Expedition: stopover in St. Helena Island

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Saint Helena, a pearl of a fascinating microcosm

During its 9-day stopover in St. Helena, the Blue Observer crew had the opportunity to discover this British overseas territory located in the South Atlantic about 1,900 kilometers west of Namibia and 3,300 kilometers from the city of Recife in Brazil. At anchor in Jamestown Bay, the sailboat Iris aroused the curiosity of the islanders. It was only after 48 hours of quarantine – due to covid restrictions – that our crew could set foot on this 122 square kilometer island. The welcome was particularly warm.

Each crew member was able to familiarize himself with the island life by multiplying the meetings with enthusiasm. After meeting the French Consul and having lunch with the local government – Prime Minister and Vice Minister – the crew left to discover this fascinating island.

A dense stay that will remain engraved in everyone’s memory. And an irrepressible desire to return to conduct scientific missions in this isolated region of the world.

Meeting the scientists

Hugues de Kerdrel and Eloïse Le Bras went to meet James and Kenickie Andrews, marine biologists from the National Trust of St Helena. They conduct scientific and oceanographic research on the island. A captivating exchange ! So much so that they left together to dive in the North-East of the island. It was on this occasion that they were able to observe whale sharks.

A presentation to college students

Eloïse Le Bras went to meet the schoolchildren of the island to present the Blue Observer project and explain the microbiology activities carried out on board the sailing ship during the expedition.

  • Studying the relationship between the ocean and the atmosphere through the collection of marine aerosols.
  • The interest of collecting aerosols and seawater samples in little frequented maritime areas to develop products in the cosmetic, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical sectors.

A volcanic island, between Scottish moors and tropical vegetation

Stretching the legs after 36 days of sailing became necessary for the crew who set out to conquer the island’s peaks. It is in a setting that is both semi-desert and lush that the magic worked. The island has many endemic animal and plant species.

It is also home to the oldest living land animal: Jonathan, a 190-year-old turtle. Originally from the Seychelles, she has resided in St. Helena since 1882 and has seen a succession of British governors.

An island full of history

An obligatory passage through the French enclave of the island! The crew visited Longwood House and the mythical Tomb Valley where Napoleon was buried in 1821. An echo of the Canot de l’Empereur which took up residence in Brest in 2018, home port of our sailing boat.

Once an obligatory passage for the ships of the India Company, Saint Helena was a supply port. It could see up to 1,000 ships pass through per year. It has fascinated many explorers and poets such as James Cook or Charles Darwin. Bernard Moitessier also evokes St. Helena in his book Vagabond des mers du sud(Vagabond of the South Seas) “and just before sunset, while doubt was already gnawing at me, St. Helena slowly emerged from the sea”.

Photo credits: Baptiste Langlois Meurinne