Party spirit grips ‘HMS Ascension’ as island sails towards the red

The people of Ascension have been marking the 200th anniversary of Britain claiming possession of their island with “a series of junketings”, reports The Spectator magazine.

But the party spirit may give way to gloom over the prospects for “this strange and marvellous place”, says writer Duff Hart-Davis.

“Marc Holland, who took over as Ascension’s Administrator last year, is worried about the financial future,” he writes.

“Annual income of nearly £7 million comes mainly from the British government, but Ascension is sliding towards the red. Much of the island’s infrastructure is rundown.”

As Mr Holland is quoted as putting it: “We’re in an East German situation, in that we’ve inherited a degraded estate. The trouble is that we have no West Germany.”

A new park has been created to mark the bicentenary, with a centrepiece created by metal-worker Nick Tayler. Celebration events include a cricket match, a treasure hunt, dances, a Royal Marines Band concert, and “party after party.”

The greatest cause of jubilation, says Hart-Davis, has been the announcement of an air-link between Ascension and its neighbour St Helena, 700 miles to the south-east.

It is not clear whether this will bring a boost to tourism on the island, as the writer suggests, with only one flight between St Helena and Ascension per month.

Two naval offices went ashore and claimed Ascension for Britain at 5.30 p.m. on 22 October 1815, a week after Napoleon reached St Helena. The island became HMS Ascension – a stone frigate – as a means to frustrating any attempt to use it as a base from which to rescue the captive emperor.

READ MORE:
Notes from a very small island: wonderful, eccentric Ascension – The Spectator

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About Simon Pipe

I teach journalism and media law part-time at university and spend the rest of the time, fell-running, dancing, creating. "Creating" can be taken many ways. I was a senior broadcast journalist at the BBC and a reporter, sub-editor and feature writer on newspapers before that. For five years I ran St Helena Online, a news website about the remote British island in the South Atlantic, at www.sthelenaonline.org.
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