Thursday, 29 June 2017

ASCENSION ISLANDS: Ascension Island With No Trees And Has Only One Hotel

Ascension Island is an island in the Atlantic Ocean,south of the equator, 700 miles northwest of Saint Helena, the United Kingdom territory by which it is administered.

The main settlement and "capital" is Georgetown where the tourist information office is in the Obsidian Hotel.

This barren and uninhabited island was discovered and named by the Portuguese in 1501.

The British garrisoned the island in 1815 to prevent a rescue of Napoleon from Saint Helena and it served as a provisioning station for the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron on anti-slavery patrol.

The island remained under Admiralty control until 1922, when it became a dependency of Saint Helena. During World War II, the UK permitted the US to construct Wideawake airfield on Ascension in support of trans-Atlantic flights to Africa and anti-submarine operations in the South Atlantic.

In the 1960s the island became an important space tracking station for the US. In 1982, Ascension was an essential staging area for British forces during the Falklands War, and it remains a critical refuelling point in the air-bridge from the UK to the South Atlantic.

The climate on Ascension Island is subtropical. It is arid and lacking in vegetation until the elevation increases where lush forest and fertile soil exists.

The tourist information office is in the Obsidian Hotel

All visitors must apply for an entry permit in advance,minimum 14 days.

An Entry Permit issued by the Administrator's office allows a stay of up to 3 months. Passports must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Ascension, and visitors must also have full medical insurance which will cover the expense of medical evacuation, if needed.

It is not possible since April 2017 to reach Ascension Island by plane, due to poor runway conditions at RAF Ascension, except for emergency medical evacuations as well as essential personnel/supplies.

It was possible before the cancellation to purchase a seat on the military charter flight from RAF Brize Norton close to Oxford in the United Kingdom. Individual return tickets cost around £969 standard,June 2012, booked at least 28 days in advance.

Group and students discounts are available.

The Royal Mail Ship Saint Helena sails from Cape Town, Walvis Bay and Saint Helena to Ascension Island.

There is no public transport including taxis on Ascension. Obsidian offers car rentals from £25/day.

Fort Hayes, Georgetown There are signs pointing to it near the port. M 17:00-19:00, Sa 10:00-12:00, or by special arrangement if possible.

Fort Thornton, Georgetown,Across the port from Fort Hayes.

St. Mary's Anglican Church, Georgetown. It's part of Diocese of Cape Town along with it's counter-part in St. Helena. Built in mid 19th Century as the Naval Church. Has much history laid on the Wall Tablets inside.

Red Lion British Navy Barracks, Green Mountain National Park. Built in 18th Century in a subtropical forest which covers the Green mountain, and have a very nice clock-tower. Starting point for many trails and "letterbox" walks,which are special because the climate on the mountain are noticeable cooler than on other desert parts of the island.

The Dew Pond, at the Peak of Green Mountain, Green Mountain National Park. A destination of a noticeable "letterbox" walk. See how climate zones change during your short 1 mile trip to the 2817 ft peak .

Exiles Club (Marine Barracks). Historical building, dates back to 1830. There are now some shops in it.

Sport fishing is the main attraction for visitors to Ascension Island.

There are also some beaches and ocean swimming in certain coves, such as Comfortless Cove and English Bay. Long Beach, as inviting as it looks, has a very hazardous undertow and is not suitable for sea bathing.

However, it is a sheer delight for wildlife fans as this is where sea turtles go to nest. There are a few paths,such as Rupert's Path suitable for hiking into the more lush highlands, as well as mountainside lava tubes to explore.

The British pastime of letterboxing, hiking to a destination that contains a "letterbox" containing a log book and a rubber stamp pad is possible here.

Ascension Island features what was at one time reputed to be the world's worst golf course.

Located between the settlements of Two Boats village and Georgetown, the course has 18 holes and the greens are in fact 'browns', a reference to the sand and oil mix used to make them.

The rest of the course is made up of volcanic ash and rock, which makes for some interesting rounds.

There is some terrific Scuba Diving in the waters surrounding Ascension Island.

At present, however, there are only local enthusiasts and no recognized Diving Operation.

Some of locals are often willing to take experienced visitors with them

There are Fumaroles and Lava Tunnels to explore,at Command Hill, near the Catholic Grotto.

The grocery store and almost every other business on the island have odd hours of operation.

The gas station on Tuesdays is open 2-3 in the afternoon so make sure you write up the times on the first day.

The Obsidian Hotel has a nice gift shop with some good books and beach vacation-style t-shirts.

Because everything is imported prices for food are very high on the island. If you get the chance to go out fishing with the locals, you may walk away with a bag of tuna. Sometimes the community hosts a fish fry that is open to everyone.

There are very few places to eat, with odd opening hours

The Restaurant, in the Obsidian Hotel, Georgetown. Breakfast 07:30-09:00; dinner 19:00-20:30. For dinners bookings are really required.

Snack Bar, at Volcano Club at the US base. Tu-F 17:00-21:00, Sa 16:00-21:00 (last orders at 20:50). American-style fast food.

Drinking

- The Anchor Inn, in the Obsidian Hotel, Georgetown. 6:30PM-11PM daily.

- The Saints' Club, Georgetown. The bar opens in evenings.

- Two Boats Club, Two Boats village. The bar is open from 7:30PM

- Volcano Club, at the US base. Seems to be the most crowded venue on the island and has the best selection of alcohols. From 5PM.

Visitors are accommodated by the Obsidian Group Accommodation and Tourist Services,which maintains a hotel the Obsidian, two hostels, and two cottages (7 night minimum). Hotel rates range from £45 for a single to £79 for a VIP double. Hostel and cottage rates range from £25-£50 per night.

Saint Helena is obviously the only reasonable destination you can visit from Ascension Island.

There is limited mobile service on the island, but service may be spotty at best.Numbers starting with 0 or 5 have been reserved for future services.

The country code for Ascension is 247 and the population is too small to need area or trunk STD codes.

The International Prefix is 00.

Subscriber numbers are typically 4 digits long and start with a 2 for the US Base, 3 for Travellers Hill or Airhead, 4 for Two Boats and a 6 or 7 for Georgetown.

There is a Wi-Fi hotspot in Obsidian Hotel's lobby and patio for £10/day. The Post Office in Georgetown offers a vast array of Philatelic items for sale from the three islands of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. Airmail is possible, thanks to the airfield.

Ascension Island is a tiny dot of green in the tropical mid-Atlantic, a volcanic outpost of empire where it's hot and cold at the same time. It's a place where Charles Darwin helped inspire an alarming change.

A scrap of British territory marooned in the tropical mid-Atlantic halfway between Brazil and Africa, Ascension is a place of enduring oddity.

Officially, nobody is from there. The UK government denies the right of abode, turning Ascension's 800 or so British citizens some of whom have lived on the island for decades into temporary visitors.

To enter, you must get the written permission of the Queen's representative, known as the Administrator.

The airport whose runway was once the longest in the world, designed to accommodate the Space Shuttle is operated by the US Air Force, which grants limited access to Britain.

Nasa tracked the Apollo Moon landings from Ascension. The European Space Agency monitors rocket launches from here.

Hilltops across the island are festooned with aerial arrays and satellite dishes but who is listening, and to what, nobody is willing to say.

Ascension's bizarre natural environment is the perfect setting for all this strangeness.

Ascension is the tip of an undersea volcano which rose above the waves only a million years ago. It may still have been erupting as recently as the 16th Century.

The pounding Atlantic has barely begun to erode the contorted, charcoal-black lava flows that ring the island's shoreline, looking like they cooled yesterday.

Most of it is as hot and dry as a desert. What soil there is, is clinker. Until the British settled in 1815 it was uninhabited. The largest land animal was a variety of land crab. Ships didn't go there.

Yet sailors visiting in 1726 discovered a tent and a diary!

They turned out to belong to Leendert Hasenbosch, a Dutch mariner who had been set ashore on Ascension the year before as punishment for homosexuality.

The diary records Hasenbosch's increasingly desperate search for water and supplies, as he resorted to drinking the blood of turtles and seabirds and, eventually, his own urine.

The poor man's final fate is unknown, no skeleton was ever discovered.

Almost 80 years later, when the British garrisoned Ascension to discourage French attempts at rescuing Napoleon, who had been exiled to St Helena, the nearest point of land, 700 miles southeast, they too could find virtually no fresh water.

Near the coast, nothing grows,the island has no single tree.

For most of the 500 years human beings have been visiting Ascension, turtles have been dinner. Sailors would haul these beasts - which can weigh as much as 250kg away to their ships and turn them, keeping them alive on their backs, sometimes for weeks, before boiling them up for soup.

Tourism Observer
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