Saint Helena

Flag of Saint Helena

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Uninhabited when first discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, Saint Helena was garrisoned by the British during the 17th century. It acquired fame as the place of Napoleon BONAPARTE's exile, from 1815 until his death in 1821, but its importance as a port of call declined after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Ascension Island is the site of a US Air Force auxiliary airfield; Gough Island has a meteorological station.


islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, about midway between South America and Africa

Geographic coordinates:

15 56 S, 5 42 W


total: 410 sq km
note: includes Saint Helena Island, Ascension, and the island group of Tristan da Cunha, which consists of Tristan da Cunha Island, Gough Island, Inaccessible Island, and the three Nightingale Islands
water: 0 sq km
land: 410 sq km


Saint Helena - tropical; marine; mild, tempered by trade winds; Tristan da Cunha - temperate; marine, mild, tempered by trade winds (tends to be cooler than Saint Helena)


Saint Helena - rugged, volcanic; small scattered plateaus and plains
note: the other islands of the group have a volcanic origin

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Queen Mary's Peak on Tristan da Cunha 2,060 m

Natural resources:


Land use:

arable land: 12.9%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 87.1% (2001)

Natural hazards:

active volcanism on Tristan da Cunha

Geography - note:

harbors at least 40 species of plants unknown anywhere else in the world; Ascension is a breeding ground for sea turtles and sooty terns


7,415 (July 2004 est.)


noun: Saint Helenian(s)
adjective: Saint Helenian

Ethnic groups:

African descent 50%, white 25%, Chinese 25%


Anglican (majority), Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic



Dependency status:

overseas territory of the UK



Economy - overview:

The economy depends largely on financial assistance from the UK, which amounted to about $5 million in 1997 or almost one-half of annual budgetary revenues. The local population earns income from fishing, the raising of livestock, and sales of handicrafts. Because there are few jobs, 25% of the work force has left to seek employment on Ascension Island, on the Falklands, and in the UK.

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

3.2% (1997 est.)

Labor force:

note: 1,200 work offshore (1998 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture and fishing 6%, industry (mainly construction) 48%, services 46% (1987 est.)

Unemployment rate:

14% (1998 est.)


revenues: $11.2 million
expenditures: $11 million, including capital expenditures of NA (FY92/93)

Agriculture - products:

corn, potatoes, vegetables; timber; fish, crawfish (on Tristan da Cunha)


construction, crafts (furniture, lacework, fancy woodwork), fishing

Exports - commodities:

fish (frozen, canned, and salt-dried skipjack, tuna), coffee, handicrafts

Exports - partners:

US 25%, Tanzania 20%, Indonesia 10%, UK 10%, Japan 5%, Netherlands 5%, Philippines 5%, Spain 5% (2003 est.)

Imports - commodities:

food, beverages, tobacco, fuel oils, animal feed, building materials, motor vehicles and parts, machinery and parts

Imports - partners:

UK 28.2%, South Africa 23.1%, Spain 15.4%, Italy 7.7%, Tanzania 7.7%, US 5.1% (2003 est.)


Saint Helenian pound (SHP)

Telephones - main lines in use:

2,200 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

0 (1997)

Telephone system:

general assessment: can communicate worldwide
domestic: automatic network
international: country code - 290; HF radiotelephone from Saint Helena to Ascension Island, which is a major coaxial submarine cable relay point between South Africa, Portugal, and UK; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Communications - note:

Gough Island has a meteorological station


total: 198 km (Saint Helena 138 km, Ascension 40 km, Tristan da Cunha 20 km)
paved: 168 km (Saint Helena 118km, Ascension 40 km, Tristan da Cunha 10 km)
unpaved: 30 km (Saint Helena 20 km, Ascension 0 km, Tristan da Cunha 10 km) (2000)

Ports and harbors:

Georgetown (on Ascension), Jamestown

Merchant marine:



1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 1
over 3,047 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Military - note:

defence is the responsibility of the UK