“Questa piedra maladetta — this cursed rock”

I usually repost my MetaFilter threads over here, but I missed this one about the opening of St. Helena Airport in May 2016. Turns out that all the big spending and hand wringing was a waste of time because the real story is that the £285m airport is too windy to land on. Guess what happened next. Not until July of this year did anyone announce a scheduled flight. Only there’s no schedule.

It’s natural to go for the hubris of big failure angle. A quarter billion pounds spent and no one bothered to check the wind. How many examples of institutional clusterfucking do you need? The airport code might be HLE, but being “the world’s most useless” is permanent. Perhaps Gaia herself is messing with us – shouting “THOU SHALL NOT LAND” in a big wind sheary exhale.


originally posted 22 May 2016

The remote south Atlantic island of St. Helena has largely lived apart from the world. For decades travel to the tiny (roughly 10 x 5 miles) island and British territory of 4000 has been entirely dependent upon a monthly visit from the Royal Mail Ship – a week-long voyage from Cape Town that has kept the island on the margins of the global travel market. You have to be a very determined traveller to see where Napoleon died and have a visit with a the oldest living land animal – a 184 year old giant tortoise named Jonathan.

That is until last week when the first commerical airplane flight landed at the island’s brand new airport. After five years of construction, hundreds of millions of pounds, and 450,000 truckloads of dirt and rock, Saint Helena Airport (airport code: HLE) is open for business, but how will St. Helena (now branded “The Secret Of The South Atlantic“) adjust to the end of its isolation? Will the island’s culture itself survive?

More: (two part BBC Radio 4 series “St. Helena – Joining The Rest Of Us“)

Author: Chris Barrus

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