Georgetown and the other villages on Ascension Island
Georgetown, the capital of Ascension Island, Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha, is home to about 500 people at time of this review: the local museum illustrates why Ascension was, and is, so important for the telecommunications in the world, while a nearby beach sees hundreds of turtles laying eggs during each summer. Two Boats and Travellers Hills are the other inhabited villages of Ascension Island.
Georgetown is the capital of Ascension island, part of British Overseas Territories, administrating both Ascension, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha, a series of tiny islands in the middle of South Atlantic ocean. The name Georgetown is dedicated to King George III, a Britain and Ireland king during eighteenth and nineteenth century. The town was first inhabited in 1815, founded by Royal Navy.
Pictures of Georgetown. The capital of Ascension Island stands on a ground of volcanic origin and is home to about 500 people, roughly half of the total population of the island. Ascension has no native population, since before the arrival of Europeans, the island was completely uninhabited: the possibility to live on Ascension Island is subject to the availability of a job, without which people are sent back to the respective country of origin. The inhabitants are mainly Britons, Americans, as well as citizens of St. Helena and Falkland Islands.
Ascension has a brief but very interesting history, and the museum in Georgetown holds a number of valuable documents and items that help to better understand the role of the island over the past two centuries.
Positioned in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, just south of the equator between Africa and America, Ascension Island has had (and still has) a very important role in telecommunications, working as a kind of "bridge" between African and American continents. From 1899, the first underwater telegraph cable laid by Cable & Wireless between Africa, America and Europe, passed through Ascension Island, an ideal place to install repeaters and to coordinate maintenance, because of the half-way position in the ocean.
When the British claimed Ascension Island as a British territory in 1815, the navy began to construct several forts to be used for defensive purposes, mainly to prevent the French to use the island as a base to free Napoleon from his exile on St. Helena, another little island two days sailing from Ascension. One of forts has been recently transformed into a museum, documenting the life on the island during the past two centuries.
Some buildings in Georgetown. On the top left picture, the court, while on top-right photo, you can see the local post office. Bottom right are the old barracks dating back to 1830, the bottom-right photo depicts the St. Mary's Church.
Within a short walk from the center of Georgetown there is a beautiful beach, not suitable for swimming due to waves and currents, but still "not to be missed", because here every summer hundreds of green turtles (Chelonia mydas
) come to lay eggs. Ascension Island is the second most important place in the Atlantic ocean for the reproduction of turtles, and a trip made at the right time (mainly between February and April) offers the incredible opportunity to observe these animals coming to the beach to lay their eggs, after having dug a large hole in the sand. Unfortunately in August, the month in which we visited Ascension Island, all that you can see are just the big holes left during the previous season by turtles, and the shells of the eggs now empty.
Small dead turtles testify instead the great challenges that these animals have to face since they come out from the eggs. On hundreds of hatched eggs, very few turtles will reach adulthood.
In Georgetown there is a small soccer field, where, because of the climate and soil, it is not possible to let grass to grow. The field lines are drawn with sand, rather than just painted.
Panoramic photo of Georgetown picked up by a volcanic cone behind the city. The gun shown on the photo on the left, was installed during the Second World War in response to an attack by Germany.
In the vicinity of Georgetown there is a military base that is home to about 200 American: also in this case the island's geographical position plays a key role, as it allows to have a secure support, almost equidistant between Africa and South America. In fact the whole island is considered a military zone and, as explained in the information page
, the tourists are accepted only after obtaining a special permit issued by the local authorities.
Travellers Hill is another town of Ascension Island, about 3 miles uphill from Georgetown. The town also hosts a base British military base.
A supermarket in Travelers Hill. In Ascension, all kinds of supplies must be imported and consequently the costs are high, while the availability of some products, such as fruits and vegetables, can be very limited.
Two Boats is another small town of Ascension, not far from Georgetown and Travelers Hill.
Ascension Island hosts tiny communities where important messages to be submitted to the knowledge of the inhabitants, are exposed onto boards outside from supermarkets and meeting places.
Although many tasks are today carried out by satellites, Ascension Island remains a very important place for the global telecommunications: BBC has a quite complex radio bridge between Europe, Africa and South America installed on the island.
Photos of BBC relay system on Ascension: the complex infrastructure of BBC radio bridge between Europe, Africa and South America.
On the left, the first underwater telegraph cables dating back to 1899, now considered real archaeological findings, contrasting with the modern structures whose function is still often a bit mysterious.
Ascension Island is blessed by a constant breeze that allows to produce electricity with wind generators, in this case installed near a large extinct volcanic crater.
Old scrap abandoned near the US military base.
The accidental introduction of rats on the island has been a big problem for the endemic species, especially vegetables, how had to face new unknown enemies (most endemic flora is now extinct). Currently, there is an ongoing rat control campaign, which involves placing numerous traps around the island.
On Ascension Island there are many wild donkeys, which sometimes are also found in residential areas.
Where to stay on Ascension Island?
Obsidian hotel in Georgetown offers rooms and suites for visitors: the price / quality ratio is not comparable to international standards, however the structure is comfortable and consistent with what people may expect in a so remote place.
What currency is used in Ascension?
The official currency in Ascension is the British pound, but Saint Helena pounds (which have equal value) are also accepted (and can't be changed overseas). In the American military base, US dollar is also accepted.