind a computer writing this article and polluting the internet with misinformation”.

Sam Leo calls the slur “outrageous”.

The piece also lists the Brazilian lha de Queimada Grande, an island said to have five deadly snakes per square metre, and Ramree Island, where hundreds of Japanese soldiers were allegedly eaten by saltwater crocodiles during World War II.

Both of those listings have some basis in fact – even if they’re not accurate in every detail.

Buzzfeed is seen as an exciting new development in the media world – and it has ambitions to become a serious news organisation.

Journalism professor George Brock describes it as “a site begun to make it easy for bored people at work to swop silly videos and lists”, but which “is now hiring foreign correspondents and investigative reporters”.

He quotes founder Jonah Peretti describing plans for breaking news coverage and large-scale investigations on “the issues that matter” to the world. Peretti says:

“We, of course, still don’t have the trust the traditional news brands have won over the past 100 years, but we are working hard to earn it, and it won’t take us 100 years to get there.”

The St Helena article also lists a town near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster – which is an odd place to list in a piece about tourist destinations, because no one is allowed to go there.

Jonathan: no hurry to depart his life. Picture: Guy Gatien
We don’t have any crocodiles – will a giant tortoise do? Picture by Guy Gatien

It has been sealed off since the explosion at the plant in 1986.

In fact, the piece has been written to promote a movie, Chernobyl Diaries, about a group of tourists who break into the exclusion zone and are attacked by mutant creatures.

Surprisingly, the piece makes no mention of St Helena’s deadly giant tortoises – the subject of a horror movie yet to come, perhaps?

DON’T READ MORE: 9 places you never want to go on vacation – Buzzfeed

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