BritishBins remains the only company to ship bins to Saint Helena; an island so
remote even Napoleon couldn’t escape it.
“How far is Saint Helena?” asked Rudyard Kipling repeatedly and rhetorically in his famous lullaby; the point being, no matter where you are in the world, the answer is always ‘a long way away.’ To get an idea quite how isolated this infamous volcanic outpost is, search ‘Saint Helena’ on google maps and zoom out. Keep going…and going. The island is now just a tiny pinprick, yet remarkably it remains the only thing you can see, other than the yawning expanse of the South Atlantic Ocean. To paraphrase Jim Morrison, that’s pretty far out, man.
And yet, despite being one of the planet’s remotest hunks of rock, St. Helena has played an intriguingly important role within European history. The island was discovered uninhabited by the Portuguese in 1502, who were taken by its abundance of trees and fresh water. Lonesome yet lush, both beautiful and barbarous, Saint Helena soon became the glamorous destination of choice for audacious explorers such as Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Cook.
The island was predictably squabbled over by the English and the Dutch for the next few hundred years, before playing a central role in the demise of one of history’s most formidable military commanders: Napoleon Bonaparte.
Napoleon had already boldly demonstrated that he wasn’t the kind of person to let a little thing like exile stop him. The Russians and Prussians had already shipped him off to Elba, a reasonably remote Mediterranean island. In the first few months on Elba he had created a small navy and army; within a year he was escaping the island on a brig with 700 men by his side.
The British realised that a rethink was in order. They decided that Elba wasn’t quite remote enough. Having granted Napoleon ‘asylum’ from the Prussians-who now wanted him dead or alive- they placed him in Longwood house, a damp, dilapidated residence near the coast of Saint Helena.
Rumours of hatched plots and daring escape plans were plentiful, but ultimately the British had weaponised the island. Napoleon spent the rest of his days dictating his memoirs and grumbling about his damp, windswept living conditions. Napoleon’s time on Saint Helena has captured the imagination of artists and poets for centuries, enraptured by the image of the persecuted genius-so central to European affairs for so long- slowly perishing, watched only by the vast and indifferent sea. Napoleon died on Saint Helena, enfeebled and defeated, in May 1821.
Today Saint Helena is still remarkably difficult to get to. The British Overseas Territory has been accessible only by the Royal Mail Ship St Helena, which offers journeys of between five days and nearly two months on its voyages. It took until September 2015 for a plane to land there for the very first time, though a fully-fledged airport is on the horizon. We don’t let that stop us though. We frequently ship to the island, making sure that living conditions for its 5000 residents are a bit better than those suffered by Napoleon.
How far is Saint Helena? Not too far for us!