Wideawake Airfield is a joint facility run by the United States Air Force (USAF) and the RAF; the runway is US owned, and the Airhead is British owned. Built in 1943, the runway allowed planes to land and refuel en route to conflicts within Europe and the Middle East. The runway is two miles long and would have been used as an emergency runway in the event of an aborted space shuttle launch, until their decommissioning in 2011.During the Falklands Conflict the runway was invaluable. It was re- garrisoned and quickly became the world's busiest airstrip for a brief period in June 1982. The American troops who constructed the runway named the airfield after a colony of seabirds that nested nearby. The Sooty Terns, or Wideawake Birds,' with their loud distinct call, would wake up the troops well before the call of duty.
Jon Tonks' series 'Empire' follows his journey across the South Atlantic, exploring life on four remote islands - the British Overseas Territories of Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha, the Falkland Islands and St. Helena - relics of the once formidable British Empire, all intertwined through their shared history.
Travelling 60,000 miles around the Atlantic over six years, Tonks spent up to a month at a time in each territory, documenting these landscapes, and within them, traces of imperial history. Writing about the series, Christopher Lord describes Tonks as hinting at 'a skewed vision of an older, distant but not-quite-departed Britain'.