Sunday, June 5, 2016

St. Helena, April 2016

The waters around St. Helena are extremely clear and warm.  These whale sharks come to feed and mate.  They spend a lot of time cruising at the surface of the water and several have GPS tags on them to track their movements.  We went out with a boatload of folks to snorkel with these, the world's largest fish.  One passed directly below me its entire length and I could reach out and touch it.  I had to push its tail away to keep it from bumping my mask,  What an experience!
The remoras were all over this whale shark and they move around to avoid the people that were snorkeling around this behemoth.  It's about 30' long.
The remoras hang off the fins and tail like prayer flags in the sea.
A parting shot as the whale shark departs.
I bought Jason this little wooden giraffe bowl in Namibia and gave it to him for his birthday.  Our friends on Saol Eile gave him the nickname 'The Giraffe' because he has to bend down or get down on his knees to give Myra a hug, cuz she's so much shorter than he is.  This giraffe splayed out to get a drink from a watering hole reminds me of that everytime I look at it.

A flying fish that Jason found on the deck.  He put it at my eye level so when I came to the helm it was staring me in the eye.
Jason at the helm and in need of a shave.
If you look closely, you can literally see right through the fabric of his T-shirt, it's worn so thin.  Nevermind the many holes about to join together to creat a huge tear.  He's worn this t-shirt so often, it has literally worn right off his back.  I made this t-shirt in 2009 at a Higgins Lake Foundation Day Picnic.
Our mooring at St. Helena.  Like a 3' cheese wheel with a metal ring in the middle.  Getting the lines through the ring from the boat is a challenge met in several different ways by different boats.  We had to back up to this mooring and hang off the sugar scoop transom and loop the lines through the ring and walk them up the side of the boat to the bows.  The water is deep just offshore and not suitable for anchoring for yachts.  There are also wrecks here among the moorings.
A cannon outside the Customs building on the waterfront in St. Helena.

The famous "Jacob's Ladder", an incline of nearly 700 steps that is steeper at the top than at the bottom.  Too much huffing and puffing for me to climb it; I got dizzy looking down from the fort at the top! 

Jason looking up stuff in the library off the gardens.
A giant old anchor laying on its side in the gardens.
A bird with an egg in a nest.  Easter was coming up, so perhaps this was trimmed for the holiday.The gardens on St. Helena had lots of topiary in it.

A hand with a clock on the wrist.
This garden has been here since 1893.
The swimming pool along the waterfront.  Visitors could use it when it wasn't being used for school swimming lessons.
On of the gates into the old fort that now houses government offices.
Another gate into the fort off of 'the grand parade', a big open area like a public square.
An old wooden cannon mount that was sitting along the waterfront.
The back of our ferry shuttle driver's head.  The front view would show he had no front teeth, but does this remind anyone else of one of the Seven Dwarfs??
The RMS St. Helena, is one of the last 2 Royal Mail Ships in use in the world.  I believe the other may be the Queen Mary.  This ship was custom-designed to bring mail, passengers and cargo to St. Helena and until now was the only way the island got supplies.  The new airport was being finished as we left, and the first commercial flight landed on April 18, 2016, so they will now have a way to get supplies in by air.  The ship is being decommissioned because of it and the folks are sorry to see it go.  Look up the YouTube video of the first attempted landing of a jet plane here; it took three tries to get the landing.  The airport gets such wind shear that I'd be scared to fly here! is one video of the landing attempt.
A waterfall of green growth on the cliff facing the yacht mooring field.  It's several hundred feet high.
Looking back at the local boat mooring field.  A supply barge in the foreground.  Our yachts are beyond the boats you can see here.
Jason ready for a snorkel trip out to swim with the whale sharks.
The boat that took us out snorkeling with the whale sharks.  Note the gallows and rope landing on this island.  This is the only way to get ashore here.  Grab one of the hanging ropes and jump ashore!  Ever want to be Tarzan?
A welcome painted on the cliffside above the landing.
Jason and Brian on the trip out to the whale sharks.  The photos of the whale sharks at the top were taken by the lady on the right with her underwater camera.
Dikes of rock forming strange formations on the cliffs.
Some cool looking caves along the shore.
Looking up at the remains of a fortress built into the side of the cliff.
A hole in the fortress wall to allow the river water to flow through.
They are building a new port for the ships and this is to be the new harbor.
The main room at the hotel in Georgetown, St. Helena.  The walls are covered in Napoleonic paintings and documents and other memorabilia.  This island is where Napoleon was exiled to and died.  It is the big tourist draw here.  Myra, Paraic, and Amy enjoy a drink in the bar here.

This guy is from the Antiques Road Show and was going to evaluate items the locals here would bring to the public square the next day.  It was a big deal here on the island.
A stone carving on a wall, welcoming all to St. Helena.
A rock arch along the shoreline.
The view of Georgetown from the road above.  The cave-like hole on the right was used to store goods and ammunition in the past.  The tiny dots in the water are local yachts moored.  Our sailboat moorings are around the corner to the left and out of sight here.
Robert, our 80-year-old tour guide for 'History on Wheels'.  He's lived much of the history of this island and was a treat to listen to.  His booklet is full of photocopies of things and places he told us about and was constantly showing us the pages.  Great skin for 80, eh?
The car on the left died as it reached this switchback on the steep road.  Others just pulled over to try to help as there isn't a lot of room for cars to get around it and make the turn.
Jason at the home of the distillers in the St. Helena Distillery, "the most remote distillery in the world."
The distillers is in their garage.  They make an impressive amount of different things in this small space.
Modern equipment like this copper still is used to make the goodie drinks.
Oak casks and stainless cisterns for the different liquids.
Tungi is made from cactus pears that they pick from the island's wild cacti. You'd mix this with a fruit juice.  Note the 'Jacob's Ladder' bottles that he had designed and made in Italy to hold the spirits.
Giant teardrop shaped glass  'carboys'? hold the wine still in process.
They make a gin, a rum, red and white wines and the "Midnight Mist", a coffee liqueur made from the famous St. Helena coffee beans.  Tasty!
Another tour group of yachties showed up before we left with all our purchases.  This wasn't a regular stop on the tour, but it was one of our favorites.  We left with a buzz on from all the samples we tasted.
The view from the distillery.
The yard of the distillery.  We liked the lichen draping off the old wood fence.
Jason on the walkway to the Tomb of Napoleon.
Napoleon's Tomb.  He chose this place to be buried while he was here on exile, but his body was removed and sent back to France in 1840, so this is empty.  Napoleon is still the only reason many people have ever heard of this island.
A nice splash of color along the walkway.
Lots of peaks on this island.
An old shop along the road, near the home of Napoleon.
Jason in our open-aired tour truck.
This is Longwood House, the abode where Napoleon lived while here in exile before his death.
A proper English lawn out in front.
The entrance to Longwood House.  It is maintained like a museum and the locals used to tell 'stories' to visitors who came.  But they have stopped the stories and now will just answer questions if you have them.  Much of the furnishings are off in France being restored.
The greeting lady was the shortest person I've seen in a long time!  She was even shorter than Myra and barely cleared Jason's waist.
Napoleon's death bed, with a mask of his face on the table beside it and his funky hat and uniform on the chair.  These are replicas as the originals are in France.
A tree stump out in the front that had recently been cut.  The sap drew hundreds of bees.  The bees on St. Helena are the same ones that have been here for hundreds of years.  No new breeding stock has intermixed for centuries and it is too remote to get bees by accident.
A Karen selfie at Longwood House and the gardens there.
Bird of Paradise flowers along the fence at Longwood House.
A view of Diana's Peak, the highest point on the island as we were leaving Longwood House.
A view of the airport location from a long ways off.  The airport is about as far from town as it is possible to get on this island.  Good for the taxis, I guess.
The runway goes from one cliff top to another.  The planes won't have much room for error here.  Slam into a rock cliff or plunge into the sea if they miss at either end.  Here's a link to a YouTube video of the first commercial flight landing
The color of the ground changes from red to white and grey across these slopes, even if the photo doesn't show it nicely.  Quite pretty and stunning in person.
The approach end of the runway.  They had to fill in a huge valley to make the flat area and it doesn't really face into the prevailing winds.  The wind shear will be wicked here for the pilots to deal with.
A closer look at the one end of the runway.
I like the dark red of this dirt on the island.
More ground with changing colors.
You can see some of the bands of color on this slope.
Our lunch stop on the tour.  Not much to choose from way out here.
Brian and Paraic opted for a liquid lunch of Windhoek beer.  We brought PBJs with us for lunch.
St. Mark's church as we blew by it on the tour.
Halley was here in 1673 and Maskalyne in 1760.  The remote location meant no light pollution and these scientists/astronmers came here to view the skies.  The transit of Mercury was one of the draws back then.
Looking out over a field that held the military recruits back in the day.
Lot and Lot's wife are the names of the spires of rock on this shot.
Robert showing us the fibers in a flax plant.  The hills here were planted with flax and the twine making was a big industry until it collapsed in 1960.  The post office was the biggest client.
Myra was familiar with making twine from flax and showed us how they skinned the fibers loose.
Myra skinning a flax leaf to get fibers that could be woven together.
Myra modeling a string of woven flax fiber that Robert brought to show us.  The 'toe' as they called it could be used to stuff mattresses along with other things.
One of the old flax processing plants.
A colorful finch on a roadside bush.
At the Plantation House, where the governor lives, these tortoises roam wild.  The biggest one is Jonathan, now over 180 years old and considered to be the "oldest living animal in the world".

The old bugger is still trying to mate with the smaller, younger female tortoise.  No offspring have ever survived him.

Gravestones at "The Butcher Graves".  The skull and cross bones is on one grave and the meat cleaver is on the other.
The graves date back to 1777 and one of the husband/wife team killed the other, but it isn't clear who killed who.

Another view of Jacob's Ladder in Georgetown.
Streetside building in Georgetown.
The NO Parking sign is in the middle of the only parking places in the middle of town.  Go figure.
The landing site is at the left end of the concrete wharf here.  We would take the ferry shuttle to the landing and back.  He had a special 'shoe' covering his propeller that allowed him to run over the mooring lines without cutting them or getting caught on his prop.
Jason, Myra and Karen with Robert and our tour truck heading out of Georgetown.
The entrance to Longwood House with Karen in the foreground.  These shots that follow are from Saol Eile's cameras.
Napoleon's death mask.
Some of Napoleon's possessions while he was here in exile.  Tiny slippers for his feet.
A nice shot of Lot and Lot's wife rock formations.
Flax covers many of the upper slopes here and keeps the soil from eroding, but is not used for anything these days.
Our tour group and a scenic overlook
Learning about flax.
Plantation House, where the governor lives when in residence, and where the tortoises roam free.

The official plaque for the Jacob's Ladder.
Myra taking a photo from the top of Jacob's Ladder.
The local boats look tiny in the water below.  I am amazed at the steepness of the steps.
The waterfront of Georgetown as seen from the top of the Jacob's Ladder.  The town is built in the narrow valley that runs from the ocean up to the hills and is long and skinny.
The green travertine or serpentine floor tiles in the bar of the hotel.  They are a gorgeous deep mottled green.
It's hard to capture the beauty of this floor of green tiles.
Saol Eile and sunset at St. Helena.
Layers of rock in the cliff at the anchorage at St. Helena.  On the top of the cliff is a fort, but it is so high you can't really even make it out.

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