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 origin of the name Barbados is controversial. Queen Elizabeth II is the royal queen of Barbados. The Portuguese, en route to Brazil, are credited as the first Europeans to discover and name this island. It is a matter of dispute whether the word Barbados (“bearded ones” in Portuguese) referred to the long-hanging roots of the bearded fig tree indigenous to the island, the bearded Caribs inhabiting the island, or to the foam spraying over the outlying reefs, giving the impression of a beard.

Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Venezuela, and considered part of the Lesser Antilles, Barbados was uninhabited except by some feral pigs left behind by the Portuguese when first settled by British in 1627. They subsequently brought in slaves to work the sugar plantations until 1834, when slavery was abolished. The economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum and molasses production through most of the 20th century. The gradual introduction of social and political reforms in the 1940’s and 1950’s led to complete independence from the UK in 1966. In the 1990’s tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance. This is a picture of a “Zed-R” a route taxi used as transport on the island, at Speightstown beach.

The geological composition of Barbados is thought to be of non-volcanic origin and is predominantly composed of limestone-coral formed by the South American tectonic plate colliding with the Caribbean plate, pictured in this little map. The island’s climate is tropical with constant trade winds off the Atlantic Ocean serving to keep temperatures mild. Some less developed areas of the country contain tropical woodland and mangroves. Barbados’ human development index ranking is consistently among the top 50 in the world.

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Juanita Lynch is second from top of the persons who were responsible for the most soil collections. Doreen Virtue is first, her international angel newsletter bringing in about 25 soil samples. But right next to her is Juanita, who works with the U.S. Embassy in Barbados. Her initial request reads: “Please send six collection containers. This Embassy is accredited to seven islands in the Eastern Caribbean. I note that you have already collected from Antigua. We cannot guarantee that we can collect from all islands as the Embassy does not have a physical presence in all islands and importing soil into Barbados from other islands requires special permits. But we will try to collect from as many as possible.”

Her own personal Barbados earth came from Fitts Village Beach in St. James. “I was born and raised near this coast. The sea and its sand helps to define who we are. It nurtures us with food, provides recreation, but is also a formidable barrier.” Fitts Village is evidently a wedding destination, a fishing favorite, and a snorkeling hot spot.

This picture is of that area. Perhaps Juanita has been at these other locales. ”Thank you” hardly says it. The word for peace in Barbados, where English is the predominant language is . . . “Peace!”

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