St. Helena viewed from the departing RMS Saint Helena is one of the world's best kept secrets. Located in the South Atlantic Ocean (15.95°S, 5.70°W; map), St. Helena is a small (122 sq. km; 47 sq. mi.) island (topographic map) and is extremely remote (1200 miles from the west coast of Africa, 1800 miles from Brazil) and difficult of access, being served only by the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) St. Helena.

Although most noted as the place of final exile and death of Napoleon, St. Helena has much more to offer with its long and fascinating history and spectacular natural history.

Quincentenary celebration

Present day St. Helena

St. Helena flag St. Helena is a British Overseas Territory and one of the last relics of the colonies. The island has a Governor and the upper echelons of the administration mostly are expatriate British. The islanders are represented by an elected Executive Council (EXCO) and Legislative Council (LEGCO) although these bodies have little real influence on the running of the island.

The population of St. Helena is approximately 6,000. The main centres of population are Jamestown (the capital), Half Tree Hollow, and Longwood. Ascension Island and the Falklands provide employment for a large number of Saints. There is a large Saint population in the UK and a substantial St. Helenian community settled in South Africa. Saints are extremely hospitable and visitors to the island are made to feel very welcome.

St. Helena's main income is from the export of fish. St. Helena coffee is of very high quality but the production is quite small. Tourism operates on only a very limited scale. Imports are high and the island has a large budget deficit; St. Helena receives a substantial annual grant-in-aid from the UK, most of which is budget aid although a significant portion is a shipping subsidy for the operation of the RMS.

The climate of St. Helena is strongly influenced by the southeast trade winds. The coastal areas are drier and hotter than the interior; in Jamestown the temperature ranges from 14°C to 32°C with an average annual rainfall of 152 mm (6 in.) whereas in the central hills the temperature ranges from 8°C to 26°C and the average annual rainfall is as much as 1 m (40 in.).

St. Helena has some stunning scenery. The coastline of the island comprises high vertical cliffs cut by steep-sided v-shaped valleys. The coastal areas are rugged and barren whereas the higher elevations in the centre of the island have lush vegetation. A good network of (albeit narrow, winding, and steep) roads makes much of the island reasonably accessible. However, the best of St. Helena is seen on foot; there are some magnificent walks and hikes to be had on the island.

The islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha are dependencies of St. Helena. Ironically, St. Helena's two dependencies are financially self-supporting.

Sign the Guestbook View the Guestbook

Images of St. Helena Take a photo tour of Saint Helena.

RMS St. Helena

Interested enough to seriously consider physically visiting St. Helena?
Here's information on how to get there.

   The St. Helena Virtual Library

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Comments? Corrections? More information? Contact:
Barry Weaver, Geology & Geophysics, University of Oklahoma

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Last updated: 15 December, 2011