Day 44, Tuesday, April 8, Jamestown, St. Helena

The Crystal Symphony is in Hong Kong. The Crystal Serenity is at sea from Takoradi, Ghana to Dakar, Senegal.

When I started my walk today it was cloudy but there were lights up ahead, as we were making our approach to St. Helena. The island was discovered in 1502 and for many years was a resupply stop for ships passing between Europe and Asia in the days before construction of the Suez Canal. It is probably most noted for the exile of Napoleon to the island 1815-21. Today it is quite a sleepy little town with a population of about 4,000.

About 1,000 ships a year called at St. Helena in the glory days but now visits are rare. Today was a doubleheader as the RMS Saint Helena was in port this morning. The boat arrives about every 3 weeks on a run starting in Cape Town and calling on Walvis Bay, Saint Helena, and Ascension, carrying people, mail, and containers of cargo. Like us, the Saint Helena was parked out in the harbor and everything was taken to or from the ship in small flatbed motor launches, moved between pier, launch, and ship by large cranes. The island will change dramatically in the next few years as a new runway is now under construction.

The harbor is too deep for an anchor so we stopped and set the computers to keep the ship drifting in place, and tendering started very slowly about 8. I got a tender ticket about 8:10, was not called for over an hour, and it was close to 10 when I landed on shore. There was quite a swell at the little dock and disembarking people from the tenders was pretty tough.

The 5×10 mile island is volcanic and rises sharply from the shore with Jamestown sitting in a small valley. Leaving town requires making quite a steep ascent.

For a pedestrian, the most efficient way of doing that is Jacobs Ladder. It was built in 1829 as an inclined plane used to move manure out of town and bring agricultural products grown on the plateau down to market. It was originally powered by mules. Today it is strictly a stairway with 699 steps each rising about 11 inches. A village and old fortifications stand at the top.

Getting to the top took me about a half hour, constantly pausing to catch my breath. The trip down was quicker, and seemed relatively easy but when I got back to sea level my legs were so rubbery I thought I would fall. After several minutes I could sort of walk, but even several hours later my walk is not right.

It was probably not the right day to have a walking tour, but I did. Starting at noon at the tender pier our guide Basil took us around the town and talked about life here. The biggest difference here is of course isolation with the Saint Helena the island’s only reliable link to the outside world. While generally self governing, the residents are UK citizens, and the UK pays about half the budget and provides military protection. There is a 12-person legislature, 5 of whom are in the cabinet.

We went in through the old fortress gate and Basil took us to the base of Jacob’s ladder and demonstrated the easy way down, a slide on the banisters, and pointed out the museum where a model of the inclined plane was displayed. Prominent in the town square are the jail (ancient but Basil says used for drunks on weekends) and St. James Church, the oldest Anglican Church in the Southern Hemisphere. Across the road were the court house (it doubles as the legislative chamber) and the Castle, which now holds government offices.

Most ships have a place where plaques representing their ports of call are displayed. I understand that this is normally part of an exchange, but we rarely see the ones given to the town by the ship. Several were displayed in the Castle. I did not see any from Holland America, but easily spotted the one for the Crystal Symphony’s 1997 maiden call. (I just found the Amsterdam’s for her maiden call in Baltimore on Deck 1 at the midship elevators).

Our final stop was the Consulate hotel, where we were given tea and I stayed to use the wifi. The hotel’s satellite internet was not a lot cheaper or faster than the ships, but it was enough better to update my antivirus software and to do some research on a Fire Department tax issue. I returned to the ship and had a late lunch about 3:30.

I think sailaway was a bit ahead of our 5PM time and Captain Jonathan had a surprise for us. We are deviating a bit west and will attempt a brief call (or at least a scenic sailby) at Ascension Island on Thursday.

The evening entertainment was the Divas of Motown. An exciting port day had also been pretty draining and I slept through most of it. I also attempted this post after the show and woke from a nap at my computer screen about 11 with a very unfinished post.
My photo blog entry will be especially delayed since I missed the time where the internet was least awful.

My parting shot changed a little since I didn’t post until after the latest daily news updates were distributed. Congratulations to National Champion UConn (I assume there is a new woman’s champ but it wasn’t in the summary), and congratulations to the voters of Quebec on choosing a course that should assure the future of Canada at least for now.


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2 Responses to Day 44, Tuesday, April 8, Jamestown, St. Helena

  1. Essex Grouch says:

    Thanks from St Helena for your post. It was great having you all here – there’s been a really positive vibe on the local radio about your visit.
    The ‘wobbly legs syndrome’ from going down the ladder is entirely normal. You did the right thing going both ways – the local tip is to never just go one way, as crippling pain often ensues!
    I only arrived here myself last September. It’s a fascinating place. You must come back some time to explore the countryside – it is quite stunning.
    I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.
    From The Organist 😉

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