Roca Sundy, Príncipe Island, São Tomé and Principe

The Certainty of Relativity

Ruins of Água Izé
Beautiful Beach, Belo Monte
The Loiça Gang
wall entrance
Color Clothing
The A. Eddington Panel
Balance II
The Way to School
the lookout
smiling balance
The portal
banana beach
Bom bom
In 1919, Arthur Eddington, a British astrophysicist, chose the Roça Sundy to prove Albert Einstein's famous theory. More than a century later, the island of Príncipe that welcomed him is still among the most stunning places in the Universe.

Once again, the Secretary of State for the Economy of São Tomé and Príncipe sees in us added value for his small island nation, the second smallest on the African continent, only surpassed, in terms of smallness, by the Seychelles archipelago.

So in that position, Silvino Palmer gives us a service pick up. He also provides us with a driver and a guide. Francisco Ambrósio, the guide, is a primary school teacher.

When we head to Ribeira Izé beach, with the aim of examining the ruins of the church of the first settlement built by the Portuguese in Príncipe, the children recognize it.

Brazen to double, in a group that washes dishes in a tank lost in the forest, they call it vampire over and over, with the r's well loaded, as the Santomeans do.

That repeated jouissance makes us curious.

When we questioned him, even somewhat reticently, Francisco clarified: “Oh, you know how it is… kids. They think I look like an actor they saw in a movie, playing a vampire, I think it's the one from “Blade”, Wesley Snipes.

We laughed our heads off. Francisco is in doubt whether he will laugh too.

The Improvised Path between Água Izé and Roça Sundy

Meanwhile, we arrive at Ribeira Izé. The imposing but mossy remains of the church impose a secular spirituality with something of an exorcist on it. We didn't bring it up again.

From there, the plan was to head to Roça Sundy.

On maps, both on paper and online, we only saw one route, which forced us to reverse inland, bypass the airport and go back up to the north coast of the island.

driver Armandinho was a resident of Sundy.

He knew more than the maps. Confident in the robustness of the pick-up, it puts us on paths that were barely there, which the equatorial vegetation he was preparing to swallow, in such a way that even Francisco Ambrósio questioned him about whether we were going to go anywhere.

Armandinho asks us to trust.

We continued along a winding line, almost parallel to the seafront, until – doubts quickly disappeared – to Sundy's partially walled domain.

Roça Sundy: one of the most lively and active Roças in Príncipe

We enter through one of the secondary porticoes facing the base of the central tower, the same one crossed by the rails that, in times, improved the productivity of the property.

With Armandinho as guide, neighbor and relative of everyone who had a home in the old sanzalas, we realized how alive and crucial for the prince's island if that rock was maintained.

We mostly found women. Some get fish, keeping an eye on their restless children.

Others come to the door, investigating the uproar of the children accompanying us.

Still others, we are the ones who find them when we can't resist peeking into their homes with open doors.

They watch TV with the company of their offspring, among the sparse furniture that the tight coziness of the home contemplates.

On that tour, Armandinho also reveals to us the only home-shop in the country, inhabited by a resident with a look and skin more Caucasian than black.

Roça Sundy, Príncipe Island, Theory of Relativity

Most of the more than four hundred current residents of Sundy are descendants of the slaves and workers who served the production of the farm since its distant creation.

The somewhat diffuse origin of Roça Sundy

It is estimated that Roça Sundy was founded in the early XNUMXth century.

A territorial charter of the island of Príncipe, dated 1814, had already delimited and identified a property with that name, blessed by the chapel of Nª Srª de França.

The swidden was located inland from Sundim beach, which is believed to have inspired the baptism.

Sundy hosted the first plantation of Sao Tome and Principe cocoa. Later, the Portuguese settlers there also produced coffee and coconut almonds.

The production of these tropical gems, free or almost free labor, guaranteed enormous profits to the successive owners and the expansion of the property to an exponent of more than four hectares.

As happened in other large plantations in São Tomé and Príncipe – for example, Agostinho Neto – the owners even built a hospital that served them and hundreds of servants.

Today, it is nothing more than a ruin.

From the Secular Past to New Tourist Plans

The owners' mansion and administration house, built in 1921 by the Carneiro family, have withstood time.

Just as the houses of the family's servants lasted, one of them, today, the kindergarten in the countryside. They are also accompanied by a large warehouse, the chapel, the workshops, the stables and the train station.

After the independence of São Tomé and Príncipe, obtained from Portugal, in 1975, and the nationalization of colonial properties, for some time, the mansion served as the official address of the President of Santomean on the island.

The tourist investment group HBD recently converted it into one of the finest hotels with the most impressive history in Príncipe.

There are few records of colonial times and slavery in the countryside. How scarce are narratives of the presidential uses of the mansion.

When we visit it, we come across a panel that celebrates and summarizes the true zenith of the popularity of Roça Sundy, an event that is as improbable as it is extraordinary.

The Expected Proof of the Theory of Relativity

It was the year 1919.

Four years earlier, Albert Einstein had revealed his Theory of General Relativity, amid astonishment and skepticism, with a huge impact on the world's scientific community. Among other assumptions, the theory advocated that light was distorted by gravity.

And, in particular, that stars emitting light rays that passed close to the Sun would appear altered, as the gravitational field of the Sun would bend its light.

After almost half a decade, the Theory of General Relativity lacked proof. On May 29, 1919, a total solar eclipse would take place that would allow it to be tested.

To do so, two specific observation points on Earth would be needed.

One of the chosen locations was the city of Sobral, in the Brazilian state of Ceará.

The other was the northern end of Príncipe island.

The accredited English astronomer Arthur Eddington was in charge of the study from Príncipe.

Now, precisely in the Sundy fields, Eddington took photographs of several stars of the Hyades cluster, including the double star Kappa Tauri, of the constellation Taurus, which, from the selected observation points, could be seen close to the Sun.

The rare phenomenon of a total eclipse would allow coverage of the Sun and a darkening of the sky sufficient to observe these stars, under normal conditions, overshadowed by the intense brightness.

A year later, the photographs and observations that Eddington published and disseminated proved the expected distortion of the stars. As always happens in these cases, with due controversy.

The Controversy That Resulted in a Confirmation of Proof

Skeptical scientists pointed out that the images obtained by Eddington did not have the necessary quality. They claimed the same with regard to the images obtained by the team present in Sobral, which presented defects generated by the telescopes, which were basic, if compared to the current ones.

In general, the world community of astronomers took into account the technical limitations of the time. Likewise, he considered the General Theory of Relativity to be proven. Later studies confirmed the same test by Sobral and Sundy, with much better image quality.

Einstein, Eddington and Sundy, in that same order, achieved deserved notoriety. They were celebrated with pomp and circumstance, in 2019, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the proof of the Theory of General Relativity.

The farm received a new Sundy Science and History Space that explains what we explained above in more detail, using images, maps and the like.

Who, like us, was astonished by the dense equatorial forest, the perfect beaches, the gardens and the people who, despite everything and having so little, welcome those who arrive with smiles on their lips, know that, apart from Space and any theory, the island of Príncipe is proof of how special it can be the land.


TAAG – Linhas Aéreas de Angola: rbook your flight Lisbon – São Tomé in TAAG: per from €750.

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