With single weekly flight, remote St. Helena extends welcome

JAMESTOWN, St. Helena –  The Gates of Chaos, Lot's Wife, Old Woman's Valley, Man and Horse Cliffs. These are the names of places on St. Helena, an otherworldly Atlantic Ocean island far from anywhere whose British-ruled population of just over 4,000 is reaching out to the world.

Charles Darwin, astronomer Edmond Halley and Napoleon Bonaparte are a few of the luminaries who spent time on St. Helena over the centuries, though the deposed French emperor would rather have been elsewhere, confined as he was in exile until his 1821 death at Longwood House, which was prone to damp and rat infestations.

Now a new airport, condemned last year by British taxpayers as a boondoggle after dicey wind conditions were discovered, has opened to regular traffic (a single weekly flight from South Africa) that islanders hope will boost tourism and the sagging economy of what was once a linchpin of the British Empire.

The airport is a gamble, but tourists with time and money will experience the sense of stepping into history on an island that until recently was only reachable by boat and lies about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Africa and even further from South America.

The coat of arms of Britain's East India Company, the trading behemoth that helped to build the British Empire, adorns the arched entrance to the capital, Jamestown. The commercial brands that are so familiar in other parts of the world haven't made it to this rugged island. The island only got its first cellular telephone netw....

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