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

Roça Sundy

Sundi, São Tomé and Príncipe

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


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 still live in the old slave’s quarters, while the master houses are locked. 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 and the plantation is more like a village where people live near (and in) the derelict buildings.

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.

In partnership with KAYAK

Plan Your Trip

From Around the Web