Napoleon Bonaparte died in St Helena on May 5th 1821 The day is commemorated in a number of Gallic enclaves including the original tomb of Napoleon. He was buried here and then some years later the French Government of the day requested that his body was repatriated to France. The remembrance ceremony on St Helena was a simple affair with the local honorary French Consul Monsieur Michel Dancoisne-Martineau leading the occasion. Prayers were said and the last post was sounded followed by a laying of wreaths by France the UK and St Helena. I was impressed by the location of the Tomb and how peaceful the surroundings are, no wonder this is where Napoleon requested he be buried.
Later that week we expected the arrival of another cruise ship, this time the MV Athena who had sailed from Australia to be with us. The seas that day were more choppy than when the P&O ship the Arcadia visited and failed to let its passengers disembark. This indicated there may be another occasion when all the efforts made by the locals were to no avail. We should have known better!
The Australian spirit of adventure was alive and well in the shape of tenders full to the brim with eager tourists. Looking at the tenders one could see they had a few knocks and scuffs on them which should have alerted us that these tourists had every intention of landing. And land they did. Five hundred or so feisty Australians with ages ranging from 40 to 85 were taken on tours around the island, served meals and drinks and sold souvenirs. Feedback from them was very positive considering they only had around five hours to sample the delights of St Helena. No sooner had they arrived than they were gone.
Yellowfin Tuna and Thresher Shark
My final weekend on St Helena had a treat in store with the annual fishing competition. This gives all the opportunity to see the wide variety of fish available in these seas around the island and also gives the fishing community a chance to pit their wits against each other to hook the largest catch. All fishing was from boats which were given from Midnight until 4.00pm to catch whatever they could. All fishing is done by rods and line. The day culminates with awards for biggest fish, biggest annual catch, biggest catch of the day and a host of other trophies. Following on from this there is a great party which must have attracted half the island. The largest catch was a thresher shark although I have no idea whether it was a large version of that species; it was certainly the biggest shark I have seen out of the water. Other fish caught included Conger eel, Yellowfin tuna, Grouper and bullseye which is a local fish and bright red in colour. It was a great afternoon with heaps of sights, sounds and smells. Very memorable.
I am writing this blog on my way to Ascension Island from where I am flying back to the UK. This is the only other commercial route home and will be a first for me. I left my St Helena friends on the quayside vowing to see them all again in August when I return for another tour of duty. The RMS St Helena sailed at 4.00pm which meant the afternoon light was just beginning to colour, making our departure quite memorable. It was as if the island was putting on a final show for those departing.