18 Apr 2018

18 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty: A Run Ashore At St Helena (Part 1)

Finally, it was my turn to get onto a zodiac to go ashore on the first morning to explore St Helena. I was looking forward to seeing this interesting British Overseas territory. St Helena was discovered in 1502 by Portuguese sailor Joao da Nova on his return from India. In true fashion of the day, the Portuguese introduced animals, mainly Goats, but also Pigs, Rats, Cats & Dogs. Also, they introduced fruit trees & left a few sick sailors there. However, they didn't establish a permanent settlement. The island was used as a useful refuelling stopover as it had a plentiful supply of fresh water. Sir Francis Drake is believed to have been the first English explorer to see the island on his round the world voyage of 1577 - 1580. The next English man to visit was Thomas Cavendish who stayed for 12 days in 1588. With the island becoming better known to the English, English privateers started to raid Portuguese & Spanish ships on their way from the Far East. As a result, the Portuguese & Spanish ships stopped visiting St Helena. The Dutch went on to claim St Helena in 1633, but again didn't formally occupy the island. Finally, the East India Company were given a charter to govern the island by Olivier Cromwell in 1657 & they quickly went on to fortify & colonise the island. In 1660, the fort was renamed James Fort & the town as Jamestown following the restoration of the monarchy when James II became the King. It is now the second oldest British colony (after Bermuda). Within a couple of decades, the colonists had managed to clear most of the surviving indigenous forest, helped by the impacts of the introduced animals. A census in 1723, put the population at just over 1100, including just over 600 slaves. By 1800, the garrison had increased to 1000 soldiers. Following the capture of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo, the British chose St Helena to imprison him. Having previously escaped from the island of Elba in the Mediterranean, the British had no desire to see him escape again. He lived on the island until his death in May 1821. In 1834, St Helena was formally transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown. In 1997, St Helena was changed to be a British Overseas Territory. The current population was 4255 in 2008.
Finally, ashore on the quayside: Note, the cliffs are protected to stop rocks failing
The quayside buildings: These buildings would have been replaced long ago with bland concrete replacements had they been in the UK
Java Sparrow: There were a few grovelling around the containers. Assuming they are not causing an environmental problem in St Helena, it is perhaps good they are established here, given they are severely persecuted for the Indonesian Bird trade
Another old land rover that has lasted well
The memorial to the crew lost in the sinking of the RFA Darkdale
Even the two world wars affected St Helena with islanders killed servicing with UK forces
The Ladder Hill Fort
I'm always happy to see some old defensive gun emplacements
The fort entrance gate
The fort entrance gate: Good to see the old historical look hasn't changed
All terribly British
The main high street & church
The local bobby gets to deal with some awkward repobates at times
Jacob's Ladder: I quickly left Glenn & the others and headed to climb Jacob's Ladder. This was originally constructed in 1829 to connect the town with the garrison in the Ladder Hill Fort above to allow transportation of goods between the two sites. Originally, there was a two carriage tramway, as well as, the steps. However, due to termite damage from introduced termites the carriages were removed in 1871. There are 699 steps at an average incline of 40%. I can testify that it is a steep old climb & just as tough on the knees coming back down. Still it had to be climbed
Christophe Gouraud: The French member of the expedition staff. He wisely walked down the gentle, but long slope of the road to the town. I walked back down the steps & it took 2 or 3 days for the knees to recover from the fast walk back down
Anne's Place cafe & bar: This looked a good place to grab a bite. The staff were great & we kept returning for food & drink whilst we were ashore. Wifi attracted some of the passengers, but having told family & friends I was going to be out of contact for the whole voyage, I wasn't bothered about email updates
Only 100 steps & I needed a breather to take a photo
View over the town: The town has retained its great old-fashioned look
Jacob's Ladder: The halfway point, although it seemed I had got further up
Common Myna: With the Plancius in the background
The hillside has a few plants growing on it: All of the big ones looked introduced to my non-plant eyes
Prickly Pear: This is a native of the Southern US, Mexico & South America. It was introduced around the British empire as it provided a good dark red dye. The fruits are edible (if you can remove all the spines) & it can also be made into a drink. However, it is generally regarded as a weed on St Helena these days
Jacob's Ladder: Obviously, I only stopped to have my photo taken, not as an excuse for a break
Jacob's Ladder: Some of the steps are in need of repair
Jacob's Ladder: Just another 150 steps to the top. The current record to ascend the 180 metres in elevation is 5 minutes, 16 seconds. My 15 minutes including Birding time
The view over the bay & the town: The steps are as steep as they look
Another view of the town
The upper town
Part of the fortifications at the top of the steps
The defences on the other side of the steps
The final step
The full panoramic view of Jamestown
When I got to the top I found Christophe photographing the introduced Yellow Canaries
Yellow Canary: Male on the left & female/immature on the right
Yellow Canary: Male. This introduced species is a resident from Angola to South Africa. They really are cracking when seen well
Some of the buildings at the top of the steps
The close building retained its Royal Engineers emblem
This building looks to have had a very colonial history
The Ladder Hill Fort
A good military flag post
The Ladder Hill Fort: It doesn't look like it has changed much since it was built (if you take away the street furniture)
Some of the barracks within the Ladder Hill Fort
This looks like an old gun emplacement: Which is being turned into a garden
The hills around Jamestown are dry & barren
Zebra Dove: Another introduced species. The native range occurs from Burma, through Thailand, Malaysia to Indonesian Sumatra, Java to Lombok. They also occur in the Philippines
Finally, it was time to face the walk down the steps: It was that steep it was good to have the railings to hang onto. I almost made it down in one go without stopping, but ended up spending a minute photographing the Madagascar Red Fody
Madagascar Red Fody: A male just moulting into full plumage