Sunday, October 28, 2007

Caribbean: St. Eustatius (Statia), Netherlands Antilles, 2002

This is a view from Fort Oranje, which is in the center of the town Oranjestad on the island of St. Eustatius, or Statia, part of the Dutch Windward Islands which also includes St. Maarten (Dutch side) and Saba. The fort faces the Caribbean side of the island.

Statia used to be a lucrative port in colonial times and as such has some interesting historical buildings (such as a synagogue) aside from the fort. Statia is said to be the first area ever to salute a ship representing the United States of America. The fort has a plaque indicating this event, though it is suspected that history has exaggerated the importance of the signal; it may not have been specifically to recognize the new republic but simply to exchange communication with the vessel.

The British, supposedly in retaliation for the signal to the American ship, sacked this island in 1781 and as its economy never recovered, it became a sleepy place. It certainly is one of the quietest Caribbean islands I've ever been to. Part of the reason for its present-day quietness is that the island is reached by prop plane and the crosswinds are strong when one of these planes goes to land. Statia appeals mainly to divers and the main beach never was rebuilt after Hurricane Lenny washed it away.

The beach on the Caribbean side also has ruins of warehouses that were built during this same colonial era (left). There are beaches on the Atlantic side, but the surf is rough there and swimming is not recommended.

Aside from diving, the island also has an extinct volcano known as The Quill, which has several hiking trails around it (a guide is recommended). Though I didn't stay long enough to hike up the volcano, I drove as far south as I could on Statia and passed the volcano on my left.

I took this photo at the end of the road on the southern part of the island. This area was really quiet as there are no buildings around it and I was the only one in the area. The nearby island of St. Kitts can be seen in the distance.

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