St Helena Island 2016: The Year In Review
Weather It Was Good or Weather It Was Bad | Sharon Henry
Forget the ‘monkey,’ 2016 has been the year of ‘wind shear’ here on St Helena, the term meaning ‘unpredictable wind conditions’ was unfortunately introduced to the island’s vocabulary in April following a ‘wobbly’ landing of the first passenger aeroplane to touch down at the brand new airport. Since rearing its ugly head ‘wind shear’ has postponed the opening of the airport and the new phrase now rolls of the tongue like an island-given nickname, becoming the butt of many a joke.
Sense of humour aside, islanders have resiliently swallowed their disappointment in the year when St Helena was to throw open its doors to cheaper and faster travel, prompting promises of visits from family and friends overseas. Damn you wind shear!
That said, it’s not been all bad. In June the airport saved a newborn’s life with the island’s first air medevac. Later, in October Atlantic Star Airlines swooped in like knights in shining armour to tackle the wind conditions with a chartered Avro RJ100, raising spirits and hopes in the process. Then at the advent of Christmas the Brazilian aviation company, Embraer, threw their hat into the ring and flew an E190 into St Helena, showcasing their plane’s suitability for the airport. “No big deal to land here,” shrugged their pilots. Fingers crossed a fairy godmother changes our ‘white elephant’ into a cash cow sometime in 2017.
It’s not just St Helena that’s had a turbulent year, 2016’s been topsy-turvy for the world in general; Brexit, The Donald, earthquakes, refugee crisis, Russian athletics banned from the Olympics, ISIS… The celebrity world has also been shaken with beloved megastars falling prematurely from the sky; David Bowie, Alan Rickman, George Michael, and my man, Prince. So many idols it’s been dubbed, ‘the curse of 2016.’ And shock, horror, lowly Leicester City proved that money isn’t everything and won the Premiership! Whatever next?
Back to St Helena, flipping through 2016, it’s been quite the whirlwind. We’ve seen drought, introduction of a new Customs system, ASYCUDA; two bye-elections, 24/7 taxis, return of Longwood House furniture and extra roadside mirrors for drivers to see ‘round corners.
Whoever thought nothing much happens in our small island community, think again. Here’s a quick flick through 2016 with some of our most compelling images of life throughout the year.
Solomons opens newly refurbished ‘Malabar,’ a 19th century listed building in Main Street, Jamestown, it now houses the company’s Shipping, Travel and Insurance Services.
The Hawaiian vessel ‘Hokulea’ calls into St Helena on a round the world tour. The Hokulea is a traditional canoe travelling the world using ancient navigational techniques.
A population and household census conducted on 7 February reveals a count of 4,534 people, of which 34% have a mobile phone, a service introduced five months earlier in September 2015.
Levelwood Allstarz win the cricket league championship for the third year running.
The ‘Castoro 7’ possibly the weirdest contraption seen in our waters, calls into St Helena to replenish supplies. The dinosaur-like vessel is 179.7m long and is actually a pipe layer platform in transit to South Africa.
Governor Mark Capes leaves St Helena after four and a half years in office.
Atlantic Star announces approval of chartered flights direct from Luton to St Helena for 22 May and 5 June (subject to airport certification.) Tickets start from £1299 return. A month later the price dropped to £699 return.
Lisa Phillips, St Helena’s first female governor arrives.
SHG runs Facebook competition for VIP tickets on the official first flight to St Helena airport. Five pairs of tickets are up for grabs.
The flag that led the St Helena team in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is donated to the Museum by Scottish friends of St Helena, Emma & Gordon Woodward-Clark.
A week after the Comair 737-800 experienced wind shear at St Helena Airport, SHG announce the opening ceremony is now postponed.
Newly crowned Miss St Helena, Kimley Yon donates her winnings to charity.
St Helena Day is celebrated on 20th May instead of 21st. The 21st had been earmarked for the planned airport opening by Prince Edward.
St Helena National Trust announces highest number of endemic wirebirds ever recorded – 559.
The RMS St Helena docks alongside the HMS Belfast on the Thames in London on her ‘final’ northbound voyage to UK before going out of service.
The RMS schedule that ran until September 2016 is extended to July 2017 because of the delayed airport opening and commercial flights.
Myrtle the tortoise dies of kidney failure at Plantation House aged 70 years. She was the smallest of Plantation’s five tortoises and arrived in the early 1970’s.
Fisherman, Mark Thomas (Leggo) dies at sea whilst fishing the sea mounts on board the Amalia.
One hundred and five people lined up at the starting line for the inaugural Runway Dash at St Helena airport, on what arguably became the world’s most expensive running track. The event raised an estimated £2,000 for the team that will represent St Helena in 2017’s NatWest Small Island Games.
St Helena coffee sells in Starbucks for the first time becoming their most expensive to-date. Starbucks reportedly bought a third of a farm’s entire annual production. Described as “delicate with subtle floral aromas, leading to soft citrus and caramel notes,” the coffee went down a treat.
St James’ church got a new spire and What The Saints Did Next discovered the clock bell dated 1872 was made by the same foundry who cast London’s original Big Ben bell.
The 200 mile zone surrounding St Helena becomes a designated marine protected area.
Water restrictions imposed to ‘essential use only’; no watering of gardens or washing of cars.
The skies light up with the most spectacular and bizarre of weather phenomenon (leaving out snowfall) – thunder and lightning! The first in possibly 35 years.
Plantation House opens to the public for tours.
The much anticipated colourful Carnival, a biennial event attracts hundreds to the streets of Jamestown. The event is held to raise funds for the Cancer Awareness charity.
A Water Resource project is started by Ben Sansom designed to increase the island’s water supplies through cloud forest development at the Peaks which will improve mist and moisture capture.
Harts football team wins Knockout competition and Rico Benjamin of Rovers wins player and top goal scorer of the season.
Luxury yacht MY Karima equipped with a helicopter spends some leisure time at St Helena.
The Bank of St Helena trials a local debit card.
Public swimming pool in Jamestown is closed because of a water leak. Re-opening is not expected until the New Year.
Lively debate in Legislative Council on the Same Sex Marriage Bill. The bill was subsequently retracted to clarify the definition of ‘marriage’ and will return to the table in the New Year.
Retailers Anthony and Diana Essex open purposely built shop premises in Half Tree Hollow.
An unidentified drone flies above the Festival of Lights parade in Jamestown, defying Air Navigation regulations. SHG issues press release to appeal for the owner to come forward. They did – no charges were made.