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Ascension Island

“It is situated in the South Atlantic Ocean, 900 miles from Africa, 760 miles from St. Helena, and nearly 3500 miles from England, the geographical position being in latitude 7 deg. 56 min. south of the Equator, and longitude 14 deg. 25 min. west of Greenwich. The island is but seven miles and a half long, from west to east, and six miles and a half broad, from north to south, with a surface of thirty-eight square miles. It is very rugged and barren, consisting of extinct volcanic craters, lava streams and beds, more or less decomposed, and ravines filled with scoria and pumice-stone. The Green Mountain, however, rising to a height of 2820 ft., is wooded and in some parts, towards the summit, has pieces of fertile soil cleared for cultivation. The climate is esteemed one of the most salubrious in the world; the air is very dry, and the heat is constantly tempered by the south-east trade-wind; in the hottest months the temperature ranges from 85 deg. on the shore to 76 deg. on the high land. There is little rain at any season, and the few springs discovered in the woods yield but a limited supply of fresh water. The sea-turtle come from Christmas to Midsummer (which is not summer in Ascension) to lay their eggs in the sand.”

- excerpt from an 1888 edition of the London Illustrated News, courtesy of the Ascension Island Heritage Society.

 

An example of mid-nineteenth century terraforming.

An example of mid-nineteenth century terraforming.

Once barren volcanic rock, Green Mountain was transformed in 1860 with the planting of some 27 000 trees and shrubs under the supervision of British horticulturalist, John Bell. The purpose of the endeavour was to create a cloud forest which would increase rainfall on the island for the stationed garrison.

 

View of Green Mountain from Two Boats.

View of Green Mountain from Two Boats.

Home to around 800 non-permanent residents, who have to be gainfully employed on the island to live here, Ascension’s population is a melting pot of American, British and Saint contractors who service the various organisations that have set up shop here: the American Air Force, the RAF, the BBC World Service, the Ascension Island Government, and the various smaller companies that help keep the island ticking over.

 

Cricket Valley

Cricket Valley

Ascension Island is actually the peak of an underwater volcano, the base of which sits some 4000 metres below the surface of the Atlantic. The island, itself, hosts as many as 44 dormant craters, a number of which have transformed, over time, into lushly vegetated valleys.

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