Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha facts on every entity in the world

Saint Helena is a British Overseas Territory consisting of Saint Helena and Ascension Islands, and the island group of Tristan da Cunha.

Saint Helena: Uninhabited when first discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, Saint Helena was garrisoned by the British during the 17th century. It acquired fame as the place of Napoleon BONAPARTE's exile from 1815 until his death in 1821, but its importance as a port of call declined after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. During the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa, several thousand Boer prisoners were confined on the island between 1900 and 1903.

Ascension Island: This barren and uninhabited island was discovered and named by the Portuguese in 1503. The British garrisoned the island in 1815 to prevent a rescue of Napoleon from Saint Helena. 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 an airfield on Ascension in support of transatlantic 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. It remains a critical refueling point in the air-bridge from the UK to the South Atlantic. The island hosts one of four dedicated ground antennas (the others are on Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory), Kwajalein (Marshall Islands), and at Cape Canaveral, Florida (US)) that assist in the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation system. NASA and the US Air Force also operate a Meter-Class Autonomous Telescope (MCAT) on Ascension as part of the deep space surveillance system for tracking orbital debris, which can be a hazard to spacecraft and astronauts.

Tristan da Cunha: The island group consists of Tristan da Cunha, Nightingale, Inaccessible, and Gough Islands. Tristan da Cunha is named after its Portuguese discoverer (1506); it was garrisoned by the British in 1816 to prevent any attempt to rescue Napoleon from Saint Helena. Gough and Inaccessible Islands have been designated World Heritage Sites. South Africa leases a site for a meteorological station on Gough Island.



islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, about midway between South America and Africa; Ascension Island lies 1,300 km (800 mi) northwest of Saint Helena; Tristan da Cunha lies 4,300 km (2,700 mi) southwest of Saint Helena

Geographic coordinates

Saint Helena: 15.57° S, 5.42° W

Ascension Island: 7.57° S, 14.22° W

Tristan da Cunha island group: 37.15° S, 12.30° W

Area 209/257

total: 308 sq km

land: Saint Helena Island 122 sq km; Ascension Island 88 sq km; Tristan da Cunha island group 98 sq km

water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly more than twice the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km


Saint Helena: 60 km

Ascension Island: NA

Tristan da Cunha: 40 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm


Saint Helena: tropical marine; mild, tempered by trade winds

Ascension Island: tropical marine; mild, semi-arid

Tristan da Cunha: temperate marine; mild, tempered by trade winds (tends to be cooler than Saint Helena)


the islands of this group are of volcanic origin associated with the Atlantic Mid-Ocean Ridge

Saint Helena: rugged, volcanic; small scattered plateaus and plains

Ascension: surface covered by lava flows and cinder cones of 44 dormant volcanoes; terrain rises to the east

Tristan da Cunha: sheer cliffs line the coastline of the nearly circular island; the flanks of the central volcanic peak are deeply dissected; narrow coastal plain lies between The Peak and the coastal cliffs


mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

highest point: Queen Mary's Peak on Tristan da Cunha 2,060 m; Green Mountain on Ascension Island 859 m; Mount Actaeon on Saint Helena Island 818 m

Natural resources

fish, lobster

Land use

agricultural land: 30.8%

arable land 10.3%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 20.5%

forest: 5.1%

other: 64.1% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

active volcanism on Tristan da Cunha

volcanism: the island volcanoes of Tristan da Cunha (elev. 2,060 m) and Nightingale Island (elev. 365 m) experience volcanic activity; Tristan da Cunha erupted in 1962 and Nightingale in 2004

Environment - current issues


Geography - note

Saint Helena harbors at least 40 species of plants unknown elsewhere in the world; Ascension is a breeding ground for sea turtles and sooty terns; Queen Mary's Peak on Tristan da Cunha is the highest island mountain in the South Atlantic and a prominent landmark on the sea lanes around southern Africa

People and Society


noun: Saint Helenian(s)

adjective: Saint Helenian

note: referred to locally as "Saints"

Ethnic groups

African descent 50%, white 25%, Chinese 25%




Protestant (Anglican (majority), Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist), Roman Catholic

Population 226/238


note: only Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha islands are inhabited, not any of the other nearby islands/islets (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 16.55% (male 658/female 632)

15-24 years: 12.06% (male 479/female 461)

25-54 years: 44.67% (male 1,719/female 1,763)

55-64 years: 12.6% (male 519/female 463)

65 years and over: 14.12% (male 560/female 541) (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 41 years

male: 41 years

female: 41 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 179/233

0.24% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 197/224

9.88 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 114/225

7.44 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 84/222

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)


urban population: 39.4% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: -0.59% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

JAMESTOWN (capital) 1,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.12 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 1.04 male(s)/female

total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 107/224

total: 14.19 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 16.75 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 11.5 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 45/224

total population: 79.36 years

male: 76.42 years

female: 82.44 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 185/224

1.58 children born/woman (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths



Country name

conventional long form: Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha

conventional short form: none

Government type



name: Jamestown

geographic coordinates: 15.56° S, 5.43° W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

3 administrative areas; Ascension, Saint Helena, Tristan da Cunha


none (overseas territory of the UK)

National holiday

Birthday of Queen ELIZABETH II, third Monday in April (1926)


several previous; latest effective 1 September 2009 (The St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Constitution Order 2009) (2015)

Legal system

English common law and local statutes


see United Kingdom


18 years of age

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952)

head of government: Governor Mark CAPES (since 29 October 2011)

cabinet: Executive Council consists of the governor, 3 ex-officio officers, and 5 elected members of the Legislative Council

elections/appointments: none; the monarchy is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch

note: the constitution order provides for an administrator for Ascension and Tristan da Cunha appointed by the governor

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Council (17 seats including the speaker and deputy speaker; 12 members directly elected in a single countrywide constituency by simple majority vote and 3 ex-officio members - the chief secretary, financial secretary, and attorney general; members serve 4-year terms)

note: each voter can vote for up to 12 candidates; the Constitution Order provides for separate Island Councils for both Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

elections: last held on 17 July 2013 (next to be held in 2017)

election results: percent of vote - NA; seats - independents 12

Judicial branch

highest resident court(s): Court of Appeal (consists of the court president and 2 justices); Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice - a non-resident - and NA judges); note - appeals beyond the Court of Appeal are heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London)

judge selection and term of office: court judges' appointments and tenures NA

subordinate courts: Magistrate's Court; Small Claims Court; Juvenile Court

Political parties and leaders


Political pressure groups and leaders

other: private sector; unions

International organization participation


Flag description

blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Saint Helenian shield centered on the outer half of the flag; the upper third of the shield depicts a white plover (wire bird) on a yellow field; the remainder of the shield depicts a rocky coastline on the left, offshore is a three-masted sailing ship with sails furled but flying an English flag

National symbol(s)

Saint Helena plover (bird)

National anthem

note: as a territory of the UK, "God Save the Queen" is official (see United Kingdom)


Economy - overview

The economy depends largely on financial assistance from the UK, which amounted to about $27 million in FY06/07 or more than twice the level of annual budgetary revenues. The local population earns income from fishing, raising livestock, and sales of handicrafts. Because there are few jobs, 25% of the work force has left to seek employment on Ascension Island, on the Falklands, and in the UK.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 228/230

$31.1 million (FY09/10 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate)

GDP - real growth rate


GDP - per capita (PPP) 150/230

$7,800 (FY09/10 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: NA%

industry: NA%

services: NA%

Agriculture - products

coffee, corn, potatoes, vegetables; fish, lobster; livestock; timber


construction, crafts (furniture, lacework, fancy woodwork), fishing, collectible postage stamps

Industrial production growth rate


Labor force 227/233

2,486 (1998 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 6%

industry: 48%

services: 46% (1987 est.)

Unemployment rate 146/207

14% (1998 est.)

Population below poverty line


Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%

highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $10.01 million

expenditures: $24.6 million

note: revenue data reflect locally raised revenues only; the budget deficit is resolved by grant aid from the UK (FY06/07 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 154/226

4% (2012 est.)

Exports 211/224

$19 million (2004 est.)

Exports - commodities

fish (frozen, canned, and salt-dried skipjack, tuna), coffee, handicrafts

Imports 221/223

$20.53 million (2010 est.)

Imports - commodities

food, beverages, tobacco, fuel oils, animal feed, building materials, motor vehicles and parts, machinery and parts

Debt - external

Exchange rates

Saint Helenian pounds (SHP) per US dollar -

0.65 (2015)

0.64 (2013)

0.64 (2013)

0.63 (2012)

0.62 (2011)


Electricity - production 217/220

8 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 216/219

7.44 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 194/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 200/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 213/214

5,000 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 27/214

100% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 179/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 201/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 126/212

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 189/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 187/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 123/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 188/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 129/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 211/212

60 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 131/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 208/213

63.12 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 126/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 192/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 178/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 132/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 192/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 210/212

12,080 Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 211/219

total: 3,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 39 (2012)

Telephone system

general assessment: can communicate worldwide

domestic: automatic digital network

international: country code (Saint Helena) - 290, (Ascension Island) - 247; international direct dialing; satellite voice and data communications; satellite earth stations - 5 (Ascension Island - 4, Saint Helena - 1) (2010)

Broadcast media

Saint Helena has no local TV station; 2 local radio stations, one of which is relayed to Ascension Island; satellite TV stations rebroadcast terrestrially; Ascension Island has no local TV station but has 1 local radio station and receives relays of broadcasts from 1 radio station on Saint Helena; broadcasts from the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) are available, as well as TV services for the US military; Tristan da Cunha has 1 local radio station and receives BFBS TV and radio broadcasts (2007)

Radio broadcast stations

Saint Helena: AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 0

Ascension: AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 1 (2005)

Television broadcast stations

0 (3 television channels are received via satellite and distributed by UHF) (2005)

Internet country code

.sh; note - Ascension Island assigned .ac

Internet hosts 141/232

6,729 (2012)

Internet users 214/217

total: 900

percent of population: 11.8% (2009)


Airports 232/236

2 (2015)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 2

over 3,047 m: 1 Ascension Island (Wideawake Field)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 Saint Helena; note - opening to commercial flights in February 2016 (2015)

Roadways 210/223

total: 198 km (Saint Helena 138 km, Ascension 40 km, Tristan da Cunha 20 km)

paved: 168 km (Saint Helena 118 km, Ascension 40 km, Tristan da Cunha 10 km)

unpaved: 30 km (Saint Helena 20 km, Tristan da Cunha 10 km) (2002)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s):

Saint Helena: Jamestown

Ascension Island: Georgetown

Tristan da Cunha: Calshot Harbor (Edinburgh)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international