Roça Sundy – Sundi, São Tomé and Príncipe - Atlas Obscura

Roça Sundy

Sundi, São Tomé and Príncipe

This abandoned plantation was once witness to an eclipse that proved Einstein's theory of relativity. 

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Roça Sundy is a nearly abandoned coffee plantation on the small african island of Principe, just north of the equator where an independent astrophysicist proved Einstein’s theory of relativity by watching an eclipse.

In 1919 famous British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington traveled to the island of Príncipe to find the perfect location from which to view a predicted eclipse. Eddington hoped to capture starlight being shifted by the sun’s gravity, thus proving Einstein’s model of physics over Newton’s. The eclipse was necessary as it would be the only time he could view the light unobscured from the sun. He found the perfect spot in Roça Sundy.

The Sundy plantation (roça translates to plantation) was a one time cocoa and coffee farm that had eventually turned over to the royal family of Principe who used the site as a vacation home. With a great deal of land close to the jungle, the ambient light was minimal and Eddington was able to set up shop in the main house. As he predicted, Eddington found slight curvature of the light and after publishing his findings, much of the scientific community deemed it the first concrete example of Einstein’s theory.  

Today the plantation site lies in great disrepair as though the jungle has decided to take over.

People used to live in the old slave’s quarters until early 2024, when the nearby Roca Sundi Hotel and it’s mother company TBD funded housing for the remaining inhabitants somewhere else on the island.

Arguably they received solid houses and a better infrastructure in their new so called „place of dreams“, whereas the fact that the nearby Hotel now provides an ambiance without „peasant disturbance“ for their paying guests leaves mixed feelings.

 The now moved villagers benefit from better housing at their new place, whereas the government has failed to deliver the promised acces to water for the newly founded town. 

The previously inhabited old buildings have been freed from any „not colonial“ structures and may leave the visitor with an eerie feeling when strolling through the now museum like buildings. 

Old farming and processing equipment still litter the overgrown wilds of the plantation grounds, but there is precious little evidence of Eddington’s once groundbreaking research.

There is a gate keeper from Roca Sundy Hotel at the entrance and the hotel is keen to turn the remaining ruins into a part of the hotel complex. 

Know Before You Go

Take a plane to Lisbon, Portugal. From there take a plane to the Sao Tome island. The main of the two island that comprise Sao Tome and Principe. From Sao Tome, get a small plane to Principe. At Principe airport you need to negotiate with someone to drive you to Sundy. There are very few cars on the island and no taxi. You can also hop on a motorbike if you find someone that can take you.

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