Tips of the Earthbergs

By Jheri St. James

The islands of the Eastern Caribbean are very far away from Laguna Beach, California, and in 2001 we looked at the long list of names—Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kits & Nevis, and St. Vincent & Grenadines—and thought, wow! Collecting these soils is going to be difficult! That was seven years ago. Today we have obtained the soils from each of those Eastern Caribbean islands—six shipments orchestrated by one lady, Juanita Lynch from the U.S. Embassy in Barbados; and one from Dr. Janil Gore-Frances, Ph.D. of the Plant Protection Unit of the Department of Agriculture in Antigua. We sincerely thank Juanita Lynch and Dr. Gore-Frances for their help in obtaining these unique soils from the number one tourist destination on earth. Juanita Lynch sent us this quotation from Frank Collymore’s Hymn to the Sea: “Like all who live on small islands, I must always be remembering the sea.”


Indians were the first inhabitants here and then in 1492 Christopher Columbus became the first European to explore these islands. After reportedly landing in the Bahamas, Columbus named them the Indies because he thought he had finally reached Asia and the East Indies. Numerous explorers followed in his path, then settlers arrived from the Americas and Europe—religious outcasts, slaves from Africa, and a small army of pirates. Great military powers fought for control of the islands, long called the West Indies, now named the Caribbean islands.

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This is a large group of islands that separate the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, and are broken into three island groups:

Bahamas (north)—3,000 individual islands and reefs;

Greater Antilles (central)—Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico

Lesser Antilles (southeast)—

1. Leeward Islands (Antigua & Barbuda; St. Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla and Montserrat) and

2. Windward Islands (Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Grenada, Barbados).

The West Indies Federation, created by the United Kingdom in 1958 consisted of 24 main inhabited islands and approximately 220-230 offshore islands, islets and cays. The Federation spanned across all the island groups in the Caribbean. Most of the islands have mountainous interiors surrounded by narrow coastal plains. As with all British colonies of the period, Queen Elizabeth II was head of state. Jamaica was the first to leave the federation in 1962. After that came Trinidad and Tobago, then Barbados, and finally the West Indies Federation was dissolved that same year. Later in a period from 1966 through 1983, the rest of the islands gained their own independence from British rule, except Montserrat, Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos Islands, Anguilla, St. Kitts & Nevis remain UK territories.

Predicted Topography Gravity Map


The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity, George slew the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts. Fifteen thousand men were baptized, without women and children. On the site where the dragon died, the king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George, and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured all disease.Traditionally, the lance with which St. George slew the dragon was called Ascalon, a name recalling the city of Ashkelon, Israel. From this tradition, the name Ascalon was used by Winston Churchill for his personal aircraft during World War II.

As this map shows, the islands are but the tips of the earthbergs—tectonic plates below. We know that 70% of the earth’s surface is water, but under the water is the earth again. The basis of the entire planet is soil of some kind, except perhaps for those mysterious depths of the ocean. Do they go down into inner earth? (No, the water would all go there, too. It might be good to have a drain to alleviate the rising waters associated with global warming!) Regardless, even though ships and boats must travel the waters, and airplanes the skies from island to island, the Eastern Caribbean is all connected at the base, as are all the countries of the earth, regardless of the arbitrary borders, nationalities and politics, which illusory boundaries separate our minds from one another. So as we remember the sea, let us also remember the earth.

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The Soul of the Soil

Satellite View of Antigua

In 1784, the legendary Admiral Horatio Nelson sailed to Antigua and established Great Britain’s most important Caribbean base. Little did he know that over 200 years later the same unique characteristics that attracted the Royal Navy would transform Antigua and Barbuda into one of the Caribbean’s premier tourist destinations. The Trade Winds that once blew British men-of-war safely into English harbors now fuel one of the world’s foremost maritime events, Sailing Week. The expansive, winding coastline that made Antigua difficult for outsiders to navigate is where today’s trekkers encounter a tremendous wealth of secluded, powdery soft beaches. The coral reefs, once the bane of marauding enemy ships, now attract snorkelers and scuba divers from all over the world. And the fascinating little island of Barbuda—once a scavenger’s paradise because so many ships wrecked on its reefs—is now home to one of the region’s most significant bird sanctuaries.

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress, can be judged
by the way its animals are treated. - M. Gandhi

Probably the most valued asset to Barbuda's tourism, second only to the white sand beaches over 10 miles long, is the Frigate Bird Colony on Barbuda. This is towards the north end of the lagoon in a mangrove locality, a significant nesting colony of the gracefully flying Frigate Bird (Fregata magnificans). It is said to be the largest Frigate Bird gathering in the world. There may be no more than 25 nesting sites in the Caribbean today. The name Frigate- Bird was given to the bird by the English sailors, on account of the swiftness of its flight, its habit of cruising about near other species and of daringly pursuing them. Interesting facts about these birds:

They are relatives of pelicans, cormorants and boobies.

Males are glossy black, females have white breasts, the immature have white heads and necks.

Males blow up a scarlet throat sac the size of a balloon, taking about 25 minutes, to attract a female mate.

When one appears, the wings are trembled showing the under surface, flashing in the sunlight and drumming sounds are emitted.

The wing span is 8 ft. and a body weight of 3 lb. Flight speed, 22 mph.

A 2,000 ft. altitude is common.

Frigates cannot take off from the sea or from the ground.

They feed on fish from Barbuda's lagoons and interior ponds. Also flying fish, jelly fish and small turtles taken from the ocean.

Adults chase other sea birds to grab their catch, hence the names, Frigate Bird and Man-o-War Bird.

In a colony there are three twig nests average, in an area 9x12 ft.

The colony is a contentious place where birds argue over landing rights, perch ownership or who owns each nest twig!

One male and three females produce two young every two years.

One white egg is laid sometime between mid-September to late March. Incubation is seven weeks.

The young are fed by regurgitation. They fly about 25 weeks after hatching. Six years before first breeding.

The oldest known age is 34 years.

The sanctuary contains over 170 species of birds and is home to over 5,000 frigate birds. Hundreds of other species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians are found here as well.

Humans aren’t the only species on earth . . . we just act like it.

Antigua (pronounced An-tee’ga) is an island in the Caribbean, part of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. It is also known by another name, Wadadli, which means approximately “our own”. Located in the middle of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, roughly 17 degrees north of the equator, south of Antigua are the islands of Montserrat and Guadaloupe, and to the north and west are Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Barts, and St. Martin. Antiqua, the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands, is about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, encompassing 108 square miles. Its highest point is Boggy Peak (1319 ft.), located in the southwestern corner of the island. Barbuda, a flat coral island with an area of only 68 square miles, lies approximately 30 miles due north. The nation also includes the tiny (0.6 sq. mi.) uninhabited island of Redonda, now a nature preserve. The current population for the nation is approximately 68,000 and its capital is St. John’s.


Temperatures generally range from the mid-70’s in the winter to the mid-80’s in the summer. Annual rainfall averages only 45 inches, making it the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean islands, and the northeast trade winds are nearly constant, flagging only in September; low humidity year-round. The high rocky coast is much indented by bays and arms of the sea, several of which form excellent harbors, that of St. John’s being safe and accessible for large cruise ships. Tourism is becoming Antigua’s largest industry.

Life is short—dance often

Like many Caribbean countries, Antigua has its own 10-day festival of colorful costumes, beauty pageants, talent shows and good Antiguan music. Monarch competitions of Calypsonians, the panorama steel band competition, and the spectacular Parade of Bands to the Miss Antigua Pageant, and the Caribbean Queen’s Competition add to the revelry. Carnival features Calypso, the oldest music of the islands, which has its roots in slavery. It began as a way for slaves, who were forbidden to speak in the fields, to communicate with each other. A polyglot, improvisational form, Calypso depends upon the skill of a soloist who weaves the sounds of many cultures into a lyrical whole. Steel drum music is also popular in carnival and throughout the islands.


Antigua was first inhabited by the Siboney (“stone people”), whose settlements date at least to 2400 BC. The Arawaks—who originated in Venezuela and gradually migrated up the chain of islands now called the Lesser Antilles—succeeded the Siboney. The warlike Carib people drove the Arawaks from neighboring islands but apparently did not settle on either Antigua or Barbuda. Antigua was discovered by accident in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, who is said to have named it after a church in Seville, Spain, called Santa Maria la Antigua. It remained, however, virtually uninhabited until 1632, when a body of English settlers took possession of it. This settlement was abandoned following attacks by Carib Indians. In 1663, another settlement of the same nation was effected under the direction of Lord Willoughby, to whom the entire island was granted by Charles II. It was ravaged by the French in 1666, but was soon after re-conquered by the British and formally restored to them by the Treaty of Breda. It remained under British control until 1981, when Antigua and Barbuda gained independence. The government is a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state and two elected houses, the upper one called the Senate.


Remains of War—18th Century Fort St. James


The soil, especially in the interior, is very fertile. Sugar and pineapples are the chief products for export, but sweet potatoes, yams, maize and guinea corn are grown for local consumption. The surface is comparatively flat, and there is no central range of mountains as in most other West Indian islands. Owing to the absence of rivers, the paucity of springs, and the almost complete deforestation, Antigua is subject to frequent droughts, and although the average rainfall is 45.6 inches, the variations from year to year are great. The problem caused by this is partly solved by desalination of sea water.

Desalinization of sea water removes excess salt and other minerals from water in order to obtain water suitable for animal consumption, irrigation and, if almost all of the salt is removed, for human consumption, sometimes producing table salt as a by-product. Desalinization is already commonplace in the U.S., where it is used to meet treaty obligations for river water entering Mexico. Indeed, desalination has spread into use in over 100 countries, with Saudi Arabia accounting for about 24% of total world capacity. Kuwait built the world’s first large-scale desalinization plant in the 1960’s. Kuwait’s energy reserves are so great that Kuwait is unique in using desalinated water for agriculture. The world’s largest (reverse osmosis) desalinization plant is in Ashkelon, Israel. It began operating on August 4, 2005, and it is capable of producing 100 million cubic meters of water per year.

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Words become actions.

Actions become habits.


Habits become character.

Character becomes destiny.

Lately, we at Common Ground 191 have been trying alternative means of arranging for soil collections. We started out relying on traveling friends willing to carry a carton, fill it with soil, and ship it back to us, for the proper documentation. Later, the miraculous came into play with friends of friends, word of mouth collections. The angels got involved at some point when Doreen Virtue’s international Angel Therapy newsletter (that covers the globe) got the message to about 25 people in various countries who decided they would like to contribute to the endeavor. That was a busy time!

Now, we are nearly halfway through the 191 countries of the United Nations and realize that there may be countries that will prove to be very, very difficult—if not impossible—from which to collect this important dirt. With that in mind, Gary Simpson, artist and founder, has been using his creative talents to create new avenues of communication: writing letters to foreign embassies in the U.S., calling those embassies to see if the letters were received; writing letters to U.S. embassies in foreign lands and then following up to see if they might prove to be productive. Gary recently joined the Sister Cities organization to see if perhaps contacting sister cities here in the U.S. might lead to collections from sister cities overseas. We have written letters to Condoleezza Rice, whose office provided us a response that we attached to embassy letters. We recently wrote to Angelina Jolie, to see if perhaps she could help us get soils from the more obscure third-world African nations where she spends time frequently. No stone will remain unturned in the quest for the remainder of the 191 soil samples. If readers of this journal entry have any other ideas, please share them with us at www.commonground191.com.

So far, the response from the foreign embassies in the U.S. has been disappointing, but we did have one success. We called the Embassy of Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies, in Washington, D.C. to see if they got our letter, and talked to Dr. Janil Gore-Francis, Ph.D., a plant protection officer at the Plant Protection Unit, Department of Agriculture, St. John’s, Antigua, West Indies. That turned out to be a good contact. Dr. Gore-Francis not only collected soil from Antigua for us, but also attempted to contact plant protection officers in other island nations for their help. Our fingers are crossed.

Her soil contribution was from the Central Cotton Station on Montserrat. “The pedigree of the Montserrat Sea Island cotton (arguably the best variety of cotton) for Antigua and Barbuda is maintained at the Central Cotton Station. The variety is said to be very well-suited to the climate in the country,” she wrote. In the Central Cotton Station, items from locally-grown sea island cotton are woven on a handloom--placemats, napkins, scarves, coasters, rugs, bags, cushion covers, belts and tie-dyed dresses. So this soil came from a tourist shop that carries as part of its stock this special cotton. And how perfect that is for a tourist destination like Antigua? Thank you, Dr. Gore-Francis.

We belong to the earth—Earth does not belong to us.


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Sugar Plantation Ruins

Antigua and Barbuda is a place with a dramatic past, a colorful present, and a future . . . to be revealed. Who can say what will happen in this Island Nation? A sampling of recent headlines reads like this:

Western Union suspends operations in Antigua-Barbuda

Trinidad company to supply cement to Antigua-Barbuda

Fashion Designer Armani buys home in Antigua

Hungary beat Antigua-Barbuda in exhibition match

Land transfer deal paves the way for new development in Antigua

Internet gaming giant expands operations in Antigua-Barbuda

Antigua-Barbuda commences development of influenza pandemic plan

Antigua-Barbuda Senate president attacked, robbed and raped

Antigua-Barbuda paying more for fuel at the pumps

Antigua police take further anti-crime measures

More electricity problems for Antigua

Antiguan authorities plead for a violence-free Carnival

Antigua reacts to the Jackson verdict

Antigua-Barbuda ready for hurricane season

History made in Antigua-Barbuda as woman appointed police chief

China, Antigua and Barbuda exchange greetings on anniversary of relations

Antigua Antigua

Even the most remote paradise islands are part of the windmill, 21st century morass in which the planet finds itself. The wheel turns. The surface of the earth quakes and shifts, gets powdered with volcanic ash; tsunamis wash it into the oceans; global warming potentially drowns all the small island nations and coastlines. The soul of the soil of the earth may be the only thing that remains static, silently holding its integrity. Much like the soul of mankind; the very core of his being—in spite of wars, crimes, sins and other faults—remains a place of serene light.


Peace would destroy civilization as we know it.



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