St Helena Journal


HMS St Helena mail ship is the lifeline for the remote south Atlantic island of  St Helena and for the next five days and nights I would be a passenger on  the voyage from Cape Town to Jamestown the island tranquil Edwardian capital.

As the ship set sail the views of Table mountain were spectacular as the ship sailed out to sea and the vessel was eagerly followed by an escort of Albatrosses that glided and sailed through the air effortlessly.

Onboard the ship was a collection of over a hundred passengers each with their own reasons for visiting what is perhaps one off the planets truly remote and isolated island territories.

After five continuous days and nights St Helena began to appear in the distant grey cloudy skies as bare rugged volcanic rock began to appear a sight both uninviting and austere.The island looked parched and dry with little if any vegetation.

The islands coastal cliffs were simply raw volcanic layers of different colours surrounded by sharp volcanic peaks and on the shoreline lay the islands small harbour and fortified sea front.

dsc09223Jamestown Anglican church steeple could be seen clearly in the islands  harbour and in the distant dry valley lay the small Edwardian village capital of Jamestown.

My reasons for visiting this south Atlantic outpost was to film the regions rich biodiverse marine underwater life but what makes St Helena of interest is it’s remote location infact the only method of visiting this island is by ship and the HMS St Helena is only one of only two mails ships still in service and operating.
dsc09592St Helena has had an airport built at a cost of £285 million pounds but still not operational due to constant oceanic cross winds and some predict that the  airport may well never be able to except commercial flights.

With the islands tranquil remote isolation life remains pretty much as it always has for the last five hundred years.

The following day after my arrival I was to begin diving below the south Atlantic murky grey waters which were surprisingly rich in marine life with an abundance of fish and soft corals.I had expected the Atlantic waters to be cold but much to my surprise the seas temperature was a reasonable 22  degrees.

Visibility around the island was hampered by an abundance of seasonal  algae and rich oceanic plankton infact the rich biodiverse marine life made every dive a rewarding experience.

dsc09417St Helena is an expensive island destination to visit due to the complicated nature of the ship voyage and the island remote geographical location along with poor mobile phone connection and expensive internet communication.

My last marine objective whilst on the island was to join a local commercial tuna fishing vessel and at 4.00 in the early hours on a grey cool windy morning I set out around the island in a fishing vessel with a three man crew in search of mackerel bait and yellow fin tuna.

The seas surrounding St Helena are alive with abundant fish stocks which are still largely under exploited a rare example in a world of declining commercial fish resources.


During the course of my visit I had planned to interview the islands first female governor but I was also informed that without such an appointment it would be unlikely that I would get to meet the governor,Lisa Phillips.


dsc09669On a grey and overcast day I decided to visit plantation house the governors residence.I had come to see Jonathan the islands resident tortoise and perhaps the planets oldest living creature reputed to be almost two hundred years old.

As the car parked outside the governors residence I made an immediate snap decision to enquire if the governor would be available  to meet.

I was informed by my landlord and driver “don’t make the mistake of knocking on the door unannounced as the governor will not meet without a prior official appointment”.

In-spite of this advice I made my way over a well kept lawn and gravel foot path to the stately mansion and knocked on the impressive front door.


After a short moment a medium height blonde haired woman appeared and asked if I would like to have a tour of the ancient stately house and welcomed me into her distinguished  stately home.

The governor is a warm and welcoming friendly personality and as I was shown around the house I found my legs being profusely licked by her wonderful black labrador companion.dsc09642

After listening to Lisa stories about her previous posting in Kenya I was finally invited to return in order to conduct an interview on St Helena newly declared marine conservation area.

Newly declared conservation areas will eventually cover vast areas of oceanic regions surrounding British overseas territories around the world and this longterm goal can only be described as a positive contribution to global marine conservation.

After a week of visiting the island the HMS St Helena mail ship once more appeared in the harbour having just returned from the more northernly island of Asuncion and

the following day I would be boarding the ship for the five day return journey back to Cape Town.

As I boarded the ship for its final voyage south I found myself standing on the top deck viewing the disappearing image of St Helena as the vessel begun its voyage south and on reflection only two words came to mind which would sum up my  journey to this distant and obscure volcanic peak known as the island of St Helena – “interesting and unique”.