This speck of an island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean was discovered by the Portuguese on Ascension Day in 1501. It measures a mere 7.5 miles by 6 miles, and its closest neighbor is the island of St. Helena, some 760 miles southeast, of which Ascension has been a dependency since 1922. The island is of volcanic origin; its climate is moderated by southeastern trade winds. The annual mean temperature is 85°F at sea level and 75°F on Green Mountain, which is at 2,870 feet the highest point on the island.
The island was taken over by the British in 1815, at the same time that they took a greater interest in St. Helena for the purpose of sending Napoleon into exile. Until 1922, Ascension was under the direct supervision of the British Admiralty who maintained a small naval station here. In 1922, the island became a dependency of St. Helena and was placed under the control of the British colonial office.
During World War II, the United States built an airfield here to guard the South Atlantic sea lanes.
Today, the island serves mainly as a military base. It became of prime importance during the Falklands conflict between Britain and Argentina. From here, long distance jet aircraft brought supplies from the U.K. to the troops in the Falkland Islands.
Ascension has no permanent indigenous population, but is used in varying capacities by the Royal Air Force, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Cable & Wireless, the U.S. Air Force and NASA. Two military planes land here every week en route to and from the Falklands, and NASA does some of its moon testing here.
The main settlement is Georgetown, home to some 200 residents who enjoy a very laid back lifestyle. A short walk from the pier takes you to the center of the tiny village, with a Post Office, two clubs and one main store. The shores of the island are known as a habitat for turtles, and the surrounding waters abound in fish. The island is surrounded by crystal-clear water and some beautiful beaches. But currents, sharks and strong undertow often make swimming hazardous.
The visit of a cruise vessel provides an exciting occasion for the island's population. For our guests a visit to this remote locale will easily be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You will be eagerly welcomed and happily shown every nook and cranny of the island. The infrastructure may be limited, but the charm of Ascension and the enthusiasm of its residents more than make up for it.
The ship is scheduled to anchor off the small settlement of Georgetown. Guests will be taken ashore via the ship’s tenders. Georgetown is about 600 feet from the pier. There are no taxis available on the island except for vehicles owned by residents.
You may want to check out the two shops in Georgetown and perhaps get an Ascension Island T-shirt or a souvenir to take home from this remote island. The local currency is the pound sterling, but U.S. dollars are accepted.
The Two Boat Club, which also has a bar, accepts visitors for lunch.
Wander around Georgetown and meet the residents, or find one that can be hired with his car to show you the island.