Where Is Saint Helena?

By Geoffrey Migiro on June 25 2019 in World Facts

Jamestown, St. Helena.
Jamestown, St. Helena.

Saint Helena is an island in the South Atlantic Ocean that is part of the British Overseas Territory (BOT) of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. First discovered as an uninhabited island by Galician explorer João da Nova in 1502, the island is part of the second-oldest British Overseas Territory, after Bermuda. Saint Helena occupies an area of approximately 47 square miles, has an estimated population of 4,534, and is considered one of the most remote islands in the world. The island has served as an important stopover for vessels sailing from Europe to South Africa and Asia for centuries.


Located above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the South Atlantic Ocean, Saint Helena is roughly 1,200 miles from the closest main landmass. The island is approximately 2,500 miles east Rio de Janeiro and 1,210 miles west of the mouth of the Cunene River, which forms part of the Angola-Namibia border in southwestern Africa. Saint Helena is associated with two other islands, Ascension Island, which is 810 miles northwest, and Tristan da Cunha, which is 1,510 miles south. Together, the three islands form the the Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha British Overseas Territory. Saint Helena is situated in the Western Hemisphere, but the United Nations classifies it as part of West Africa.


Saint Helena is a volcanic island that measures approximately 10 miles long and 5 miles width. The island features a rugged terrain that was created by volcanic eruptions that occurred approximately 7 million years ago, and its coastal regions are covered by volcanic rocks that are drier and warmer than the center of the island. The highest point in on the island, Diana's Peak, has an elevation of 2,684 ft. A large portion of the island is covered in a perennial plant called New Zealand Flax (Phormium colensoi and Phormium tenax). Upon its discovery, the island was covered in various types of unique indigenous vegetation, such as the cabbage tree species. The coast of Saint Helena includes numerous islets and rocks, including Upper Black Rock, Lower Black Rock, the Needle, Peaked Island, George Island, and Castle Rock.


The English East India Company was the first to establish a permanent settlement on the island in 1659. However, Saint Helena never experienced significant population growth, with an estimated population of only 4,897 in 2018. A significant segment of the population are descendants of English settlers, soldiers, and slaves from Madagascar, India, Cape Verde Islands, and the West African coast who worked on plantations. Additionally, 618 laborers migrated from China to Saint Helena between 1810 and 1818, although many were sent back to China in 1834 after Britain took control Saint Helena from the East-India Company. The inhabitants of Saint Helena became full British citizens after the British Overseas Territories Act was passed in 2002. The island’s population has been decreasing since the 1980s. In fact, the population dropped from 5,157 in 1998 to 4,257 in 2008. The population decrease was attributed by the migration of locals to Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands on long-term work contracts. However, since gaining awarded British Citizenship, many individuals also have migrated to the United Kingdom in search of better-paying jobs.


Most of Saint Helena's population are Anglicans and members of the Diocese of Saint Helena. Other religious denominations practiced in Saint Helena include Roman Catholicism, Seventh-day Adventist, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptist, and the Salvation Army. One in every thirty-five residents is a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, which is the highest ratio of any country in the world.

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