Tag Archives: Round the World Cruise

St Helena Island ~ An Island of Exile

Saint Helena Island, named after Saint Helena of Constantinople, is an island of volcanic origin in the South Atlantic Ocean 1,200 miles off the southwestern coast of Africa. It is one of the most isolated islands in the world and has, for centuries, been an important port of call for ships. Saint Helena measures about 10 by 5 miles, has a population of 4,255, and is the second oldest remaining British territory, after Bermuda.

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Our ship anchored in the harbor and we took tenders to Jamestown, which is the main town of the island. This seaport is nestled in a deep valley and has an interesting heritage. Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Captain Bligh, Edmund Halley, Charles Darwin and Captain James Cook have all walked the streets of this city which tells of colonial conquest, slavery, idealist ideals, the age of sailing ships, war and exile. This is a unique town that boldly brings the past into the present.

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Aerial view of Jamestown

Portuguese sailors sighted the uninhabited island in 1502, but kept the island’s location a secret. They formed no permanent settlement there, but imported livestock, fruit trees, and vegetables, thus providing an important supply point for their ships. In 1588, the English (Captain Thomas Cavendish) visited St. Helena and it became an important port of call for English ships sailing between Europe and the East Indies.

The Dutch occupied St. Helena for a time during the mid 1600’s, but the English took control again in 1659, only to lose it back to the Dutch in 1672. Finally, in 1673, the East India Company reestablished its control of the Island until 1834.

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The British also used the island as a place of exile, most notably for Napoleon I. After Napoleon’s successful escape from Elba Island in the Mediterranean and his subsequent recapture, the British government selected Saint Helena as the place of detention for Napoleon Bonaparte. He was brought to the island in October 1815. His residence at Longwood had not been completed by the time he arrived, so he stayed with a British family at their home. He got along well with the family, but complained about his treatment by the authorities. Among his gripes: he thought he should be allowed to ride a horse unsupervised and felt the British Governor should address him as “your majesty.” He surely plotted escape, but he never made it. He died on May 5, 1821. In 1840, Napoleon’s body was moved to Paris.

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Longwood House ©Michel Dancoisne-Martineau

Jacob’s Ladder, a prominent feature of Jamestown, was constructed in 1829 and includes 699 steps cut into the stone leading up from the lower area to a garrison fort atop Ladder Hill. Soldiers had to haul ammunition and supplies up the staircase. A fairly large residential area has developed up there recently, but Jamestown is the commercial, business and governmental center of the island. Several people from the ship did climb up and down the ladder, but we both avoided that challenge that is said “to break your heart going up and break your neck coming down.” A road winds and climbs back and forth across the face of the steep hill. A beautifully restored 18th century provisions warehouse is now a museum that Barb planned to visit but ran out of time and energy before getting there.

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When allowed we boarded the tender and went ashore. On our trip we got a good look at the look at the mail ship named the St. Helena who was anchored in the bay to unload the supplies and goods destined for the island as well as pick up and deliver mail and passengers. The ship leaves here and goes to Ascension Island and Cape Town, South Africa before it returns to the islands and heads north to Southampton, England to complete its circular route. The cargo is offloaded by crane onto barges and brought to shore and ships provide the only link with the outside world, as there is no airport here.

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Mail Boat

After getting to shore we walked to town. Along the harbor we passed the yacht club, and a barrel-vaulted building that was once used as a mortuary extensively during the 18th and 19th centuries.

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We walked past the Castle and through the town gates on which the crest of the British East India Company was displayed on one side and within the town the picture of the endangered wire bird was depicted. The original castle of St. John was built-in 1659 when the English took possession of the island. Most of the rest of the present buildings were constructed in the 1860s to replace those damaged by termites brought to the island via a salvaged Brazilian slave ship. Today it serves as the administrative center of the St Helena government.

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The mule yard is to the left of the town gates and this is where early residents tethered their pack animals (mules and donkeys).

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Speaking of vehicles, there are not a large number of them with a population of only 4,000 people on the entire island. So the license plate numbering system was not the least bit complicated.

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We enjoyed walking around the town and had lunch at Ann’s Place – a local restaurant behind the Castle Gardens. The restaurant ceiling was decorated with flags from around the world and sage advice adorned the walls.

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Afterwards, while Barb was taking some pictures in the gardens, MJ wandered off and the next time Barb saw her, she had her arms full of bubble wrap and was heading back to the ship.

One of the unusual buildings Barb saw was “The Market” that is a prefabricated cast-iron building that was shipped to the island in 1865 and assembled. The building sits on railroad rails and contains several stalls for selling various products.

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Barb continued to walk up and down the streets of Jamestown taking photographs of the town and its people.

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About 3 PM Barb found herself near St. James Church and decided to attend the communion service at the Anglican (Episcopal) church being offered for the ship’s passengers. St. James is the oldest Anglican church in the southern hemisphere and dates from 1772. It was built near the site of the original Portuguese chapel and replaced earlier churches. It was a nice service and about 100 of our fellow passengers took part. The Bishop of Cardiff (Wales) was substituting for the parish priest who was in a hospital off of the island.

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Afterwards Barb returned to the ship and later enjoyed taking sunset pictures of the island as we departed for Ascension Island.

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Ringing the Bells to Say Goodbye to Australia

When I attended the Perth shore excursion lecture on the ship, the pictures of the Bell Tower that is located on Perth’s Esplanade intrigued me. So I took the early morning train from Fremantle up to Perth. I chose to walk from the central train station down to the Barracks Street ferry dock where the Bell Tower is located. During my walk it was fun to see all the new construction that is progressing in Perth, quite a blend of the old and the new.

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According to the pamphlet that the site provided, the Swan Bells residing in Perth’s Bell Tower come from one of London’s most famous churches, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalger Square. Many of the christenings within the Royal Family have been conducted at St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

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The Bells of St Martin have rung out over the past 600 years to mark historic occasions, including England’s 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada, Captain James Cook’s homecoming in 1771 and World War II victories. They have welcomed in the New Year for more than 275 years and rang more recently for the September 11 and Bali bombing tragedies.

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The twelve bells of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London were given to the people of Western Australia, the University of Western Australia, and the city of Perth to commemorate Australia’s bicentenary in 1988.

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These twelve bells were cast between 1725 and 1770. An additional five specially cast bells were also presented, including one from the City of London, with help given by the City of Westminster, and three bells bestowed by a consortium of British and Australian mining companies. Completing the ring of eighteen, a sixth new bell was commissioned by the Western Australian government. This completed Western Australia’s Millennium Project, the Swan Bells.

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Above and below are pictures of the eighteen bells when at rest, upside down. The Bell ringers put each bell into this position when they have finished their duties on the Bells. It is not as easy as it looks to ring the bells using ropes two floors beneath the location of the bells.

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The Bell ringing volunteers are all members of St. Martin’s Society of Change Ringers. They practice their art at the Bell Tower, which is the first designated Ringing Centre outside the United Kingdom. If you are a fan of the British television series Midsomer Murders, there was an early episode that was staged around the bell ringers’ competition between local villages. It was watching that episode that piqued my interest in the art of bell ringing. Little did I know I would have the opportunity to have a go at it. But I was fortunate enough to be available for bell ringing instruction when one of the volunteers showed up unscheduled. It was great fun! And the lady gave me a certificate for my memory book too.

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I also found the Bell Tower to be very interesting, architecturally, so I spent some time having fun with my camera taking pictures at all angles. Hope you enjoy them.

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Packing for 103 days is challenging

Packing for a trip that is 103 days long is quite an undertaking especially when you take into account that the temperature range on our trip will be a low of 32 and a high of 100 degrees.

Plus we have 43 formal nights, 23 semi formal nights, and the remainder is elegant casual.  (Now if we had known ahead of time there were so many formal nights, these 3 farm girls would have bolted out the barn door.)

Add to that the fact that each of us has just 22-1/2 inches of hanging space in our cabin closet.  And then there is the weight and size restrictions the airlines have set on all checked luggage.

Plus we have to store our suitcases under our beds in the cabin (no trunk storage room) and the clearance under the bed is just 11-3/4 inches, so some suitcases did not make the team.

Each requirement has been a challenge, but we think we have it somewhat under control.  I did a practice run, packing as much stuff as I could in my large suitcase and then did an analysis of what was left over for the second suitcase.

Luggage Concierge Service up in New York is going to handle our luggage transfers. We shall each ship 2 suitcases via UPS ground a week ahead of time.  The luggage service will then take the bags from UPS and store them until the day we sail and deliver them to the ship for us.

Cunard will place them in our cabins, so even if we miss the ship because of bad weather getting to New York City, our luggage will enjoy a leisurely trip with out us down to Fort Lauderdale where we will have another chance to catch up with the ship.