United Kingdom African Dependencies - St. helena



St. Helena, a British colony 122 sq km (47 sq mi) in area, is a mountainous island in the South Atlantic Ocean at approximately 16° S and 5° 45′ W , about 1,930 km (1,200 mi) from the west coast of Africa. The maximum elevation, at Diana's Peak, is 828 m (2,717 ft). Southeast trade winds give the island a pleasant climate, despite its tropical location. The temperature at Jamestown, the capital, on the north coast, ranges from 18° to 29° C (65–85° F ); inland, as the elevation rises, temperatures are

United Kingdom African Dependencies

somewhat cooler. Rainfall ranges to an annual maximum of about 100 cm (40 in). The population, of mixed origin, was estimated at 7,317 in mid-2002; approximately 25% of the population lives in Jamestown. The language is English, and the majority of people are Anglicans. There are 10 Anglican churches, 4 Baptist chapels, a Roman Catholic church, and a Seventh-Day Adventist church.

Jamestown has open anchorages but no port facilities. The St. Helena Shipping Co. provides passenger and cargo service from the United Kingdom and South Africa. As os 2001, there was one airport on the island. St. Helena has 118 km (70 mi) of all-weather roads, 98 km (59 mi) of which have been paved.

Uninhabited when first sighted by the Portuguese navigator João da Nova Castella in 1502, and claimed by the Dutch in 1633, the island was garrisoned in 1659 by the British East India Company, captured by the Dutch in 1673, and retaken that same year by the English. It became famous as the place of Napoleon's exile, from 1815 until his death in 1821, and passed to the crown in 1834.

The island is administered by a governor, with the aid of a Legislative Council that includes, in addition to the governor, the speaker, 3 ex-officio, and 12 elected members. General elections were last held in June 2001; Council committees, a majority of whose members belong to the Legislative Council, are appointed by the governor and charged with executive powers and general supervision of government departments. The Supreme Court of St. Helena, headed by a chief justice, has full criminal and civil jurisdiction. Trial is by a jury of eight. Other judicial institutions include a magistrate's court, a small claims court, and a juvenile court.

St. Helena coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 50 pence and 1 pound and notes of 5 and 10 pounds are legal tender; their value is on a par with their UK equivalents.

The domestic economy is based on agriculture. The main crops are potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and vegetables. St. Helenians also are employed on Ascension and the Falkland Islands. Fish, especially skipjack and tuna, are among St.Helena's primary exports. There are no exploitable minerals, and virtually all timber is imported. St. Helena also imports all of its consumer and capital goods. The United Kingdom and South Africa are St. Helena's main trading partners. In 1995, imports were valued at US $14.4 million, and exports at US $704,000; British aid amounted to US $5.3 million in 1997; total foreign aid that year amounted to US $12.6 million.

The colony's revenues in 1992/93 amounted to US $11.2 million; expenditures totaled US $11 million. Domestic revenues include succession and death duties, an entertainment tax, a head tax, taxes on motor vehicles and on shops, and personal income and company taxes. The graduated personal income tax rate ranges from 10% to 30%. The company tax was 25% of net distributable profits.

There is an unemployment relief system, and workers' compensation is paid for death or disablement. There is one labor union, the St. Helena General Workers' Union; approximately two-thirds of the labor force works for the government. Health facilities include a hospital of 54 beds as well as six clinics and a mental hospital.

The population is entirely literate. Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 5 and 15. There are 8 primary schools and one high school. A free public library is located in Jamestown, and there are branch libraries in several rural districts. Longwood House, Napoleon's home in exile, is now French property and a museum. The colony had 2,000 main telephone lines in use in 1997. Cable and Wireless Ltd. provides telegraph communications between St. Helena, Cape Town, and Ascension Island. Radio receivers in use numbered about 3,000 in 1997. The government maintains a broadcasting station, a weekly newspaper, and monthly film shows in each district.

Dependencies of St. Helena are Tristan da Cunha and Ascension, which are inhabited, and Gough Island, the three Nightingale Islands, and Inaccessible Island, which are not. Tristan da Cunha, at 37° 15′ S and 12° 30′ W , approximately 2,400 km (1,500 mi) SSW of St. Helena, is a partly wooded volcanic island, with an area of 98 sq km (38 sq mi), reaching a maximum elevation of 2,060 m (6,760 ft). Annual rainfall averages 168 cm (66 in) on the coast. The population numbers around 300, nearly all of whom traced their ancestry to members of an English garrison sent to the island in 1816. Communications are limited to a few calls by ships each year and to a wireless station in daily contact with Cape Town. There is also a local broadcasting and radiotelephone service.

A South African rock lobster (crayfish) company operates a fish-freezing factory on the island. This facility replaced a cannery that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in October 1961 that forced the inhabitants to evacuate the island. They were resettled near Southampton, England, in January 1962. Owing to their previous isolation, however, the islanders were particularly vulnerable to respiratory diseases, and many of them became ill because of the English climate. In March 1963, an advance group returned to Tristan da Cunha to repair some of the damaged property and to plant potatoes, the staple subsistence crop; the remaining islanders returned by the end of the year. With the construction of a harbor, shore fishing has also developed.

An island council consists of an administrator (who also serves as a magistrate), three appointed members, and eight elected members. Considerable revenue is derived from the sale of stamps; however, the fishing industry provides the chief source of livelihood. Development aid ended in 1980, and since then the island has financed its own projects.

Ascension, at 7° 56′ S and 14° 25′ W , about 1,131 km (703 mi) NW of St. Helena, is a bleak volcanic island with an area of 88 sq km (34 sq mi). The island's highest peak, Green Mountain, is 859 m (2,817 ft) above sea level. Ascension became a dependency of St. Helena in 1922 and is an important telecommunications station. In 1942, during World War II, the United States established an air base on the island. A US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tracking station and a British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) relay station were established in 1966. British forces used the island in 1982 as a staging area for the recovery of the Falkland Islands from Argentine occupation, and a new Royal Air Force camp was completed in 1984. The population of Ascension, excluding British military personnel, totals around 1,100.

Sea turtles come to the island between December and May to lay their eggs. Wild goats and partridges abound. Ascension is the breeding ground of the sooty tern, the "wide-awake bird."

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