PICS: End of an era as RMS St Helena makes final voyage from Cape Town

2018-01-25 07:57
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Cape Town — A British ship that was once a lifeline to the outside world for St Helena has begun its last voyage to the remote South Atlantic island where Napoleon died in exile.

The RMS St Helena on Wednesda, 24 January left the South African city of Cape Town on a final round-trip journey of three weeks to St. Helena and Ascension, another British-ruled island. After that, another ship will transport cargo about once a month to St Helena.

The only means of regular passenger travel will be by air, thanks to a South African airline that started a weekly commercial flight in October after the delayed opening of an airport.

Ship mechanic Lionel Peters says the "royal mail" vessel, which sailed to St. Helena for nearly three decades, will be missed.

SEE: Saint Helena: The island in the middle of nowhere 

Cut off from the rest of the world for centuries, St Helena, which lies isolated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is now reachable by plane for the first time.

The aviation breakthrough has promises to lift the British-run territory from obscurity and bring it within reach of international tourists. The arrival of the first commercial flight in 2017 was also a relief for islanders frustrated by a delay to the opening because of high winds.

After years of procrastination, London gave the green light in 2011 a full runway on the island. The ambition was to bring it within six hours of mainland Africa instead of the five days previously needed to make the ocean voyage from Cape Town. British officials hoped that 30 000 tourists a year would visit the island, which is home to just 4 500 residents - known as "Saints".

SEE: St Helena tourism cleared for take-off as airport opens



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