Tracey Salvin is Product Manager at Land Registry. She reports from the scoping mission at St Helena.
We’ve finally made it to St Helena a week after leaving the UK. “Saint Helena is one of the most remote places in the world” Wikipedia says, but nothing can prepare you for what remote really means until you’ve made the journey. There can’t be many places which take a week to reach.
The first leg of our journey was a nine hour flight from RAF Brize Norton to Ascension Island. Weather problems over the Falkland Islands delayed our flight for 27 hours so we had plenty of time to get to know our fellow passengers, many of whom would be with us for the next seven days.
On reaching Ascension we checked into the only hotel on the island, our base for four days while we waited for the ship to arrive to take us on the next leg. At present there is no airport on St Helena, the only way to reach the island until the new airport is completed in 2016 is a three day journey by sea on the RMS St Helena. The ship travels between Ascension, St Helena and Cape Town and is a lifeline for the residents of St Helena. Everything arriving on or leaving the island is carried by the ship, from food and clothes to car parts, wind turbines and people. The last date for Christmas post leaving the island has already passed; you have to think ahead if you live on St Helena.
The second day on the ship was where the sense of isolation really kicked in. The Captain announced that, aside from St Helena, land was 2,000km to the west or 1,500km to the east if we fancied a shorter swim. He also kindly mentioned that we were bobbing about on an ocean that was just over 3,500 metres deep; the ocean floor was over two miles down. The only thing we saw for three days was sea and sky.
Our first impressions of the island were made on the ship. The “Saints” had some amazing stories to tell and are quite rightly proud of their island. They were keen to tell us where to go and what to see and were really interested to hear about the scoping visit. We had quite a local network in place before we set foot on land.
At 7am on Thursday we got our first sight of St Helena, it must have been a foreboding sight for Napoleon, sheer grey cliffs rising out of the sea with Jamestown nestling in a deep valley. The Saints assured us that behind the cliffs were a green lush interior and they weren’t wrong.
We spent the day touring the island with the Geographic information system (GIS) team. It was a fantastic way to see the island and get a feel for the terrain and the issues they have with the surveying.
We have seen our first red flags (well, bricks painted red) marking out the site of a mobile phone mast. The island is hoping to get mobile phone communication next year.
Our day spent touring the island with the St Helena GIS team showed us not only how beautiful the island is but gave us a sense of the terrain and the difficulties the team face when surveying properties for registration. One of the team was especially excited to come across what must be one of the most remote trig points in the world.
So we’ve settled in, got a feel for the island and are looking forward to meeting the St Helena Land Registry team this week.
View the St Helena Government press release about the arrival of the representatives from HM Land Registry.
Find out about Land Registry International services.