One of the world’s great bucket list travel experiences is getting a year-long reprieve – all thanks to an ill wind.
The 6,767 gross tonne cargo liner RMS St Helena, one of only two remaining Royal Mail Ships, is to continue serving the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena, where Napoleon was exiled from 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo to his death in 1821.
The Royal Mail Ship St. Helena was built in Aberdeen in 1989 specifically to supply the island of St Helena, a remote British Territory located 1,200 miles off the West Coast of Africa in the South Atlantic. She is British registered (London), 6,767 gross tonnes and has berths for a maximum of 156 passengers plus 56 officers and crew.
For the last 26 years RMS St Helena has been the only means of access to the island of St Helena.
She was due to be decommissioned once the island’s £285 million airport opened for commercial flights last spring, a scheme aimed at making the 47 sq mi British Overseas Territory self-sufficient and boosting tourism.However that has been delayed indefinitely because of concerns about dangerous weather conditions known as wind ‘shear’, which make it unsafe for large jets to land.
Scheduled British Airways services from Johannesburg were due to start on May 21 last year but have been suspended, meaning the RMS has had a reprieve from the breakers’ yard so she can remain as the 4,000 islanders’ (they are known as Saints) essential link to the outside world.
It may be an ill wind for the airport, but now travellers with three weeks to spare can still make the voyage by ship up to next February; they will need to travel to South Africa, spend 10 days at sea and eight days on the island, which is 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa and known for its isolation, scenery and rare wildlife.
They hope once the wind ‘shear’ problem is resolved commercial air services will begin.