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Beacon lit on Ascension Island to celebrate Queen’s 90th birthday

A beacon was lit at nightfall last night, Thursday 21 April 2016, to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen.


The beacon had been especially made for the occasion and was located at Fort Thornton in Georgetown. Children from the youth organisations, along with members of the local community, gathered at the fort to see the beacon being lit. The evening featured a short speech from Ascension’s Administrator, Marc Holland. Mr Holland also read a message from HRH The Prince of Wales about the significance of the occasion. Mr Johnny Hobson entertained the crowd with some information about The Queen’s preferences. A short chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ was also sung.

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Ascension Wishes a Happy 90th Birthday to her Majesty The Queen

queen 90

There is a long and unbroken tradition in our country of celebrating Royal jubilees, weddings, coronations and special birthdays with the lighting of beacons – on top of mountains, churches and castle battlements, on towns and village greens, farms, country parks and estates, and along the beaches surrounding our shores.

The last major beacon celebration was on Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on 4 June 2012, when Ascension lit its beacon at the Turtle Ponds by Long Beach.

There will be a further opportunity to celebrate today, Thursday 21 April 2016, when beacons will be lit throughout the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories in celebration of her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday.

Bruno Peek, LVO, OBE, OPR, Pageantmaster, The Queen’s 90th Birthday Beacons said, “It has been a enormous privilege to be able to organise this amazing community event to celebrate the 90th Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen. I am delighted to see so many different organisations playing their part.”

Ascension will be lighting its own beacon shortly after nightfall this evening on top of Fort Thornton. This is being done with all the Youth Organisations – Beavers, Rainbows, Cubs, Brownies, Guides and Scouts. All from the community are welcome to attend to show their support.


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Ascension featured on BBC Radio 4

Ascension Island and the greening of Green Mountain is the theme of the latest programme in BBC Radio 4’s Costing The Earth series. First aired on Tuesday 19 March and now available as a podcast, presenter Peter Gibbs talks to Ascension’s conservationists about the struggle to cope with invasive species running riot and the rescue of Ascension’s tiny endemic ferns, as well as enjoying an encounter with nesting turtles on the beaches and a wander among the chattering ‘wideawakes’ on the sweltering lava plains by the coast.

Download The Mars of the Mid-Atlantic as a podcast.


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Saint Helena Government announces bi-monthly shipping service to St Helena and Cape Town

On 19 February, SHG announced the conclusion of a shipping contract with AW Ship Management Ltd.  AWSM will provide a sea freight service between Ascension and Cape Town via St Helena every two months.  As per the RMS, the service will be able to ship cars, sea containers, personal belongings and freezer goods. Pricing information will be released shortly but is expected to show a modest increase over the subsidised RMS service. A few berths will also be available on each voyage between the islands.  However, the principal means for transporting people between the islands will be a monthly air service with Comair.

Commenting on the agreement the Administrator, Marc Holland, said: ‘This is good news for the many people on Ascension who rely mainly on imports from South Africa and St Helena.  It provides welcome security to Saints working on Ascension that they will be able to ship their belongings home.   I will do another round of public meetings in the first week of March to answer any questions and to provide an update on the negotiations now underway with Comair on the details of the air link service.  I am grateful to the Governor and Councillors on St Helena for supporting the many months of hard and complex work by SHG officials to ensure that a sea freight service will operate between the two islands when the RMS service ends.

Governor Mark Capes said: ‘This important agreement with AWSM is the product of many months of demanding work and I warmly congratulate all concerned in bringing the negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion.  I know that it will be especially welcome news for Saints on Ascension who were understandably anxious to know that a freight service would be in place when the RMS service ends later this year.  The interests of the Saint community on Ascension are never far from the minds of their family and friends in SHG and in the private sector here on St Helena.  As in other areas of activity of mutual concern, this agreement is testimony to that and to the close cooperation between AIG and SHG.’

The full press release from SHG can be found on the SHG website.

AIG, 22 February

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Children’s playground gets a revamp

Article by Nicola Dillon; Photos by Colin Duncan

playground 1

After months of planning and preparation work, the Ascension Island Government was pleased to officially open the Children’s Park on Tuesday, 2 February.

Ginny Ferson, Deputy Governor of Bermuda and the UK Senior Officer responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Wass Inquiry Report recommendations, had the pleasure of cutting the ribbon and declaring the park officially open.

Beforehand the Administrator, Marc Holland, spoke a few words describing the background to the playground renovation, which was one of the projects which were fostered under the umbrella of the Bicentenary year celebrations.   The project began as a £85K bid from the Development Fund in the last Appropriation Ordinance and was intended to upgrade the children’s playground to bring the facility up to required safety standards and to replace the old play equipment with new equipment.

At this stage the Administrator handed over to Councillor Nicholas John who became the Island Council champion for the park.  Councillor John had been involved in the project from start to finish and he was instrumental in the design, project management and procurement of equipment for the playground.

Councillor John said that there had been great teamwork across AIG and the island generally in the project.  The core project team was supported by various AIG teams as required.  He said that it had been a privilege and an honour to work alongside the team on the project.  The project had been approached with humour and good spirit as well as a serious amount of thought, hard graft and dedication.  The end result was a playground that not only enticed and accommodated all ages of children and their parents, but kept within budget, was aesthetically pleasing and conformed to British Safety Standards.

Particular mention was made of team leader, Nicky Herne, who took ownership of the project and invested a huge amount of personal time and effort to ensure its success.  Councillor John said that Nicky demonstrated once more his infallible attention to detail and desire for perfection and quality.  The project, said Councillor John, depended on Nicky’s trade craft and managerial ability.

playground 3

playground 4 playground 2

Councillor John gave thanks to the following:

  • IDL, Southern Pole Services and Redhall Engineering who donated concreting materials
  • Berard Dupres and Babcock for sponsoring a proportion of the water used by the water feature
  • Steve Brown who was responsible for deploying the workforce in support of the project
  • The AIG Fire department who washed the apparatus in readiness for the Christmas Eve celebrations
  • Shalane Thomas who was responsible for the financial aspect of the project and kept the budget on track
  • Nicky Benjamin and the excavation team for preparing the grounds. Special mention was made of Martin Henry and Kevin Wade for their support throughout the installation.  Councillor John commented that nothing was too much trouble for them!
  • Roy Francis and Raymond Andrews for construction work. Councillor John explained that there was a lot of work hidden underground which was crucial to the safety of the structures.  He thanked Roy and Raymond for their hard work and commitment to deliver the project as soon as possible.
  • Patrick (Toby) Brooks, Mario Williams and Nathan Thomas for the electrical installation
  • Adrian Williams and Roy Thomas who carried out the plumbing works
  • Darren Benjamin who was invaluable in assembling the apparatus and lending support for the construction work
  • The following staff members were also part of the project team: Gareth Henry, Glen Lawrence, Steven O’Connor, Cormac Crowie and Gerald March

All are to be congratulated on their fine achievement!


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Wildlife of the UK Overseas Territories event to be held in London


Britain's Treasure Islands Title (2)

Join explorer and filmmaker Stewart McPherson for an evening’s intrepid journey across all of Britain’s overseas lands. Travel with him from the equator to the South Pole, from lush tropical atolls in coral seas to active volcanoes and windswept Antarctic islands.

When: Thursday March 24th 6:45pm-10:00pm
Where: Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR, United Kingdom

Tickets are £10 (£8 concessions)
Available at yapsody.com
Please send enquiries to cwensink@ukotcf.org

The UK Overseas Territories are Britain’s most remote outposts. Scattered across all Seven Seas, they cover an area seven times the size of the British Isles. They are home to 350,000 British subjects, thousands of unique species and many of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth…
Yet few know that the territories even exist or remain part of the United Kingdom today … even fewer appreciate these islands’ natural and cultural treasures.
Stewart will recount stories and highlights from filming a 4-part documentary series (broadcast on the BBC and across the world).

Land crabs spawning

Green turtle

Episode 1 (15)

He will reveal the territories’ most amazing wildlife spectacles; from some of the biggest penguin, turtle and seal colonies to the most pristine coral reefs on the planet. And their fascinating human history; from the world’s most remote settlements, to the mutiny on the Bounty to the imprisonment of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Along the way, Stewart will share some of the trials of his three year, 70,000 km journey on RAF military flights, one of the last working Royal Mail ships, trawlers, freighters, ice breakers and private charter yachts.

Guest speakers from across the territories share their insights on these incredible islands and the globally important wildlife that they harbour.
Come for a unique evening to discover an incredible secret side of the United Kingdom. One that you never knew existed!

Green Mountain 2

Episode 1 (11)

Green Mountain 1

This event is organised in association with the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum. All ticket proceeds will go towards protecting and promoting the territories.


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Publication of Wass Inquiry Report

Thursday 10 December 2015

The Ascension Island Government (AIG) today welcomes publication of the Wass Inquiry Report into Allegations Surrounding Child Safeguarding Issues on St Helena and Ascension Island, which follows an independent and comprehensive review of claims relating to child abuse on St Helena and Ascension Island carried out by Sasha Wass QC and the Inquiry team. The team visited St Helena and Ascension Island in March of this year. The report was published on 10 December in the UK Parliament, by means of a Written Ministerial Statement by Minister for the British Overseas Territories James Duddridge. Both the statement and the report can be viewed on the UK Government website at:

The St Helena Government has also issued its own statement at: http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/wass-inquiry-report-published/

AIG acknowledges and reaffirms the independence and credibility of this Inquiry – which received its full support and cooperation – and accepts the report’s recommendations. AIG will now consider the report’s findings in greater detail and discuss the issues it raises and follow up action with the Ascension Island Safeguarding Board and the Island Council.

At this early stage, we note in particular the following broad findings and recommendations:
• The report refutes the claim that child abuse is endemic on St Helena. It states: ‘The Inquiry Panel found no evidence that child abuse was either endemic or routine’
• Nor was there a cover up or corruption. The report ‘found no evidence of corruption in the St Helena Police Service, the St Helena Government, the FCO or DFID. Nor was there any evidence of a cover up, as suggested to the public.’
• The report found no evidence of police corruption or paedophilia on Ascension Island
• The report notes that attention needs to be given to the travel needs of St Helenians living on Ascension Island post-RMS, although this has recently been overtaken by the selection of Comair to provide an air service between Ascension Island and St Helena
• The report observes that an anomaly in the jurisdiction between St Helena and Ascension Island relating to the sentencing of offenders to community orders needs to be dealt with.

Significant progress has been made in child safeguarding on Ascension in recent years. AIG has adopted the Child Welfare Ordinance and Children in Bars legislation, which provide a modern framework for safeguarding on the island. The AI Safeguarding Board has adopted Child Protection guidelines, a criminal records check policy for adults working unsupervised with children, set up safe houses and the regulation of child-minding, and employed the island’s first full-time social worker.

We will continue to work closely with FCO, the St Helena Government and island employers to ensure we do all we can to protect children and the vulnerable. AIG and the UK Government take all accusations of child abuse extremely seriously and we are committed to ensuring that victims are heard and protected.

Of course, it would be naive to think that Government can tackle all of this alone. Everyone on St Helena and Ascension Island has a responsibility to work together to help to protect the vulnerable in our community and anyone with information that would assist the authorities is urged to come forward in confidence.
Notes to Editors

The Inquiry was commissioned by FCO and DFID Ministers to establish the truth of various allegations by carrying out a multi-disciplinary investigation into the claims made, providing an assessment of their genuineness, and making recommendations as appropriate. The allegations behind the Inquiry involved claims relating to child abuse in St Helena, police corruption and incompetence, and a conspiracy by SHG, FCO and DFID to cover these up.

The Inquiry was headed by Ms Sasha Wass QC, an accomplished barrister with substantial professional experience of dealing with these types of issues, supported by a multi-disciplinary team of experts.

The Wass Inquiry report can be down-loaded here.

A direct link to the Written Ministerial Statement can be found here.

10 December 2015

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Union flag raised to commemorate garrisoning of Ascension by British Navy 200 years ago

Ascension Island 200

On Friday 23rd October, the first day of Ascension’s Bicentenary celebrations, a flag raising ceremony took place in the capital, Georgetown. The raising of the Union flag recreated the actions of the first British Navy settlers who came ashore on 22 October 1815, planted the flag and in so doing claimed the Island in the name of King George III.

The ceremony was supported by the Band of the Royal Marines and featured speeches by the Island’s Administrator, Marc Holland and visiting military chaplain, Padre Nick Cook.

Ascension Island 200Ascension Island 200

The Administrator encouraged those present to consider the conditions endured by those who first lived on Ascension:

“This weekend we will be saluting the ingenuity and determination of those early settlers to build shelter, find water and grow food. How they tamed the harsh volcanic landscape and made the inhospitable home. How they had to cope with shortages, disease and the psychological impact of isolation. And how Ascension officially became a ship and was run under naval discipline. We will pay tribute to those who dedicated their lives and sometimes paid the ultimate sacrifice to establish the basics of life on this island.

But this weekend is more than just a celebration of our military heritage, important though it is. In celebrating 200 years of British sovereignty, we will pay tribute to all the people who have made this island into what it is today.”

Ascension Island 200

Photo credits: Crown Copyright 2015/LPHOT Caroline Davies RN

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Church bells ring to mark 200th anniversary of British settlement on Ascension Island

st mary's towerThe bells of St Mary’s Church, Ascension, were rung yesterday evening in recognition of the British men who came ashore exactly 200 years ago to establish a garrison on the Island. Commander Dobree of HMS Zenobia and Captain White of HMS Peruvian took possession of the Island on 22 October 1815 in the name of King George III.

The ringing of the church bells in Georgetown signalled the start of a weekend of Bicentenary celebrations and was followed by a ‘Dance the Night Away’ party in Georgetown Square, attended by a large and enthusiastic crowd of locals and visitors.

Further events planned for the weekend include a Flag Raising ceremony and the official opening of the new Bicentenary Park on Saturday.

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Ascension Island all set to mark its Bicentenary

This Thursday, 22 October, Ascension Island will celebrate 200 years of British settlement on the Island.

A weekend of special events is planned to mark the occasion and excitement is building as the date draws close. The bells of St Mary’s Church will ring to announce the start of the Bicentenary celebrations and will be followed by a ‘Dance the Night Away’ event in Georgetown Square.

St Mary's Church

The British Base Commander, Wing Commander Mark Taylor, explains why it is important for Ascension’s Bicentenary to be recognised and celebrated –

“Those of us who live on Ascension today must pay tribute to all our military forebears who worked in extreme conditions from 1815 onwards to establish a fresh water supply, sanitation, military fortifications, housing and healthcare in this isolated and remote environment”.

A flag raising ceremony on Friday 23 October will re-create the original raising of the Union Flag by the Navy in 1815 and honour those who first arrived here to establish a British garrison.

Full details of the Bicentenary Weekend programme can be found here.

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