Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

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Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Overseas territory of the United Kingdom
Anthem: God Save the Queen
Capital Jamestown
15°56′S 5°43′W / 15.933°S 5.717°W / -15.933; -5.717
Official languages English
Demonym
  • St. Helenian
  • Ascensionian
  • Tristanian
Government British Overseas Territory
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Governor Mark Andrew Capes
 -  Administrator of Ascension Island Colin Wells
 -  Administrator of Tristan da Cunha Sean Burns
 -  Responsible Ministera (UK) Mark Simmonds MP
Dependent territory of the United Kingdom
 -  St Helena charter granted 1657 
 -  East India Company rule ends 22 April 1834[1] 
 -  Ascension added 12 September 1922 
 -  Tristan da Cunha added 12 January 1938 
 -  Current constitution 1 September 2009 
Area
 -  Total 420 km2
162 sq mi 
Population
 -  2012 census 7,728 (219th)
 -  Density 13.4/km2
34.7/sq mi
Currency (SHP)
Time zone GMT (UTC+0)
Drives on the left
Calling code
Internet TLD
a. For the Overseas Territories.
b. Tristan da Cunha.

Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha is a British Overseas Territory. It is in the South Atlantic Ocean and is made up of the island of Saint Helena, Ascension Island and the island group called Tristan da Cunha. In total, there are eight islands and the main is St Helena with a total area for the territory of 308 square kilometres (119 sq mi).[2]

It was known as Saint Helena and Dependencies until 1 September 2009. At that time a new constitution gave an equal status to all the islands in the territory.[1]

History[change | edit source]

Of volcanic origin, the islands of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha were all formerly separate colonies of the English crown, though separately discovered by several Portuguese explorers between 1502 and 1504.

Portuguese discovery[change | edit source]

Going to India, in May 1501, the Portuguese admiral João da Nova saw the Ascension island in the South Atlantic. [N 1][3] On his return journey, Nova is said to have discovered the South Atlantic island of St Helena on 21 May 1502, the feast day of Helena of Constantinople.[N 2][4][5][6]

Another Portuguese, Tristan da Cunha (Portuguese: Tristão da Cunha) discovered a group of islands in 1506 and gave its name to the principal island of the group (Portuguese: Ilha de Tristão da Cunha) but it was soon changed to Tristan da Cunha.[3]

The Portuguese found that nobody was living in the St Helena island, with forests and fresh water. They built a timber chapel in the valley where later Jamestown was built.Though they formed no permanent settlement, the island became very important for ships coming from Asia and going back to Europe.[7]

English and British colonisation[change | edit source]

St Helena : Jamestown bay in 1858.

During the first years of the 16th century, the island of St Helena was used as a place to stop by the Portuguese, Dutch, English and French on their way to India and other Asian countries.

The Netherlands took St Helena from 1645 to 1659. In 1657, the English East India Company was given a permit to govern St Helena by Oliver Cromwell,[7] and the following year the Company decided to colonise the island with farmers. The first governor, Captain John Dutton, arrived in 1659, and it is from this date that St Helena claims to be Britain’s second oldest (remaining) colony (after Bermuda). A fort was completed and a number of houses were built. After the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, the East India Company received a Royal permit to start a colony in the island. The fort was named James Fort and the town Jamestown, in honour of the Duke of York, later King James II of England.

In 1815, the British government decided to use the island of St. Helena as a place of detention for Napoleon Bonaparte. To prevent any attempt to escape from the nearby islands, they formally annexed the islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. In 1821, Napoleon died on the island of St Helena.

On 22 April 1834, the island of St Helena became a colony of the British crown. In 1922, the Ascension then was attached as a dependency followed by the Tristan da Cunha Island 12 January 1938 .

During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the island of St. Helena served as camp for about 5,000 prisoners of war.

During the Second World War, the Ascension was leased to the United States who established a base for their airplanes.

In 1961, a volcanic eruption on Tristan da Cunha forced authorities to evacuate the entire population of the island to the United Kingdom. The people of Tristan da Cunha could not return to the island until 1963.

Geography[change | edit source]

Map of the Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha territory

There is a huge distance between the northern and the southern points of the territory. The northern-most island, Ascension, is at latitude 7° 56' S of the equator and the southern-most island, Gough Island is at 40° 19' S. Between St Helena and Tristan da Cunha is the Tropic of Capricorn. The distance between the northern tip of Ascension Island and the southern tip of Gough Island is 2,263 miles (3,642 km). The whole territory lies in the Western Hemisphere and has the same time zone: Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight saving time is not observed.

There are eight islands in the Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha territory:

Ascension has a warm, arid climate, but it is more moderated (and arid near the sea) in St Helena; Tristan da Cunha is much cooler. The highest point of the territory is Queen Mary's Peak on the island of Tristan da Cunha, with an elevation of 2,062 m (6,765 ft) above sea level.

Although all three parts of the territory were formed by volcanic activity, only the Tristan da Cunha group of islands are active at the moment.

Administrative divisions[change | edit source]

Administratively, the territory is divided into the same three parts as the territory's geography, namely Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. Each is governed by a council. The Governor of the territory is the representative of the British monarch across the territory and presides over the St Helena Legislative Council, while he or she is represented by an Administrator on Ascension Island and an Administrator on Tristan da Cunha that preside over these two areas' Island Councils.

Administrative
area
Area
(km²)[2]
Area
sq mi
Population
Census 2008
Administrative
centre
 Saint Helena 122 47 4 255 Jamestown
 Ascension Island 88 35 1 122 Georgetown
 Tristan da Cunha 98 80 284 Edinburgh of the Seven Seas
Total 420 162 6 563 Jamestown

The island of St Helena is divided into eight districts.

People[change | edit source]

With a population of 6,567 inhabitants in the census of 1998 (estimated to be 7,754 in 2013), the territory appears as one of the least populated British territory. The largest city of the territory is the capital, Jamestown, with a population of 1,000 in 2009.[2]

Approximately 50% of the population are of African origin while the descendants of Europeans (British and Scandinavian) and Chinese each represent a quarter of the population.[2]

The inhabitants are mostly Anglicans, but there are Baptists, Adventists and Catholics.[2]

Economy[change | edit source]

The islands had a very simple economy the mid-1960s, mainly based on the culture of New Zealand flax, a plant of the genus Phormium, that was used to produce fibers and ropes. Agriculture is now mainly for food, except for a bit of coffee.

Fishing remains the only really important activity on the island, but the territory is almost entirely supported by the help from United Kingdom, particularly through the U.S. and British facilities in the Ascension Island, which employ about 25% of the population.

The tourism industry in St Helena is not well developed and is based on the fact that Napoleon lived and died here.

Related pages[change | edit source]

Notes[change | edit source]

  1. Nova originally named it ilha da Conceição (Conception Island). When Afonso de Albuquerque sighted the island again in 1503, on Ascension Day, he renamed it after that day.
  2. Given this is the feast day used by the Greek Orthodox Church, it has been argued that the discovery was made on 18 August, the feast day used by the Roman Catholic Church. It has also been suggested that the island may not have been discovered until 30 July 1503 by a group of ships under the command of Estêvão da Gama and that da Nova actually discovered Tristan da Cunha on the feast day of St Helena.

References[change | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Constitution Order 2009 "...the transfer of rule of the island to His Majesty's Government on 22 April 1834 under the Government of India Act 1833, now called the Saint Helena Act 1833" (Schedule Preamble)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "CIA World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. 22 April 2013. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tk.html. Retrieved 2 May 12013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Albuquerque, Afonso de (2001). The commentaries of the great Afonso Dalboquerque, second viceroy of India, Adamant Media Corporation, p.xx. Issue 55. ISBN 1-4021-9511-7
  4. A.H. Schulenburg, 'The discovery of St Helena: the search continues'. Wirebird: The Journal of the Friends of St Helena, Issue 24 (Spring 2002), pp.13–19.
  5. Leite, Duarte, História dos Descobrimentos, Vol. II (Lisbon: Edições Cosmos, 1960), 206.
  6. de Montalbodo, Paesi, Nuovamente Retovati & Nuovo Mondo da Alberico Vesputio Fiorentino Intitulato (Venice: 1507).
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Historical Chronology" (txt). St Helena website. http://www.sthelena.se/history/cron.txt. Retrieved 2 May 12013.

Other websites[change | edit source]