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Georgetown, Ascension Island
United Kingdom
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.
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