West African Islands – St. Helena

THERE are four principal groups of islands lying off the west coast of Africa, all opposite the upper half of the continent. The first are the Azores (a-zorz’), far west of the Strait of Gibraltar ; next are the Madeira (ma-de’ra) Islands to the southward nearer the continent, and still farther south the Canary and Cape Verde archipelagoes.

West of the southern half of Africa are only scattering islets ; the chief of which are several belonging to Spain and Portugal in the Gulf of Guinea, and Ascension, St. Helena, and Tristan da Cunha far out from the coast be-longing to Great Britain. The chief of the islands in the Gulf of Guinea is Fernando Po, a possession of Spain which lies just opposite the German colony of the Kameruns. It is peopled by negroes. Its commerce is small, its climate is unhealthful, and, as it is far out of our course, we shall not explore it.

Tristan da Cunha, Ascension, and St. Helena are of no commercial importance; nevertheless, we want to stop at the last-mentioned island. Why ? Because it was for several years the prison cage of Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous emperor of the French. He had at one time almost conquered Europe, but was defeated and banished to the little island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea. ,After being there a short time he escaped, and, crossing to France, raised another army and fought the allied forces of Europe at the battle of Waterloo. Napoleon came near winning in that battle, but he was finally defeated and again taken prisoner. The English, who had most to do with his defeat, decided that they would take no more, risks with him so near Europe, so they carried him away south of the Equator to this rocky island thousands of miles from his dear Paris, twelve hundred miles from the coast of Africa, and eight hundred and twenty miles from Ascension, the nearest land. They stationed soldiers on the island to guard him, and although he was given a house and all comforts, he was kept under guard until he died. His remains were first buried on St. Helena, but they were afterward re-moved to Paris and there placed in a magnificent tomb.

In going north we call at St. Helena, entering the harbor of Jamestown. We climb up Ladder Hill at the back of the town, and over Rupert Hill to Longwood, where Napoleon lived. We next visit the Valley of the Tomb where he was buried, and then return to our ship. St. Helena is a volcanic island, rough and ragged. It has but few people and is important only as a stopping place for some of the ships which sail between England and the Cape of Good Hope.